Meet the Canine Stars of Downton Abbey

We look back at some of the furry celebrities who graced the screen on the hit British TV series, Downton Abbey.

The hit British period drama, Downton Abbey, has stolen the hearts of audiences across the globe since it first aired back in 2010. With its compelling characters and historical setting, it’s easy to see why so many people fell in love with the series—dog lovers included!

But not only did Downton Abbey feature memorable human characters, there were also more than a few furry celebrities in the cast.

Let’s look back at the four canine stars of Downton Abbey.

1. Pharaoh (appeared in season 1)

 

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Hugh Bonneville with Roly—who played Pharaoh—in the first season.

This pooch was the original dog owned by the Crawley family. Pharaoh was played by an adorable Labrador Retriever named Roly. Although Pharaoh was often seen in the background, he wasn’t considered a contributing character to the show. In fact, he was never actually referred to by name in the series.

Roly worked on the show throughout the first season, but was eventually replaced after ongoing incidents with another dog on set who didn’t get along with males. Pharaoh’s character was “killed off” on Downton, although no explanation of how the the pup died was ever given. His character was eventually replaced with a new family dog named Isis.

2. Isis (appeared in seasons 2-5)

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Hugh Bonneville and Abbey spent a lot of time together on set.

Keeping in theme with the Egyptian-inspired pet names, Isis was originally played by a Labrador Retriever named Ellie. She was a more recognizable and beloved character than Pharaoh, who had always been reduced to the background. However, the canine actor was quickly replaced by another female pooch named Abbey.

3. The second Isis (appeared in seasons 2-5)

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Hugh Bonneville with Abbey.

An immediate fan favourite after replacing Ellie in the role of Isis, Abbey developed a tight bond with some of her human costars. Actor Hugh Bonneville (Lord Robert Crawley) grew especially close to the pup, and they often spent time together both on and off the set.

Abbey appeared in nearly every episode of the series and was considered a “sweet dog” who was easy to work with. During her early years on Downton Abbey, she was full of excitement and energy. Sadly, as the show progressed, she became weaker with age.

Many viewers thought the dog looked ill and seemed exhausted in certain scenes. It was also mentioned that, given the timeline of the series, the character Isis would have been more than 12 years in age. Therefore, a decision was made in the fifth season to write Isis out of the show due to both the canine actors age and the age of the character.

The writers decided Abbey’s character would be diagnosed with terminal cancer and pass away in the company of her loved ones, sparking rumours the character was, in fact, killed off  because it shares its name with the Middle East jihadist group.

The episode featuring Isis’ death is heartbreaking, specifically the scene where Crawley lays on the bed and placed the pooch between himself and Lady Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern). This was done so Isis would have “two people who love her, and each other…on either side.”

Update on Abbey: Shortly after Isis was written off the show, Abbey passed away in May 2016. She lived a long and fulfilling life and was loved by both her canine and human costars. She will always be remembered for her kind face.

4. Tiaa (appeared in season 6)

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Tiaa the puppy.

During the sixth and final season, Tiaa was gifted to the Crawley family shortly after Isis’ death. Little information is known about the dog who played Tiaa, but the character brought a bit of light and happiness after the loss of Isis, helping end the series on a high note.

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