While the likes of the mystery-solving Great Dane, Scooby-Doo, and the classic romance of The Lady and a Tramp bring all the lovable qualities of our canine pets to life, nothing compares to the real thing. Not even Snoopy. As faithful and loving animals, dogs have long been a favorite companion. And while humble and selfless at heart, they often find ways into the spotlight, gaining the affection and adoration of the public, and that's what inspired a list of the most famous dogs in history.
You may have already seen and know a few of these celebrities. Not surprisingly, some of the most famous dogs in history have graced the silver screen, seen wartime, been key counterparts in our scientific discoveries, and helped our servicemen in times of trouble. Hence, the public has rewarded them with attention and adoration, bringing them forward for us to acknowledge. However, some of these famous dogs in history you may not have heard about, so here we go.
10 Most Famous Dogs in History
1. Toto, the Cairn Terrier
Many of us know the line from the beloved film, The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy laments to her canine friend, “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” But what others may not know is the story behind this famous doggie actress, even though this is easily one of the most famous dogs in history. Toto, whose real name was Terry, was abandoned as a puppy. Luckily for her, however, she was adopted by German immigrant Carl Spitz, who was the unofficial dog-trainer of Hollywood.
With his help, she was trained to become one of the most coveted canine actresses of her generation, starring alongside some of the time’s biggest stars, including Judy Garland. Before her close-up in The Wizard of Oz, Terry was already well-versed in the ways of the silver screen. By the end of her career, she had been cast in 17 films, living to be 11-years old.
2. Rin Tin Tin, the German Shepherd
Perhaps not only one of the most famous dogs in history but also the most famous of his breed, Rin Tin Tin, was found in war-ravaged France during WWI and adopted by an American soldier named Lee Duncan. The rest of Rinty’s – an affectionate nickname he would come to be called – litter, sadly, didn’t make it. In his new life in Los Angeles, Rin Tin Tin was catapulted to stardom when he caught the eye of a filmmaker at a dog show where he reportedly jumped 12-feet high.
Shortly thereafter, Rin Tin Tin came to star in nearly 30 films, many of which were written specifically for him. Before his sudden death – which left his owner devastated – Rinty was the unofficial doggie mascot of Warner Bros. Studios, effectively saving the small studio from bankruptcy.
3. Lassie, the Rough Collie
This long-coated, unique dog was of the most popular canine movie stars of the ’40s and ’50s, solidifying his name as one of the most famous dogs in history. Of course, many other canine characters – Shiloh, Wishbone, Benji – but none endure quite like Lassie. Even up to the recent 40 years, Lassie has been re-envisioned by a ‘90’s TV Series and a 2005 full-length film being made about the famous Collie.
Although Lassie’s character is female, the part has always been given to male Collies. The original was a Rough Collie named Pal. Since Pal died in 1958, all Lassie roles have been held by pups of his bloodline. And it’s quite the lucrative family business to go into, as reports show Pal made twice what his human co-star, Elizabeth Taylor, made in Lassie Come Home.
4. Trakr, the German Shepherd
More than 300 Search and Rescue dogs aided their human counterparts in the coming months following the September 11th attacks helping find and uncover survivors from the miles of rubble. One report found that the dogs were especially distraught at the lack of survivors they were able to find, as they saw it as an unsuccessful means to their job.
Of this K-9 team was Trakr and his police officer handler, James Symington, who drove to New York City from Canada to help locate those trapped or no longer breathing under Ground Zero's rubble. Trakr and Symington are credited with finding the last survivor, a woman who had been imprisoned under heavy concrete and steel for over 24-hours. Their actions earned Trakr the title of one of the most famous dogs in history.
Trakr was recognized by Time magazine as one of the ten most heroic animals of all time, but his fame didn’t stop there. In 2009, Trakr was chosen to be cloned by BioArts International, who had been cloning belated family pets privately for a pretty penny. As a winner of the “Best Friend Again” contest, Trakr’s clone was reunited with his owner, Symington, who continues to train the heroic dog's descendants to be Search and Rescue canines.
5. Bobbie the Wonder Dog, Collie-Shepherd Mix
Many of us include our pups with us on trips. This was the case, too, for the Braziers when they drove from Silverton, Oregon, to Wolcott, Indianan, to visit family with their two young daughters and family pet, Bobbie, a Scotch-Collie, and English Shepherd mix. After a scuffle with a few stray dogs, Bobbie took off. Sadly, the Brazier family had to return home to Oregon, and despite leaving behind instructions should the pup turn up, they believed they’d never see their family pet again.
However, they were in for a shock when 6 months later, Bobbie turned up scratching and pawing at his owner’s front door. Closer inspection showed that Bobbie had crossed over 2,500 miles in the cold season of winter to be reunited with the Braziers. Bobbie’s story became national news in a matter of weeks, and he was thrust into the spotlight. His stardom brought even more stories, many from people who claimed to have helped him on his journey, feeding him scraps, giving him water, or tending to his scraped-up paws.
He gained so much attention that in 1924, Bobbie even starred in a silent film. In 1927, Bobbie was buried at the pet cemetery ran by the Oregon Humane Society. Today, this is one of the most famous dogs in history that we know of. Tourists from all over the world can visit this faithful pup’s grave as well as view a 70-foot mural honoring his journey in downtown Silverton, the home he traveled so many miles to return to.
