“Man’s best friend” has been a faithful companion to humans throughout history but some of the most famous dogs have really made a name for themselves.
Whether as service dogs, involved in war efforts, giving blind people their freedom – or just loyal sidekicks, certain dogs deserve their place in the spotlight.
Some are famous because they have been admired by millions on the silver screen, others because they belong to a major celebrity, politician or royal. Some are the stuff of fiction, but their characteristics are so rooted in canine history, that we know and love that we fall for them anyway. And some are renowned because they’ve forged their place in the history books through what they have achieved.
Let’s take a look at some of the world’s most famous dogs.
32 most famous dogs
This mixed-breed dog, a stray from the streets of Moscow, was the first animal to travel in space, when she was launched into orbit in Sputnik 2 in 1957. Sadly, she died during the journey due to overheating, although the cause of death was not made public until 2002.
Despite his association with Bulldogs, British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill adored his brown Poodles, named Rufus I and Rufus II (the II was apparently not pronounced). He acquired the original Rufus during World War II, and the dog accompanied him on many adventures such as sailing across the Atlantic. However, the Poodle was sadly killed in a road accident, after which Rufus II arrived.
3. Mr Famous
Owned by Audrey Hepburn, this mini Yorkshire Terrier could hardly have been better named. He starred in a cameo role alongside his owner and Fred Astaire in Funny Face (1957), and accompanied Hepburn all around the globe and was often pictured in her bicycle basket. Mr Famous was photographed by Cecil Beaton and graced many a magazine cover.
Like so many beloved pets, he met his end being run over by a car.
King and military commander Alexander the Great is recorded as having around 150 dogs, but Peritas is perhaps the most famous of all, known to accompany him on his military exploits, fighting lions, hunting stags and the like. Peritas, like Alexander’s horse Bucephalus, had a city named after him, one of the king’s spoils of war.
History does not relate what breed Peritas (which comes from the ancient Greek word for January) was, but it’s likely to have been a type of Greek hunting dog as featured in mosaics of that era.
This fictional pup from the Wizard of Oz was immortalized on the silver screen by a rescue Cairn Terrier, who went by the name of Terry. Terry happened to be adopted by dog trainer to the stars, Carl Spitz, and she went on to become one of the most famous acting dogs of all time.
Terry was apparently paid $125 a week for her role in the 1939 movie Wizard of Oz, more than some of her human co-stars. In total, Terry featured in 17 films.
6. Sinbad the Sailor
This decorated war veteran served for 11 years on the US Coastguard Cutter Campbell from 1937–1948, and lived to the age of 14.
He saw combat in World War II, and was aboard the ship when it sank the German submarine U-606 (though Sinbad was kept below deck to protect him from the noise of gunfire).
It’s not entirely clear what his purpose was, other than morale-boosting company. Certainly, he caused havoc on some of the crew’s visits to ports and was said to join in with this crew mates’ drinking of coffee – and whisky.
7. Martha (my dear)
Paul McCartney’s Old English Sheepdog Martha features in the Beatles’ White Album song, Martha My Dear. At the time of its 1968 release, fans assumed Martha was a smokescreen for his deteriorating relationship with old flame Jane, but Paul himself later set the record straight to clarify it was indeed about a song about a dog.
Martha – originally named Knickers – was his first pet, and she lived until she was 15 years old.
Chips not only guarded his troops, but at one time in 1943 attacked some Italian gunmen, causing them to surrender.
He was posthumously awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal – commonly known as the animals’ Victoria Cross – and Animals in War & Peace Medal of Bravery.
This German Shepherd was a Canadian survivor detection dog, handled by police officer James Symington, who tracked down the last survivor of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack. More than 300 search-and-rescue dogs were involved to help find survivors from the rubble. Trakr discovered a woman, Genelle Guzman, who had been trapped under concrete and steel for 26 hours. He suffered chemical and smoke inhalation, burns and exhaustion, causing him to collapse though he was revived with intravenous fluids.
Trakr became an overnight hero and many years later was selected to be cloned, in 2009, and five mini Trakrs were born: Trustt, Solace, Valor, Prodigy and Deja Vu.
The Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud was extremely fond of dogs, and particularly Chow-Chows. Jofi, a Chow-Chow, was always at his side, including when Freud was running therapy sessions. He claimed that Jofi’s demeanor would help him to understand how anxious a patient was – plus she knew when the session time was up!
Jofi died in 1937, a few days after an operation, and although Freud was distraught, he acquired another Chow, by the name of Lün.
Some dogs get everywhere. This long-haired Jack Russell Terrier was the first dog to travel to both the north and south poles. Owned by the British explorers Ranulph and Ginny Fiennes, Bothie accompanied them on their Transglobe Expedition (1979–1982).
