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What Kind of Dog Is Winn-Dixie? Fun Canine Facts

Chelsea Mortensen Profile Picture

By Chelsea Mortensen


If you’re a fan of the hit movie Because of Winn-Dixie or the book that inspired it, you’ve probably wondered about its star character. Winn-Dixie is well known for being loveable enough to melt a whole town’s hearts, but can you get a dog that looks just like him? Is Winn-Dixie a specific breed of dog?

The answer is yes—at least when it comes to the film. Winn-Dixie is portrayed as a Berger Picard, a French breed of sheepdog with a sandy brown, shaggy coat. Although this breed of dog is rare, you can still find it today.

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Who Is Winn-Dixie?

If you’ve never heard of Winn-Dixie, you’re missing out! Winn-Dixie is a fictional dog that was the start of a 2000 book and a 2005 movie. The book was a big hit and earned a Newbery Honor, the second-highest prize for children’s books. A few years later, the movie came out and has since become a family classic. In both versions, a young girl adopts a stray dog with a dazzling smile, and together, they learn about friendship and bring their new neighborhood together.

Winn-Dixie in the Book

If you’re interested in the Winn-Dixie of the book’s breed, you’ll be disappointed. In the book, Winn-Dixie is a stray that doesn’t have any specific breed. Winn-Dixie is big, brown, and shaggy—in fact, he’s described as looking like “a big piece of old brown carpet that had been left in the rain.” At the beginning of the book, he’s ratty, smelly, and ugly, with scraggly fur and bald patches. Since he’s been on the streets a while, it takes someone special to look past his ugliness and see his happiness and kindness inside.

Winn-Dixie on the Big Screen

When it came time to adapt Winn-Dixie to the big screen, they couldn’t just use any old mutt. In fact, they planned to have multiple dogs playing Winn-Dixie, working together to make a seamless whole. This is normal in movies, but it does mean that they couldn’t just use any dog. The movie makers needed a breed that could produce several near-identical dogs for filming. It needed to be an intelligent, trainable breed. They also wanted a dog that was cute enough to melt the audience’s hearts, but would still look wild and scruffy as a stray.

They found the answer in a rare French breed of dog, the Berger Picard, sometimes called the Picard Shepherd. These sheepdogs are smart and trainable, with the perfect shaggy, rustic-looking coats. These dogs can go from looking perfect in the showroom to herding sheep in the mud without a problem—perfect for Winn-Dixie. The movie crew teamed up with European breeders to prepare and train several identical Berger Picards for the movie, and the dogs fit the role perfectly.

Winn Dixie dog
Image Credit: Characters by 20th Century Studios.  All rights reserved to the copyright owners.

All About Berger Picards

Berger Picards are medium to large dogs, weighing in at around 50-70 lbs. There are a handful of coat colors that these dogs can have, but the shaded fawn of Winn-Dixie’s coat is the most recognizable. They have a medium-length coat with long, shaggy hair on their cheeks, chin, and neck. They have large, pointed ears that can reach up to five inches in height. These ears and their wide, round eyes give them an expressive, alert face—perfect for showing up on film.

Berger Picards are some of the oldest sheepdogs in the world, and their long herding history has made them intelligent, friendly, and obedient. Berger Picards tend to be a little more independent than other sheepdogs and are great problem solvers. They are high-energy dogs that need a lot of exercise and playtime, but owners with the time to care for them will find they’re loving, loyal companions.

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Last Thoughts

Because of Winn-Dixie shaped a whole generation of dog lovers. Whether you first read the book in school, saw the movie with your family, or fell in love with Winn-Dixie some other way, you aren’t alone. And if you want a “Winn-Dixie” of your very own, you’re in luck! The star dog was played by Berger Picard dogs. Although this is still a fairly rare breed, if you manage to track one down it will be a loving and loyal—though time-intensive—companion.

Featured Image Credit: Characters by 20th Century Studios.  All rights reserved to the copyright owners.

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