Skip to main content

Chaser: The World’s Smartest Dog

Chaser the border collie was the world’s smartest dog. She had the largest vocabulary of any nonhuman animal and is known as “the dog who knows 1,000 words.” The best part – she was a Spartanburg native!

In 2004, Dr. John Pilley, emeritus professor of psychology at Wofford College, began working with Chaser and published the findings from their work in the Elsevier journals Behavioral Processes and Learning and Motivation. Chaser and Dr. Pilley explored the true potential of animal intelligence and how any dog lover can achieve similar results. 

Their story has been featured in hundreds of publications internationally in over 72 languages such as TIME, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Scientific American, and on television programs like 60 Minutes, Nova ScienceNOW, ABC World News, and The Today Show. Dr. Pilley also wrote a New York Times bestselling book about his beloved dog called Chaser: Unlocking the Genius Behind the Dog Who Knows A Thousand Words – available in 5 different languages worldwide. 

Sadly, Dr. Pilley passed away in 2018 and Chaser passed away in 2019. Today, a bronze statue of Chaser and a bronze pair of Dr. Pilley’s shoes stand in downtown Spartanburg as a visual reminder of their unbreakable bond.

Chaser The Dog and her owner Dr. John Pilley photographed in the front lawn of their home.

Chaser and Dr. John Pilley. (

Chaser’s Legacy: A Bronze Statue in Spartanburg’s Heart

A bronze statue of Chaser is located on Morgan Square in downtown Spartanburg near the clock tower. In addition to honoring Chaser and Dr. Pilley, this statue is a visual reminder of Chaser’s love of play and how her unique source of learning has proved to be groundbreaking and inspiring – something we want to share with our community. Through this project, we hope to show how Dr. Pilley’s teaching method with Chaser can not only deepen our relationship with dogs but can also translate into human education.

The statue helps to represent the importance of educating children through the love of play by evoking a curiosity that leads to knowledge, reinforcing Dr. Pilley’s motto: “Never stop learning.”

The statue also helps bring awareness to the bond between humans and animals, as well as the humanity and the potential of animals.  The bronze statue of Chaser is a reminder to teach the proper treatment of animals, the importance of spaying/neutering, and the root causes of animal homelessness in our community.

About the Artist: Betsy Scott

Betsy Scott of Cloudland, Georgia on Lookout Mountain, was commissioned to create the Chaser statue. Scott has earned recognition as one of America’s most respected wildlife sculptors and is the co-creator of the Wofford College Terrier, a 1,000-pound statue located at the entrance of the Campus Life Building. Learn more about Betsy’s work at

The Chaser Statue located inside Morgan Square in downtown Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Chaser statue in Morgan Square. (

Make A Donation!

By donating to the HCAP, you are directly supporting the expansion of spay/neuter programs, proper pet care education, and access to veterinary care in low-income communities.