1. GUNTHER THE GERMAN SHEPHERD
In July 2000, the singer Madonna sold her eight bedroom Miami villa for £5million to agents acting on behalf of a German Shepherd dog called Gunther IV.
Apparently, Gunther IV had inherited his fortune from his father, Gunther III, who had in turn been the sole heir of the estate of his owner, a German Countess by the name of Karlotta Liebenstein who left £43m to her dog when she died in 1992.
Gunther IV soon made headlines again, when he paid £1,000 to buy a rare white truffle in a fiercely contested auction in Turin a year later, this time appearing in person (if that is the right phrase), along with two of his domestic staff.
His property portfolio is also said to include estates in the Bahamas, Italy and Germany.
2. KALU THE CHIMPANZEE
It is the duty of every rich and elderly lady to change her will from time to time, if only to keep her family on their toes.
But pity poor Frank O’Neill. The former Australian swimming champion made a pilgrimage to the Sydney Olympics a few years ago – and while he was away his wife decided to leave her £40million fortune to her pet chimp, Kalu.
Patricia O’Neill, the daughter of the Countess of Kenmore, had been close to Kalu since finding her tied to a tree outside the home of the Argentinian Consul-General in war-torn Zaire.
She took the chimp back to her estate near Cape Town in South Africa and although the animal initially seemed “terrified and traumatised,” she soon settled in.
Whether or not the chimp was aware she and Mr O’Neill were rivals is unclear.
“Every time I swam in the pool, she used to run up and down and hit me on the head, but we had a great relationship,” said a sporting Mr O’Neill. Kalu also stole his cigarettes and drank his beer.
3. TROUBLE THE MALTESE TERRIER
They didn’t call her the Queen of Mean for nothing: Leona Helmsley cut her grandkids from her will but left her dog millions
Trouble is no sweeter-natured than her tough owner – Sfara sued Helmsley for allowing the pooch regularly to bite her whenever she gave her a bath, causing nerve damage, and said that Helmsley would cheer the dog on, shouting, “Good for you, Trouble!”
Thanks to the £6million bequest from Helmsley’s £4billion estate, Trouble will live out the rest of her years in some style. In death, she will be reunited with her owner when she is buried by her side in the Helmsley Mausoleum.
4. TINA AND KATE THE COLLIE CROSSES
It can be traumatic for a dog when their owner dies and they lose their home as well as their human companion. But collie crosses Tina and Kate were spared this indignity.
Nora Hardwell, who died the day before her 90th birthday, ensured her two dogs would live out the rest of their days in luxury by bequesting them the run of her home and five acres of land in Peasedown St John, near Bath, as well as £450,000 to be spent on their every whim.
Her will stipulated that a carer must be employed to look after the two dogs, and that the house must be kept clean at all times.
5. JASPER THE MONGREL
This is a true rags to riches tale. Jasper, an illegitimate labrador-doberman cross from a broken home, spent his early days in Battersea Dogs’ Home.
His glossy black coat and big pink tongue proved irresistible to brewery heiress Diana Myburgh, who rescued him and cared for him until she died, aged 74, in 1995.
Mrs Myburgh left trust funds of £25,000 each to Jasper and her other dog, a whippet called Jason – and when Jason passed away his share was inherited by Jasper.
The dog, aged about 14, now lives in some splendour at Maunsel House in Somerset, with Mrs Myburgh’s former son-in-law, Sir Benjamin Slade, who invested Jasper’s initial bequest on the stock market and has seen it increase three-fold.
6. TINKER THE CAT
After befriending an elderly widow, Margaret Layne, who died in 2003 aged 89, Tinker the stray, then eight, ensured he would never want for cat biscuits or chocolate drops again.
Under the terms of her will, Layne stipulated that the black cat would have the run of her threebedroom house in Harrow, Middlesex, as well as a £100,000 trust fund, with trustees appointed to deliver him food and milk daily.
The house will remain open to Tinker for 21 years, or until he dies, whichever comes sooner, after which it passes to the trustees charged with his care.
As Tinker soon discovered though, being rich is not without its perils: just months after his owner died, Tinker was moved to a safe house in mid-Wales after a series of death threats and calls from people jealous of his money.
7. PORGY, PRIDE, JOY & RONALD THE CATS
The late bookshop queen Christina Foyle – owner of Foyles in Charing Cross Road – who died in June 1999, left a £59million estate that included two animal bequests (see below for the second).
“I’ve always been an avid cat lover and Miss Foyle left me all her nine cats,” explains her former housekeeper Maureen Harding.
“And I’ve still got four of them left.”
The £;70,000 cottage Harding was left to live in with the cats was sold and the money used to buy a new home for the feline family in Essex. Porgy, a tortoiseshell and at 17 the oldest, sleeps in Harding’s bedroom; then come Pride and Joy (both tabbies) and Ronnie, the youngest.
“Ronnie’s a bit of a bully, I’m afraid. Quite a character although he can be spiteful. But they’re all sweethearts really,” says Harding
8, SILVERSTONE THE TORTOISE
Aged over 50, this tortoise got his name when he was set down on a lawn on Grand Prix day and proceeded to make extremely pacy progress across the grass.
He was another beneficiary of Christina Foyle.
She left £100,000 to handyman Anthony Scillitoe and his wife Eileen to look after her six tortoises plus a collie cross, who died shortly after his mistress.
While five of the tortoises remained in Scillitoe’s care, Silverstone lives with Miss Foyle’s former housekeeper, Maureen Harding.
9. TOP CAT AND MATILDA
This pair became aristocats when their owner, a retired librarian in Aberdeen called died in October 2004 leaving £10,000 for the care of each of her cats.
The minister’s daughter had been parsimonious when it came to her own creature comforts – she travelled everywhere by bus and saw no need to have central heating – but clearly felt her cats were worth a little more.
10. ANGUS THE COW AND LARRY THE LAMB
Thanks to a £3million trust created by the Queen Mother before she died, the herd of 150 Aberdeen Angus cattle and 200 North Country Cheviot sheep on the Castle of Mey Farm can claim to be perhaps the wealthiest set of animals in Britain.
We calculate each of the animals can boast a personal fortune of almost £8,000.
The money from the trust is also shared by a small menagerie in the Castle of Mey visitor centre (comprising two goats, two piglets, six rare breed sheep, six rare poultry, three call ducks, two male rabbits and two lovebirds called Jeremy and Julia).
The Queen Mother had a longstanding interest in the Aberdeen Angus breed.
Along with George VI she became joint patron of the Aberdeen-Angus Society in 1937, a post she retained until her death 65 years later in 2002.