As faithful and loving animals, Dogs have always been considered our best friends and most loyal companions, 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 the team at Farmer Pete’s to create a list of the most famous dogs in history.
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.
The Top 9 Dogs Who Changed World History
However, you may not have heard about some of these famous dogs in history, so let’s take a skip down memory lane.
1. Toto – Cairn Terrier
Undeniably the most famous dog in history is Toto.
Toto, whose real name was Terry, was abandoned as a puppy. Luckily for her, however, she was adopted by German immigrant Carl Spitz, the unofficial dog-trainer of Hollywood.
With his help, she was trained to become one of her generation's most coveted canine actresses, starring alongside some of the time’s biggest stars, including Judy Garland.
The role of Toto in the 1939 film was played by Terry and it’s reported that she was paid $125 each week, which was more than some of the human actors! 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.
You may not have considered this, but without Toto, none of the events in The Wizard of Oz would have transpired to begin with. Dorothy runs away from home with Toto to save him from the horrible Miss Gulch who wants to have him euthanised for biting her. Therefore, Dorothy is outside the storm shelter when the tornado hits, transporting her and Toto to Oz. What’s more, it’s also because of Toto that the company discover that the Wizard is a fraud too!
2. Lassie - Rough Collie
This lovable Rough Collie that’s always getting into adventures and saving the day first appeared in a short story in 1939, but since then she’s appeared in novels, movies, TV shows and even video games! However, she’s perhaps most known for the 19-season long TV show ‘Lassie’ which aired from 1954 – 1973.
Six different canine actors played the part, but the longest reigning was a dog called Baby who starred from 1960 – 1966.
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. It is reported that Pal made twice what his human co-star, Elizabeth Taylor, made in Lassie Come Home.
3. Scooby Doo – Great Dane
Despite not being a real-life dog, Scooby Doo is probably one of the most famous canines in the entire world. This famous dog has been around since the 60s and since then there’s been a wealth of movies, TV shows and games – not to mention huge amounts of merchandise – made starring the cowardly Great Dane. It’s no secret that Scooby Doo has made a huge cultural impact on us all too, in fact, many of the sayings from the show have found themselves woven into our vocabulary.
4. Rin Tin Tin – German Shepherd
Rin Tin Tin was discovered amidst war-ravaged France during WW1, where he was adopted by American solider, Lee Duncan. After the war, Rin Tin Tin moved home to Los Angeles with Duncan, where he soon caught the eye of a filmmaker who saw him jump an impressive 12-feet high at a dog show.
Shortly thereafter, Rin Tin Tin came to star in nearly 30 films, many of which were written specifically for him resulting in him becoming one of the most famous dogs in movies known today. Before his sudden death in 1932, it was said that Rin Tin Tin was the unofficial mascot of Warner Bros Studios and he saved them from bankruptcy when they were just a small studio!
5. Balto – Siberian Husky
While many may be familiar with the 1995 children’s film Balto, some may not realize that the cartoon is factual.
In 1925, a city in Alaska called Nome suffered an outbreak of diphtheria. The only medical serum was 500 miles away in Anchorage and the only transportation available was dog sled.
Numerous volunteers and their heroic dogs stepped up across Alaska and together, they formed a chain across the entire state.
It was Musher, Gunnar Kaasen, and his young Siberian Husky, Balto, a Siberian Husky, that led the final leg of the mission and he successfully guided his team through 54 miles of treacherous conditions and -40C temperatures. Once he delivered the antidote home to Nome, Balto became the face of monumental success and is now known as one of the most famous dogs in history.
Today, Balto has been honoured in many ways including movies and a statue in Central Park, New York.
6. Sinbad, the Sailor dog – Mixed Breed
Sinbad is one of the most decorated canine war veterans. He sailed on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter, George W. Campbell, where he served for 11 years and even saw combat in WWII.
Amid the approaching Second World War, ‘Blackie” Rother bought his girlfriend a dog to keep her company. However, her landlord wouldn’t allow it.
so, he headed back to the vessel Campbell with the well-intentioned gift hidden inside his sea bag where Sinbad, a brown and black mutt, was soon discovered by the ship’s captain who 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 bonding resource and comradery among the sailors.
So much so that Sinbad even became enlisted, signing his papers with a paw dipped in ink. Sinbad was promoted to Chief Dog after several years in 1st Class.
Sinbad lived to see 14 years of life, with 11 of them proudly serving with the United States Coast Guard.
7. Trakr - German Shepherd
There were More than 300 Search and Rescue dogs that assisted in the months following the September 11th attacks on the World trade centre NYC. They were to help find and uncover survivors from the miles of rubble.
One 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 the 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.
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.
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.
8. Nemo – German Shepherd
Nemo served as a sentry dog in the Vietnam War at the Tan Son Nhut Air Base Thanks to dogs’ incredible sense of smell and hearing abilities, sentry dogs could alert their human counterparts to the presence of enemy soldiers even when the dogs couldn’t see them.
On December 4th, 1966, Nemo alerted the approach of Vietnamese soldiers and helped his handler successfully defend the base. However, during the fight, a bullet entered Nemo’s eye and exited out of the side of his snout, resulting in him permanently losing his eye. Despite this, Nemo heroically protected his badly wounded handler, lying over him to ward off any other threats until help arrived. After the incident, Nemo was retired, and as a 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.
9. Jofi, - Chow Chow
Sigmund Freud a well-known psychologist conveyed several psychoanalytical theories to the world. He was also known for his great affection for dogs, particularly the Chow-Chow breed.
While he came to own many dogs, his favourite was Jofi.
Freud was obsessed 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 was anxious. The intelligent, gentle Chow-Chow became such a staple in Freud’s office that she began to adopt 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 became more popular, so did Jofi’s.
Who Is History's Most Famous Dog?
While the above dogs are the most famous in human history, they are far from the only ones to achieve recognition for their achievements. You may know of some more that have not made it on the Farmer Pete’s list.
Whoever is on the list I think I could safely say that we all think our own dogs have achieved plenty and are extraordinarily special in our own eyes.