6. Balto, the Siberian Husky
While many may be familiar with the 1995 children’s film Balto, some may not realize that the cartoon is based on fact. In the middle of the 1920s, in the middle of a frigid winter, the quaint town of Nome, Alaska, had a fatal case of diphtheria on their hands. With no means of transportation available to them than dog-sleds, Anchorage, Alaska seemed a very far 500 miles away. But it was there that Nome's community needed to be to gain a medical serum that would resolve the health crises.
Many volunteers in the village stepped up, ready with their team of loyal, athletic dogs. Creating a chain across Alaska, each musher set up at different “checkpoints” where they would be relieved, allowing for the sled teams to experience some intermitted rest during the five-day journey. Musher, Gunnar Kaasen, and his young Siberian Husky, Balto, were the last stretch of the “race.”
The serum successfully brought to Nome was the hard work and bravery of many men and their canine companions. Still, Balto became the face of monumental success and is now known as one of the most famous dogs in history. Today, a bronze statue in Central Park pays homage to the steadfast endurance and courage we’ve come to associate with our canine friends.
7. Nemo, the German Shepherd
During the nearly 20-year span of the Vietnam War, the U.S. Armed Forces utilized thousands of military dogs (over 3,500 to be exact). Dogs played a key role in this war, especially when compared to others. The Viet Cong were lithe and shrewd, hiding expertly among the humid jungle they called home, making it near impossible to find them, consequently giving them a huge advantage. Thanks to their incredible sense of smell and hearing abilities, sentry dogs were able to alert their human counterparts to the presence of enemy soldiers even when the dogs couldn’t see them.
Security Police K-9, Nemo A534, was among the several sentry dogs stationed at the Tan Son Nhut Air Base as part of the security detail. While on watch, these dogs would alert soldiers of approaching enemies. Often these dogs lost their lives shortly after vocalizing their barks as an early warning. On December 4th, 1966, Nemo and his handler successfully killed two VCs but not without suffering wounds of their own. A bullet entered Nemo’s eye and left out of the side of his snout. Despite his injury, Nemo warded off any potential approachers by laying across his wounded handler’s body until military paramedics arrived. Nemo would never see out of his right eye again.
Shortly after, the military retired Nemo. As a retired and decorated war veteran, Nemo accompanied recruitment officers, hoping to gain K-9 enlisters. At his death in 1972, Nemo received a proper burial, with his tombstone inscribed, “May all who hear the story of Nemo, know the true measure of man’s Best Friend.” Today he's considered not only one of the most famous dogs in history but one of the greatest war veterans.
8. Jofi, the Chow Chow
Sigmund Freud is a well-known name in the world of psychology. Freud imparted several psychoanalytical theories, and most everyone, even if not interested in psychology, knows his name. But many may not know his great affection for dogs, particularly the Chow-Chow breed. While he came to own many dogs during his career as the pioneer of psychoanalysis, none compared to Jofi (sometimes spelled Yofi).
Freud was infatuated with his canine counterpart and believed that dogs, especially Jofi, held the ability to read humans. He even enlisted her to help him study patients by noting her own sense of calm or wariness around the strangers. Freud ascertained that a relaxed Jofi meant his patient was relaxed, whereas a stand-offish Jofi meant his patient was anxious.
The intelligent, gentle Chow-Chow became such a staple in her master’s office that she began to internalize the famous doctor’s sessions' duration. When Jofi got from her resting spot and headed for the door, Freud knew that it had been exactly 50-minutes since the session began and could politely tell his patients, “Time’s up!” As Freud's name was becoming more popular, his pup became one of the most famous dogs in history.
9. Lex, the German Shepherd
Just 5 months after being stationed in Fallujah, Iraq, Marine Dustin Lee and his trained canine companion, Lex, encountered a fatal rocket attack for Dustin. Lex, although injured by shards and shrapnel, survived the attack. The faithful dog, reportedly, had to be forcibly dragged from his owner’s side so that paramedics could inspect the young Marine. In his youth, Dustin Lee was described as an animal lover and owned many childhood dogs and rode horses.
In the military, Dustin was a soldier and a dog-trainer, roles that eventually gave him the title of kennel master while on base in Albany, Georgia, before his deployment. While he loved training all canines, his bond with Lex was impenetrable. After his death, his ailing family pleaded with the U.S. Marine Corps to retire bomb-sniffing canine soldier Lex so that they could adopt the dog. After months of conversation and paperwork, Lex became the first working military dog to receive early retirement to be adopted by a lost Marine's surviving family and keeping his title of one of the most famous dogs in history.
10. Sinbad, the Lovable Mutt
In the midst of the looming Second World War, a Coast Guard vessel set out to watch over the eastern coastline. However, little did the captain of the ship know that one of his mates had unwittingly bought himself a puppy the night before. Initially intended to keep his girlfriend company while he was at sea, sailor “Blackie” Rother didn’t anticipate his girlfriend’s landlord having an issue with pets. So he headed back to vessel Campbell with the well-intentioned present hidden inside his sea bag.
Sinbad, a brown and black mutt, was shortly discovered by the captain, who somewhat surprisingly saw the animal as an opportunity to teach his crew responsibility, ordering them to take care of the dog. Perhaps not far from the captain’s line of reasoning, taking care of Sinbad became a resource of bonding and comradery among the sailors. So much so that Sinbad even became enlisted, signing his papers with a paw dipped in ink. Sinbad took his enlistment seriously; he was promoted to Chief Dog after several years of being in 1st Class.
Sinbad lived to see 14 years of life, with 11 of them proudly serving with the United States Coast Guard. He was buried with ceremony and officially recognized as a Coast Guard Cutterman, honoring the five years he spent on the Campbell in which he even witnessed wartime. Now his memory lives on as one of the most famous dogs in history.