Evelaine, the mysterious Mastiff who captivated a Hawaiian king
That Japanese Akita and Skye Terrier are famous for keeping years-long vigils for their dearly departed owners — at a Japanese train station and a Scottish cemetery, respectively.
But there’s another dog who was equally attached to his master, and who mourned him just as deeply.
And that’s Evelaina, the mastiff of Kamehameha III of Hawaii.
King Kamehameha III in his military finery.
Hawaii’s longest-reigning monarch until his death in 1854, King Kamehameha received Evelaina as a gift. Responding to commands in both English and Hawaiian, the Mastiff was by all accounts his devoted companion. And when the king passed after his 29-year reign, the dog was among his most distraught mourners.
“When the remains of our late beloved King, Kamehameha III, were deposited in the sepulchre, many were the sad mourners who watched night and day, lamenting in heart-rending wailing the death of their King, friend and benefactor,” reported the Pacific Commercial Advertiser in 1857. “Weeks wore on, and human grief was moderated, if not assuaged; the mourners quietly departed and returned to their homes and occupations.”
“Not so the late King’s favorite mastiff.
The royal funeral procession.
After the king's body was laid to rest, Evelaine settled down in outside the door of the tomb, refusing to leave that post for weeks. When the palace staff stopped bringing food, the Mastiff left the grave — and then, after sating hunger and thirst, promptly returned.
“Of late his keepers have tried to confine him,” the paper reported, more than two years after the king’s death, “but he is frequently missing, and, if searched for, will be found guarding the mortal remains of him he loved so well.”
When Evelaina passed away, Kamehameha’s son, Prince Lot, had the dog placed in a coffin and buried in Waikiki. In 1865, when Prince Lot became king, he had the remains of 18 Hawaiian sovereigns disinterred from the royal tomb at Pohukaina on the grounds of Iolani Palace, and transferred to Mauna ʻAla. Reportedly, Evelaina’s body was reburied there too, placed under a tree behind the main chapel, so the dog's vigil could continue into eternity.
Not much is known about Evelaina, including the dog’s gender: The period press report describes the Mastiff as a “he,” while more modern sources use the pronoun “she,” perhaps drawing assumptions from the feminine-sounding name.
What can be stated with some certainty is that Hawaiians historically have been avid animal lovers. “Every family keeps at least one dog,” reported Mormon missionary William Root Bliss in 1873. “Every native family a brace of cats.”
Above: Hawaiian poi dog depicted in a sketch by Louis Choris, circa 1816-17. Below: Female Hawaiian Poi dog, Honolulu Zoo, 1969.
The same applied to the Hawaiian royal family, including the generations that preceded and followed Evelaine’s beloved master. The king’s father, Kamehameha the Great, had a pet rooster, as well as a native Poi dog named Boki or Poki, reportedly a corruption of the English terms “boss” or “bossy,” who the king proclaimed a demigod after the dog’s death. And Kamehameha III’s son, Kamehameha IV, reportedly had a fondness for two dogs, described as a Glen of Imaal Terrier and a French Bulldog, though a painting of his son Prince Albert Edward Kauikeaouli in front of the Iolani Palace suggests that those breed descriptions are not the most accurate.
Prince Albert Edward Kauikeaouli and pet dogs. His Anglicized name was no coincidence, as his godmother was no less than British Queen Victoria, whose husband was Albert and eldest-born son, Edward.
It’s tempting to see the Hawaiian royal family’s switch from native dogs like the Poi to cultured British and Continental breeds as a political realignment as well: Though the British never established Hawaii as a colony, its state flag incorporates the Union Jack into its design, perhaps a sign of appeasement to Great Britain during the war of 1812.
No photographs or images of Evelaine exist, so we are left to imagine what he or she might have looked like. But what is crystal clear to anyone who knows this most devoted of breeds is its deep-seated loyalty, which makes those years-long vigils of almost two centuries ago altogether believable.