‘Arthur the King’ – The True Story Behind Mark Wahlberg’s Stray Dog Adventure Movie

Arthur the King is a new movie released on March 15th, 2024, starring Mark Wahlberg, Simu Liu, Nathalie Emmanuel, and Bear Grylls (as himself.)

Mark Wahlberg with Arthur the King dog
Credit: Arthur the King/Lionsgate

But most importantly, it stars Ukai, a canine actor playing the role of Arthur. It’s based on a true story that took place back in 2014 during a 435-mile adventure race through the jungles of Ecuador. During this adventure, a stray dog joined the team – And a legend was born.

A king emerges from the jungles of Ecuador

In 2014, Mikael Lindnord, leader of a four-person team from Sweden known as Peak Performance, was competing in the Adventure Racing World Championship. This race truly pushed the limits of human endurance with a combo of trekking, biking, and kayaking through extreme terrain. It also ended up testing the might of a stray dog, whose regal appearance earned him the name “Arthur the King.”

I had seen lots of stray dogs in Ecuador… But I had never seen a dog with such presence, such stillness. He was big, and underneath the mud and dirt I thought he was probably a golden colour. Even at a distance I could see that some of the mud was blood; he had bad wounds as well as dirt on him. But he was so stoical, so dignified, he caught my eye by his very appearance of calm.

Mikael Lindnord, The Guardian, July 2016

A taste of kindness turns a stray dog into a loyal adventurer

This race takes around 110 to 120 hours (or about five days) to complete, with competitors sleeping only a few hours during to waste as little time as possible. About four days into it, the team took a rare moment to rest and refuel. They prepared two packages of self-heating food consisting of meatballs and pasta to share. While Lindnord was about to savor the few bites he had, a muddy, battered dog emerged from some boxes. Opposed to the erratic behavior of most of the poor stray dogs around, this canine gazed calmly at his future dad. Lindnord, who never wanted or had a dog before, immediately felt a connection with this stray. So he shared his meatballs with him. He could see the dog was injured, with dried blood mixed with the mud covering him. But Lindnord needed to prepare for the last and most intense day of the race, and turned away form his dinner companion.

Arthur the King, famous stray dog with adventurer Mikael Lindnord
Credit: Peak Performance

Arthur joins the team – Whether they want him or not

Several brutal hours back into their race, Lindnord sensed movement to his side – He saw the same dog, calm as ever, gazing at him and in the direction they were going. He spoke to the dog, concerned about his injuries and possible infections. While showing signs of wanting to rest, the dog was determined to follow them through the dense jungle. And Lindnord decided on the name “Arthur,” as despite his rough appearance, he still appeared and acted regal like a king.

Arthur the King on his adventure through Ecuador in 2014
Credit: Peak Performance

Arthur takes a leap of faith

Still dark out, the team reached the kayaking section of the race. The kayak only had room for the four human team members, so they sadly had to leave Arthur at the shore. Arthur was clearly sad to see them depart, with the pup whimpering and circling. The team felt bad but they had to carry on. This was when Arthur summoned the courage to jump in and swim after them! He was slow but stayed determined. The team cheered Arthur on as he followed. Then they could see Arthur was really struggling, so they lifted him onto the boat – resulting in cheers from everyone on the shore!

arthur the king dog swimming after kayak
Credit: Peak Performance

Arthur becomes an international hero

After the race, word spread of Arthur’s bravery. And Lindnord wanted to bring him back to Sweden, but taking a stray from the Amazon jungle to Sweden. Then, thanks to a Twitter campaign, they were able to quickly raise funds to not only bring him to Sweden but also cover his surgery and other medical expenses. Arthur stayed strong through a 120-day quarantine before joining Lindnord and his family in Sweden. Then, in May 2015, Arthur joined the team again in Kalmar for the Wings For Life World Run!

Arthur the King dog with Mikael Lindnord and family
Credit: Mikael Lindnord

Arthur the King’s book, charity, and Hollywood movie

Lindnord went on to write a book about Arthur in 2016, titled Arthur – THe Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home. Arthur Foundation, an organization to help street dogs in Ecuidor, was then named after him. Arthur Foundation’s goal was to help the LOBA law (Law of Animal Welfare – Ley Organica de Bienestar Animal) pass, which was approved in April 2018. This leads up to March 2024, which saw the release of the book’s film adaption, Arthur the King.

What Happened to Arthur the King?

It was estimated that Arthur was born around 2007, and he passed away due to a tumor in December 2020. But during his years in Sweden, he lived an awesome life and had many adventures with his family.

While no longer with us, Arthur’s inspirational story will be enjoyed by millions more people thanks to his movie.

And to further help stray dogs everywhere, Mark Wahlberg and the canine actor who plays Arthur, starred in a video promoting pet adoption, which you can read about here.

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