12 Most Famous Dogs in Literature: Fictional Pups (With Pictures)
There’s no denying that humans have had a love affair with dogs for thousands of years. Back then, as today, dogs played an important role in our daily lives as companions, protectors, and confidants. It’s no surprise that dogs have also played a large role in literature and still do today. As far back as the early 7th-Century BC, dogs were written about in adoring terms. For many years we’ve referred to them as “man’s best friend,” but, it seems, they have been authors’ best friends for just as long. Today we pay tribute to our furry friends with a list of the 12 most famous dogs in literature.
The 12 Most Famous Dogs in Literature
You can’t have a list of the most famous dogs in literature without the first, Argos. As a friend to Odysseus in “The Odyssey,” Argos is the only creature that recognizes him after 20 years away from his home in Ithaca. (That’s one old dog, you have to admit)! Argos has the distinction of being the first dog mentioned in Western literature. It’s only fitting that, once his master returned safely home, Argos died in peace knowing Odysseus was safe and sound.
“The Wizard of Oz” has been a cinema classic for nearly a century. What many don’t know is that it was based on the works of L. Frank Baum, and that he included Toto right from the start. As a precocious and valiant Cairn Terrier, Toto made the books and movie stand out. He remained brave, faithful, and devoted to her in Kansas and Oz (and helped defeat that nasty old Wicked Witch, too). It would be hard to imagine Toto not being in the movie, as even today, his name is still brought up when referring to losing something by force, i.e., “And your little dog, too…!”
Charles Schultz, it’s been said, based the character of Charlie Brown, the ne’er do well boy central to his Peanuts books and comic strip, on himself. Not surprisingly, he based Snoopy on his childhood dog, Spike. However, he would introduce Spike as Snoopy’s brother much later in the comics’ run. Introduced to the world on October 4, 1950, Snoopy is still as popular today as he became back then. Take a trip down any store’s greeting card aisle, and you’ll see Snoopy everywhere. While he was Charlie Brown’s dog, Snoopy became even more famous than his master. This article in The Atlantic explains how, contrary to popular opinion, Snoopy made the Peanuts successful.
Most people remember Lassie from the classic movie Lassie Come Home. The titular heroine of the movie, Lassie, is sold by her owner but, time after time, manages to come back to the man’s son, her friend Joe. Author Eric Knight first introduced Lassie in his book of the same name. Lassie, a Long-Haired Collie, was so popular for a time that she was in 7 movies and a hugely popular TV show of the same name. Today, when an example of loyalty, friendship, bravery, and camaraderie is needed, many writers still refer to Lassie as a perfect example.
Although not as popular in the United States, Snowy was, and still is, huge in Europe, especially France. The faithful and witty Wire Fox Terrier to Tintin in the Tintin books by author Hergé (aka Georges Prosper Remi), Snowy is one of the few dogs on this list that talks. He is also one of the few, if any, that has a penchant for whisky. Known as ‘Milou’ in France, Snowy is instantly recognizable and has a massive following in France, Belgium, and other European countries. Why? Mostly for his acerbic wit, which tempers the boundless optimism of his master, Tintin. Plus, he drinks whisky!
Is Buck, from Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, a good boy? Some would say no, especially for the extremely harsh way he takes vengeance against the indigenous people of Alaska. A St. Bernard / Collie mix, Buck goes from a pampered, easy life to the extreme and often violent life of a sled dog and, in the end, becomes a better dog for it. He’s faithful to a certain point and splits his time between his human and a wild pack of wolves. In the end, Buck does what many readers want to do; he leaves humanity to answer the call and live a life of complete freedom in the wild. In doing so, he ingrained himself forever in our hearts.
As one of the most famous dogs in French literature, Dogmatix is a darling West Highland White Terrier that’s famous for his adventures with Asterix, the titular character of the Adventures of Asterix books. He is, however, identified as Asterix’s friend Obelix’s dog. Tiny but tenacious, Dogmatix is loyal to his humans but even more loyal to trees, which he hates to see harmed in any way. Dogmatix’s original name was Idéfix or “fixed idea,” but, for English translations, it was changed to Dogmatix, a pun of the word dogmatic which means “set in a certain belief.” Dogmatix is a fantastic character and beloved in France to this day.
8. Hairy Maclary
Although not as popular today as they once were, the Hairy Maclary and Friends books by author Lynley Dodd are still a delight. Although he’s not the only dog in the books, it’s easy to see from the start that Hairy is the star. It helps immensely that the books are written in rhyme and that, like many beloved dogs, Hairy is a scamp, a bit of a trickster, but lovable, adorable, and smart as a whip.
Introduced to the world in 1963 (the year of this author’s birth), Clifford the Big Red Dog has been a staple of childhood ever since. He’s gentle, caring, and kind to his owner, Emily, but Clifford is also humongous and, of course, red. Norman Bridwell, Clifford’s author, was tempted to name him Tiny but was dissuaded by his wife, Norma. Nearly 10 decades later, we’d say he made a great choice.
10. Old Yeller
Has there ever been a story about a dog with a sadder ending than Old Yeller? Probably not, and thank goodness for that. Fred Gipson, the author who wrote the original story, made his Labrador Retriever / Mastiff mix into the epitome of a good dog: brave, loyal, caring to his humans, and willing to give his life to protect them. If you don’t know what happens, I’m not going to spoil it for you. Read the book or watch the classic movie and see why Old Yeller still holds a place in our hearts (and our childhood nightmares about loss) today.
Created by author J. M. Barries in his book Peter Pan, Nana might just be the most memorable dog in all of English literature. As a Newfoundland with amazing caregiver skills, Nana is left in charge of Wendy, John, and Michael Darling…until the fateful day she’s not. On that day, as she’s chained in the yard by Mr. Darling, Peter Pan swoops down and takes the children away on an adventure they’ll never forget. Needless to say, when they return safely, Nana is not confined outside again but lives out her days in the nursery.
Although relatively new to the scene, Fang, Hagrid’s dog in the Harry Potter series of books by J. K. Rowling, is no less memorable. In the books, he’s a Great Dane, but in the movies, Fang is portrayed by a Neapolitan Mastiff. Whatever the breed, Fang’s name belies his timidity; he’s scared of everything! Fear or not, Fang is a loyal protector to Hagrid and puts his fears aside to accompany Harry and his friends on their many adventures.
Dogs have been in our hearts and literature for eons as symbols of bravery, dedication, and loyalty. Dogs have been at our sides for thousands of years, and it’s not surprising that we’ve given them such a high place of esteem and importance in our literary works. It’s safe to say that if humans were more like dogs, the world might be a better, kinder, and gentler place.
Featured Image Credit: InspiredImages, Pixabay