Jim, often referred to as Jim the Wonder Dog, is one of the most revered and remembered dogs in his hometown of Marshall, Missouri and across the entire country.
It all began as a joke in 1925 when a friend of Sam Van Arsdale’s gifted him a Llewellin English setter dog, as it was the ugliest he could find. The new owner and his dog became inseparable as Jim grew older.
Van Arsdale, owner of the coincidentally-named Ruff Hotel and avid hunter, attempted to train his dog to hunt at bird camp. But Jim couldn’t have performed worse in school. He sat idly by, watching the other dogs train. After the failed attempt, Van Arsdale decided to take the dog hunting anyway and from there the magic started.
Jim had a sixth sense for where the birds were and knew where they were not present. Outdoor Life magazine soon named him the hunting dog of the century.
Believe it or not, Jim is remembered for the following:
- He scouted 5,000 quail, at which point Van Arsdale stopped counting. That’s more than any other hunting dog in history.
- He predicted the winner of 7 Kentucky Derbies in a row, the World Series of Baseball, the sex of unborn babies, the winners of political races and more.
- He could locate different tree types, cars with a specific license plate or color, certain shoe wearers in a crowd, or people of a certain profession all on demand.
- He understood any foreign language, shorthand, or Morse Code.
Undoubtedly, with all the miraculous things he could do as a dog, speculation surrounded Jim’s abilities. Van Arsdale arranged for demonstrations with veterinarians and college students. Jim also performed at the Kemmerer Hotel in Wyoming and before the Missouri Legislature and at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia. With each demonstration and performance, he wowed crowds and journalists and convinced the veterinarians and students who could not find anything abnormal about him.
People came from all over the nation to see proof of his abilities for themselves. And while Van Arsdale typically won over non-believers, he did not try to convince the whole nation and even turned down a $100,000 offer (which would translate into over a million dollars today, when adjusted for inflation) to film a Hollywood movie about Jim. Van Arsdale didn’t want to exploit his friend.
Currently, Jim is probably the only non-human buried in Marshall’s Ridge Park Cemetery in Marshall, Missouri.
Numerous memorials have been organized in the dog’s memory 75 years after Jim died at the age of 12 on March 18th, 1937. United States Representative Joe Aull, R-Missouri introduced a bill on February 29th, 2012 to designate Jim the Wonder Dog as the official state historical dog. At the time of publication, legislation is pending.
In 1998, Evelyn Counts and a non-profit organization called Friends of Jim the Wonder Dog built a memorial garden on the site of the Ruff Hotel where there is a statue of Jim. Not far away from the garden is Jim’s gravesite, where guests and admirers still visit today.
Evelyn Counts is the Marshall resident who set up a park in memory of Jim in Marshall in 1998, 60 years after his death on the site of the Ruff Hotel, Van Arsdale’s hotel. Learn more about Jim, how many quail he helped bag for Van Arsdale, all the speculation surrounding the dog’s talents and his amazing predictions in the video below.
View the 10 minutes Animal Planet series Animal Legends special on youtube.