Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Rebecca’s War Dog of the Week: 20 years later, the world has not forgotten India’s bomb-sniffing dog, Zanjeer

By Rebecca Frankel Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent When a series of 12 bombings rocked Mumbai in March 1993 — blasts that killed over 250 people and left more than 700 others injured — one member of India’s Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS) was heralded as savior, a golden lab called Zanjeer. And now, ...

STR New/Reuters
STR New/Reuters
STR New/Reuters

By Rebecca Frankel

Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

By Rebecca Frankel

Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

When a series of 12 bombings rocked Mumbai in March 1993 — blasts that killed over 250 people and left more than 700 others injured — one member of India’s Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS) was heralded as savior, a golden lab called Zanjeer. And now, two decades later, Zanjeer’s photo and his story are making the Internet rounds once again, this time in memorandum.

Zanjeer’s first find during those fateful days came on March 15, when he gave his signature three-bark alert on a bomb-laden scooter parked on Dhanji Street, a mere "stone’s throw away" from BDDS headquarters. In the days that followed he reportedly saved thousands more lives by finding explosives in "unclaimed suitcases" discovered at the Siddhivinayak temple and then again a few days later at the Zaveri Bazaar. All in all, Zanjeer helped members of the BDDS find, as reported by Reuters, "more than 3,329 kgs of the explosive RDX, 600 detonators, 249 hand grenades and 6406 rounds of live ammunition."

Zanjeer, named after a 1973 Hindi action film about a lone honest cop who perseveres in a world overrun by corruption, was trained in Pune and joined the officers of India’s BDDS in 1992 at just one years old. The much beloved and lauded dog went on to have an illustrious and astoundingly productive eight-year career, during which he was credited with uncovering: "11 military bombs, 57 country-made bombs, 175 petrol bombs, and 600 detonators." These finds coming after the March bombings in 1993.

When Zanjeer died of bone cancer (other reports say lung failure) in November of 2000, his fellow officers gave him full honors during a ceremony and memorial service — as seen in this photo as a senior official places flowers over Zanjeer’s body. And while the world is remembering this dog 20 years later, citizens of Mumbai are said to have commemorated the anniversary of Zanjeer’s death yearly.

According to Zanjeer’s obituary, "The cops grew so dependent on Zanjeer that there were occasions when they would bring only Zanjeer and no equipment." The chief of BDDS during Zanjeer’s tenure, Nandkumar Choughule, said that the dog was "god sent" and that when men were not able to track down the explosives, it was Zanjeer who found them. 

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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