The canine polar explorer was kitted out with a coat, balaclava, face mask and booties, but the tough little terrier hardly needed them.
His role on the trip? A friend and welcome distraction, bringing “a sense of home and normality” to the adventure.
No other dog is likely to emulate him as dogs have since been banned in the Antarctic to protect the seals.
The Afghan hound was the world’s first cloned canine, born in 2005 in South Korea. There were 123 surrogate mothers for the clone – produced from the cell of an ear of an adult Afghan hound – but just three produced pregnancies, and only Snuppy survived.
Snuppy, who was carried by a Labrador Retriever surrogate mother – himself produced four clones, as well as nine puppies via artificial insemination. He died at the age of 10.
13. Pulaski’s Masterpiece
The silver-grey Poodle was once billed as the world’s most valuable dog, said to be worth $20,000 in the 1940s, with a stud fee of $500 and thousands of dollars in modelling fees.
However, Alexis Pulaski’s home-bred poodle, a multiple winner in the show ring and the first toy dog to win championships, obedience and utility titles, went missing in 1953 from Pulaski’s pet shop and was never seen again, despite a major media campaign.
The world’s oldest dog, according to the Guinness World Records, died in 2023 at the age of 31 years and 165 days. He lived in Conqueiros, Portgual, with the Costa family. He was a pure-bred Rafeiro do Alentejo, a Portuguese farm dog.
Bobi was lucky to be alive at all. Born into a litter of four puppies, his human family decided they already had too many animals and were planning to put the pups to sleep. However, he was hidden in a woodpile when the puppies were collected and the children kept his existence a secret until it was too late for him to be euthanized.
An Ancient Egyptian dog known to be one of the first domesticated, named dogs. Abutiu, who lived around 2,300 years before Christ, was a royal guard dog who received a ceremonial burial. All we know about Abutiu is thanks to a stone tablet from the burial ground but neither the grave nor the mummy have been discovered.
He was described as what we recognize as a sighthound – a lightly built Pharaoh hound type. Dogs are documented to have been protected animals and were mummified after their death in the family tomb.
This adorable Rough Collie has been appearing in novels, TV series and movies since she first came to prominence in 1939.
The most famous incarnation is arguably the TV series which lasted 19 seasons from 1954–1973. Lassie was played by six different canine actors, initially by Pal and then a succession of his descendants. Lassie has won several PATSY awards (acting awards for animals).
Tintin’s intrepid canine sidekick, Snowy – or Milou (which has nothing to do with snow or whiteness), to give him his original French name – is a loyal, funny and courageous white Wire Fox Terrier, with a taste for Loch Lomond whisky and a fear of spiders. The author Hergé took inspiration from a dog he used to see at his local cafe while creating the Tintin series.
18. Rin Tin Tin
The German Shepherd dog was rescued from the battlefield by an American soldier, Lee Duncan, during World War I.
After the war, Duncan trained “Rinty” for film work, and the dog went on to appear in 27 Hollywood films (sometimes playing a wolf!), starting in 1923 with Where the North Begins. He was a household name in the world of silent film.
He also starred in many adverts and was credited as lifting Warner Bros out of bankruptcy, such was his popularity.
Rin Tin Tin’s legacy lived on in his 48 puppies, some of whom also became filmstars – but none as famous as their legendary ancestor.
The Scottish Terrier Fala belonged to President Franklin D Roosevetl, and is the only pet to be immortalised in presidential monument in Washington DC.
Fala – full name Murray the Outlaw of Falahill – was given to Roosevelt as a Christmas present. He was adept at performing tricks and was a favorite with the media for his antics in the White House.
Fala often traveled with the president and attended many events. He outlived his master by seven years and was in attendance at his funeral. When Fala died, just shy of his 12th birthday, he was buried near Roosevelt.
Gromit is a smart and loyal Beagle, belonging to the inventor Wallace in Nick Park’s animated comedy franchise, Wallace & Gromit, which began in 1989. Although Gromit really has no speaking part, his facial expressions and body language are wonderfully anthropomorphic.
21. Scooby Doo
The lovable Great Dane first appeared on our TV screens in 1969, and is still solving mysteries in his comic style.
The movie Scooby-Doo, released in 2002, is among the biggest canine box office hits of all time.
This adorable Parson Russell Terrier started out life being rejected by two owners on account of his wildness and embodied a true rags-to-riches story when he became a star of the silver screen. His performance in the silent film The Artist (2011), which won five Oscars, provoked fans to clamor for animals to receive the coveted film awards.
He also has a memoir out in print, Uggie, My Story.
Balto the Husky was hailed as a leading sled dog bringing life-saving medicine to the isolated town of Nome in Alaska, where a diptheria epidemic was raging through the community in 1925.
