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10 Dogs in Literature That Are Famous From Books

Written by: Jessica Kim

Last Updated on June 18, 2024 by Dogster Team

Old Yeller Film

10 Dogs in Literature That Are Famous From Books

Dogs have rightfully earned the title of man’s best friend and are able to leave a profound effect on people’s lives. Being around dogs and observing them often sparks people’s inspiration. Throughout history, dogs have often been the subject of various art forms, including portrait paintings, sculptures, and murals.

Dogs have also been mentioned in ancient texts, and they continue to be featured in modern art, including in books, TV shows, and movies. Some dog breeds have become well-known and beloved because they’ve played a significant role in famous books. See how many dog breeds you can recognize from these popular books.

The 10 Famous Dogs in Literature

1. Rough Collie (Lassie)

Lassie (1994)
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The Rough Collie is one of the most iconic dog breeds due to the classic adventures of Lassie. English author Eric Knight created this fictional dog, and she first appeared in a short story published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1938. Knight wrote a full-length novel, and it was published just a few years later, in 1940.

Lassie’s popularity took off from there, and a full-length movie adaptation of the book was released in 1943. Sequels and a TV series were created over the span of decades, with the latest Lassie movie being released in 2006.

Lassie’s fearless personality is consistent with the Rough Collie’s breed temperament. Rough Collies are known for being loyal, intelligent, and protective. They’re deeply devoted to their families and are talented athletes who enjoy being active and going on adventures with their loved ones.

2. Yellow Lab (Old Yeller)

Old Yeller
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Labrador Retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds in the US, so most people are familiar with them and can identify them easily. One of the most famous Labrador Retrievers is Old Yeller.

Interestingly enough, the Old Yeller written in the original book by Fred Gipson was described as a “yellow cur.” However, the movie adaptation features a Yellow Lab-Mastiff mix. Most people now associate the image of Old Yeller with the dog in the movie rather than the book description. Regardless of the breed differences, Labrador Retrievers do possess the loyalty and bravery that Old Yeller depicted in this classic American story.

3. Cairn Terrier (Toto)

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Toto is arguably the most famous Cairn Terrier. This dog breed is recognized worldwide due to Frank Baum’s Oz series and the classic 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz. Originally, Baum hadn’t specified Toto’s breed. Toto was described as “a little black dog with long silky hair and small black eyes.” Most book illustrations depicted a small black dog that looked like either a Cairn Terrier or a Yorkshire Terrier.

Toto’s personality was also more in line with the Cairn Terrier’s breed temperament than the Yorkshire Terrier’s temperament. He was described as being spirited, quick-witted, and hardy enough to face all kinds of challenges.

4. Dalmatian (101 Dalmatians)

101 Dalmatians
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The Hundred and One Dalmatians is a children’s book written by Dodie Smith in 1956. The Walt Disney Company later released a full feature-length film of Smith’s book in 1961. Disney continued to re-release this cartoon feature over the next few years and finally released the movie in 1986 and again in 1991.

The Dalmatian’s popularity took off and peaked in 1993 when the breed became the 9th most popular dog in the US.1 Dalmatians are known to be outgoing and playful dogs, and they’re very affectionate and loyal to their families.

5. Beagle (Shiloh)

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Shiloh is a children’s novel written by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and published in 1991. It follows the lives of a young boy named Marty Preston and Shiloh the Beagle. Shiloh was inspired by Naylor’s real-life encounter with an abused Beagle that her family ended up adopting.

Shiloh is a beloved character in American literature. He was friendly, playful, and energetic, and he often accompanied Marty as he learned important life lessons. Real Beagles are also known to be fun-loving companion dogs that enjoy exploring the world with their favorite people.

6. Mastiff (Fang)

Mastiffs are another famous dog breed that many people can recognize due to their frequent appearances in movies, TV shows, and commercials. One of the most notable Mastiff-mixes is Fang, Hagrid’s dog from the Harry Potter series.

Like real-life Mastiffs, Fang is a trustworthy dog that would face dangerous situations with bravery and courage. While Fang was depicted as a large boarhound in the book, the movie adaptations featured Neapolitan Mastiffs. So, most people envision a Neapolitan Mastiff when they think of Fang.

7. St. Bernard (Barry)

St. Bernards are widely recognized and have been featured in both books and movies. The breed is most known for its historic past as search and rescue dogs at the Great St. Bernard Hospice located at the Great St. Bernard Pass. Written records of these legendary dogs date back to 1707. Barry the St. Bernard is one of the most famous of these dogs, as he reportedly saved between 40 to 100 lives during his lifetime and was the focus of the book Barry: The Bravest Saint Bernard written in 1973 by Lynn Hall.

St. Bernards are gentle giants, but they’re also brave dogs that are quick to act when trained in search and rescue work. They’re also calm and patient with children and make wonderful family dogs.

8. Cocker Spaniel (Lulu, Rusty)

Cocker Spaniels may be widely recognized due to the movie The Lady and the Tramp. However, they’re also a breed that’s featured in many books, including Lulu the Cocker Spaniel and Rusty a Cocker Spaniel.

Cocker Spaniels are popular not only because of their charming appearance and adorable, long ears. They’re also known for their loving nature and happy-go-lucky attitude and are excellent companion dogs.

9. Newfoundland (Nana)

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Newfoundlands are widely recognized and often praised for their bravery in search and rescue work. They’re large, powerful working dogs that are also good-natured, calm, and very trainable.

When it comes to fictional Newfoundlands, the most notable character is Nana from Peter Pan. Nana is the loyal and caring nurse for Wendy, John, and Michael Darling. Though she’s clearly depicted as a black and white Newfoundland in picture books, she resembles a St. Bernard in the Disney movie adaptation.

10. Mixed-Breed Dogs (Winn-Dixie, Ribsy, Buck)

Because of Winn-Dixie
Image Credit: Property of Into Film. All rights reserved to the copyright owners.

There are many classic stories about mixed-breed dogs or mutts who meet a human and develop a strong bond. People love a good underdog story, and it’s heartwarming to read about two unlikely heroes who save the day or learn important life lessons as they journey through a challenging situation together.

Some famous mixed-breed dogs in literature include Kate DiCamillo’s Winn-Dixie, Beverly Cleary’s Ribsy, and Jack London’s Buck.

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Real-life dogs have been the muse and inspiration for many famous fictional books. Many books highlight the admirable and lovable qualities that purebred dogs possess. However, we also love that there are many stories about the strong and meaningful bonds that can form between mixed-breed dogs and humans. It just goes to show that dogs are fascinating companion animals. They’re capable of leaving a lasting impression on humans that’s worth writing about, and many people enjoy reading and relating to these stories.

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