When the Mormon missionary William Root Bliss arrived in Honolulu in 1873, he reported that “Every family keeps at least one dog; every native family a brace of cats.” Indeed, for many generations a Hawaiian household consisted of grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, children, cousins and an assortment of animals such as dogs, pigs, chickens, and later cats. That was also true of aliʻi and kahuna. Aliʻi in particular was fond of pet pigs and pet dogs. Kahuna normally had some kind of animal like a dog or bird at the heiau because there is a belief in old Hawai’i that animals can see things that we, humans, can not.
Kamehameha the Great had a pet rooster but he also had a favorite dog named Boki or Poki. Poki comes from the English word “Boss” or “Bossy”. Kamehameha’s dog was a pure white poi dog and would accompany him on his travels. When Poki died a year or so after unification, he was given his own ka’ai made from some of Kamehameha’s own ‘aha or sennit cordage. The dog allegedly was buried in a cave near Hualālai so that whenever Kamehameha looked at Hualālai from Kamakahonu, he could be reminded of his beloved pet.
Kamehameha the Great’s son, Kamehameha III also had a favorite pet dog which I posted about some time ago. ‘Evelaina was the English mastiff of Kamehameha III. She originally was a gift to the king. She understood commands in both Hawaiian and English. When Kamehameha III passed away, ‘Evelaina guarded his tomb day and night leaving only only to eat then rushing back to the tomb. The dutiful dog passed away some seven years after Kamehameha III and the then Prince and Interior Minister Lot Kapu’aiwa Kamehameha had the dog put in a coffin and buried in Waikīkī. When Prince Lot ascended the throne as Kamehameha V and began to transfer the bodies of the late sovereigns from Pohukaina to Mauna ‘Ala in 1865, he also ordered the body of Evelaina to be buried at Mauna ʻAla under a tree behind the main chapel so she could continue to guard her beloved master.
Kamehameha IV and his Queen Emma also had a number of dogs. Their two favorite dogs–a small fluffy white Glen of Imaal terrier and a brown French bulldog–can be seen in that famous painting of their son, Prince Albert Leiopapa-a-Kamehameha. Kamehameha IV had other two French bulldogs but his favorite was named Kaupe. Kaupe was the name of a fearsome dog guardian of Nu’uanu Valley.
His brother, Kamehameha V, on the other hand had a more kolohe pet parrot named Pahua. Pahua was also the name of a type of spear dance specific to hula ma’i (procreation hula) for Kamehameha V. Pahua knew about 20 or so Hawaiian words and one of the words the parrot knew was “Kanapapiki” which he learned to say when certain distingushed gentlemen were around particularly the US Minister to Hawai’i whom Kamehameha V was not too fond of. It also said more polite things like “Nani ‘oe” and “Hele mai ai”.
In speaking of birds, one can not forget the flock of peacocks Princess Ka’iulani once had. In the beginning when she first moved to ʻĀina Hau, she only had about 3 or 4 peacocks which she called pikake. When her mother, Princess Likelike, asked Princess Ka’iulani to be more specific on naming each peacock (as is our Hawaiian custom where we name everything that we touch, live with, live in, or love), Princess Ka’iulani pointed to each peacock and responded, “Pikake Ekahi, Pikake Elua, Pikake Eha….” Eventually, the Princess would have more than a dozen peacocks including a few albino peacocks. The Princess other favorite pet was her pure white horse whom she named “Fairy”. But Princess Ka’iulani was always remembered by Hawaiians of her era as the “Peacock Princess”.
The Princess’ uncle, King Kalākaua also had his share of pets. After his world tour in 1881, King Kalākaua was gifted with a monkey by the King of Siam (modern Thailand) from his Royal Grand Palace. The monkey did not live too long and not to be outdone by northern neighbor, the Maharaja of Johore (Sultan of Johore) in Malaysia sent the king two Singapura kittens whom Queen Kapi’olani kept as her own. She named the female cat Malaia or Malaya in Hawaiian. The male was named Nīele because it had a habit of peeking into every room. King Kalākaua would eventually get more cats (including cats with exotic names like “Brownie” and “Pōhaku Hau’oli” after British PM Gladstone) as Queen Kapi’olani had a habit of picking up stray cats and dogs and bringing them to one of her homes or to Hale ʻĀkala (“the Pink Bungalow” behind ‘Iolani Palace which served as the private residence of the King and Queen). One could say that Queen Kapi’olani started Hawai’i’s first stary animal sanctuary. Some of the cats at ‘Iolani Palace by the Banyan Tree may be descendants of cats from the reign of King Kalākaua.
Our beloved Queen, Lili’uokalani, had a beloved poi dog named “Poni”. Poni in Hawaiian means either purple or to crown or consecrete. Her poi dog was her companion and was trained only in Hawaiian. When the Queen was on her deathbed, Poni was there licking the Queen’s hand. When the Queen passed away, Poni was given to Lahilahi Webb but Poni kept trying to sneak out to go back to Washington Place to the bedroom of the Queen. Just like ‘Evelaina of the earlier era, Poni wanted to still keep watch over his sovereign.