The closest serum was in Anchorage, nearly 1,000 miles away from Nome, and so the only way to deliver it was via dog sleds. Nome and his team braved temperatures of -40F and snowstorms to save the townspeople. Their performance is remembered annually with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
He died at the age of 14 and his body is on display in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. A bronze statue to commemorate him stands in New York’s Central Park.
24. Cut and Ball
Like many of the British Royal Family, King Henry VIII adored his dogs, and was particularly fond of Spaniels, Beagles and Greyhounds due to his penchant for hunting. His hounds wore spiked velvet collars, and his coat of arms.
Two dogs stand out, by the names of Cut and Ball, who were particular favorites because when they once got lost, he offered generous sums of money to find them.
The British King Edward VII was especially fond of his Wire Fox Terrier Caesar – also known as Stinky. Born at the turn of the 20th century, Caesar was the King’s constant companion, even sleeping in a chair by the King’s bed and having his own personal footman. He wore a collar with the words, “I am Caesar. I belong to the King.”
He was immortalized in a Fabergé model, made of chalcedony, rubies, enamel and gold.
Caesar outlived the King, and was distraught when his master died. He attended the funeral and preceded several other kings and heads of state near the front of the funeral procession.
Buddy, a German Shepherd Dog, was trained in Switzerland as a pioneer for seeing eye dogs. He was trained by police dog trainer Dorothy Harrison Eustis for Morris Frank, who was completely blind from the age of 16. Thanks to the freedom that Buddy gave Frank, guiding him through busy Manhattan traffic, his vocation became to set up the first guide dog training school, The Seeing Eye, in Tennessee in 1929 (it later moved to New Jersey).
After the success of Buddy, Frank decided to call all his guide dogs Buddy. Both Buddy I and Buddy II are buried at The Seeing Eye.
When the SEAL Team Six took down Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, a Belgian Malinois by the name of Cairo became an overnight celebrity. A highly trained combat assault dog, Cairo cost $10,000 as a three-year-old. He survived life-threatening injuries in a firefight in Afghanistan, before being deployed for the famous secret mission to bring down bin Laden. Afterward, President Obama insisted on meeting the dog, as well as the human members of the team.
Cairo’s handler US Navy Seal Will Chesney wrote a book about him, entitled No Ordinary Dog.
28. Old Yeller
The star of the 1957 movie Old Yeller was a canine actor by the name of Spike. He was famous the world over for his stunning performance in the popular Western drama. The Mastiff/Labrador Retriever Spike was, like Old Yeller himself, a stray, rescued as a puppy from a shelter by a dog trainer.
29. Queen Elizabeth’s Corgis
The late Queen Elizabeth II was renowned for her love of animals – horses and dogs of all kinds, but particularly Corgis. It would be hard to pick out her absolute favorite as she had more than 30 during her 70-year reign and had 13 at one time. They have been depicted in cartoons, statues, photos, waxworks and paintings, and the commemoration coin for the Golden Jubilee features The Queen with a Corgi.
The Queen’s Pembroke Corgis were home-bred, descended from her first one, Susan, an 18th birthday present.
30. Sergeant Stubby
The unofficial mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment, Sergeant Stubby has been hailed as the most decorated war dog from World War I. He was involved in four offensives and 17 battles, and was notable for his ability to boost morale within the troops as well as sniff out mustard gas, due to recovering from being injured in such an attack. Thereon he wore a special gas mask.
The brindle dog’s breeding was unrecorded but probably had American Bull Terrier or Boston Terrier bloodlines. He joined the military after hanging out with them while they were training, and became a favorite with the soldiers, who taught him how to salute!
Stubby is the subject of films, fan clubs, books, statues and portraits.
If every you need cheering up in life, this adorable cartoon Beagle portrays a joyful, good-natured and carefree attitude, with his vivid imagination of fantasy lives.
Besides the 1950s comic strip, Peanuts, in which he first came to prominence, the anthropomorphic Snoopy has featured in TV shows, movies, parades and even a musical, You’re a Good Man Charlie, Brown.
This lovable social media sensation has over 20 million TikTok followers, and over 9m on Instagram, with images devoted to the cute pup dressed up in, sitting in a handbag, drinking chai lattes and so on. Jiffpom, an adorable Pomeranian, had many strings to his bow. Besides earning over $46,000/ £37,000 per post, he held Guinness World Records for the fastest 10m run on hindlegs and the fastest 5m on front paws. He has also starred in a handful of movies.
Jiffpom, who was born in 2010, has not had his death officially confirmed, but following a lack of posts he is believed to have passed away in 2022.
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Martha is an experienced journalist working in both print and digital media. She specializes in the canine, equine and rural sphere where she has covered a wide range of topics from cloning animals and the ingredients for a perfect yard dog, to helping owners find the best canine GPS trackers on the market. When she’s not busy writing about dogs and horses, she’ll be found either aboard a horse or looking after the menagerie of pets in her care.