A FAMOUS Herefordshire dog has vanished, feared stolen, writes LIZ WATKINS.

A wooden carving of Dan the bulldog, who inspired composer Sir Edward Elgar, was snatched from his watchful position near the banks of the River Wye in Hereford over the weekend.

A search of the river failed to deliver a clue to his disappearance and it is feared the carved canine has been taken as a souvenir.

Dan has been resting on a plinth close to the river footpath opposite Hereford Cathedral for just over a year, becoming a familiar figure to riverside walkers.

Herefordshire Council's cultural services commissioned the piece at a cost of £1,000 as part of a project to promote the city's heritage in carving.

Principal arts officer Melanie Bateman appealed for Dan's swift return. "We are unable to replace him," she said.

The carving was close to the spot where, in 1898, the adventurous dog fell into the River Wye, enjoyed a paddle upstream and then climbed out onto dry land with a joyful bark.

He had been out for a walk with his owner, Dr George Robertson Sinclair, organist at Hereford Cathedral, and his friend composer Sir Edward Elgar who both regularly walked the river route.

The dog's antics caused the organist to challenge the composer 'set that to music'.

Elgar did and Dan featured in one of the 'Enigma Variations' as well as being used as themes in 'The Dream of Gerontius,' 'In the South' and 'The Apostles' and many other world famous compositions.

Dan passed on, aged five, in July 1903 having been said to have 'lived fast and died young'.

But he lives on in Elgar's work and has since become recognised as one of the most famous dogs in the history of music.

Dan is buried in a garden in Church Street and in 1991 a stone was unveiled in his memory near the spot of his 'river splash'.

Many visitors to the Three Choirs Festival in Hereford in August were expected to make a pilgrimage to Dan's memorial.

Dan's carving was due to have a 'brush and polish up' in time for the great occasion.

It is not thought Dan, carved by artist John Tasker was the victim of vandals. He was lifted carefully from pegs on the base, which remain undamaged.