Five of the Most Famous Dogs from History
Dogs have a special place in the hearts of millions, but some dogs take it a step further and earn a place in history. It seems that no matter what human beings are trying to accomplish, there will always be a loyal and eager dog at their side ready to be a part of it. Whether braving the wilderness, saving the lives of soldiers, or leading parades and appearing in films, some dogs have led lives and careers that stand up next to humanity's greatest achievements. In fact, it's fair to say that many of our achievements wouldn't have been possible without our dogs.
Here are five dogs who made history and became celebrities of their time, whose stories persist today.
• Breed: Newfoundland
• Era: Early 1800s
• Claim to Fame: Explorer with the Lewis and Clark Expedition
Seaman was the erstwhile canine companion of Captain Meriwether Lewis for the entire length of Lewis and Clark's expedition across the western United States from 1804-1806. Seaman toughed out the same challenges as the rest of the team, including extreme weather, hunger, and other dangers of exploration. He assisted with hunting for game and was seen as a valuable member of the expedition — so valuable, in fact, that Lewis and Clark once performed field surgery on Seaman's leg after he sustained a bad bite from a beaver. Seaman faced his journey with bravery and a good temperament, and was described by Lewis and others as "sagacious" (intelligent), and "very active, strong, and docile." Lewis even named Seaman's Creek after him, although many years later it was renamed to Monture Creek.
Today, Seaman's legacy extends across the United States. Monuments to him can be found in several states, including Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, Montana, Oregon, and Idaho. He has appeared as a character in several works of fiction.
• Breed: American Bull Terrier mix
• Era: c. 1916 – 1926
• Claim to Fame: Decorated World War I veteran
Stubby served for 18 months in France as the official mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment, 26th (Yankee) Division. He soon distinguished himself as being more than just a mascot and became the only dog ever promoted to the rank of sergeant. He helped his regiment in countless ways, improving morale wherever he went, finding wounded soldiers, and using his keen senses to warn the unit of mustard gas and impending artillery attacks long before humans could detect them. He even captured a German spy by holding him in place until he could be apprehended. Sgt. Stubby won several medals for his heroism, including a Purple Heart, the Republic of France Grande War Medal, and many others, including the Iron Cross that had belonged to the German he captured! He wore all these medals on a custom-made army jacket. Throughout his service, he was known for being fearless but sweet-tempered and friendly with his fellow soldiers.
After the war, Sgt. Stubby became a celebrity. He met three presidents, led parades, and performed in vaudeville shows in which he earned twice the pay of a human actor. He then became the team mascot for the Georgetown Hoyas at Georgetown University and would come out at halftime to play with the football. His legacy is still ongoing — he has an exhibit in the Smithsonian, and an animated movie about him is planned for release in 2018.
Rin Tin Tin
• Breed: German Shepherd
• Era: 1918 – 1932
• Claim to Fame: International movie star
Rin Tin Tin lived a classic rags-to-riches story, in that he was rescued as a puppy from a World War I battlefield and went on to become one of the most famous film actors of all time. He appeared in 27 Hollywood silent movies and two movie serials and made an appearance in many advertisements. Being a dog, he was universally understood by audiences worldwide, so his fame spread rapidly and all his films were extremely successful. Rin Tin Tin contributed a great deal toward popularizing German Shepherds as pets. He was occasionally cast as a wolf or as other dogs, but his most frequent appearances were as himself or under his nickname Rinty. He even provided doggy "voice acting" for some radio shows where dog sounds were needed.
Rin Tin Tin's legacy includes a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 1627 Vine St. He often appears as a character in fictional works. His bloodline is still around today, and his descendants are frequently trained as service dogs for special needs children.
• Breed: Siberian Husky
• Era: 1919 – 1933
• Claim to Fame: Heroic sled dog
Balto was a sled dog team leader who participated in the 1925 diphtheria serum run, delivering the medicine to prevent a disastrous outbreak of the disease in Nome, Alaska. Several dog sled teams were involved in the effort to get the serum to Nome as fast as possible on the Iditarod Trail. Balto's team ran the final relay of the journey after the serum was passed to them by another team led by another famous dog, Togo. Balto showed great expertise as a lead sled dog and was able to navigate the hazardous trail in darkness and whiteout conditions. He kept the team safe through the blizzard and saved their lives by preventing them from falling into the frigid Topkok River. Balto and his team got the diphtheria serum to Nome safely and were greeted as heroes.
Balto's legacy lives on with a statue in New York City's Central Park and an exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland is the city in which he and his teammates enjoyed their last years. An animated movie was also made in 1995 based on Balto's story, although it's only a very loose adaptation.
• Breed: German Shepherd/Collie/Siberian Husky mix
• Era: Early 1940s
• Claim to Fame: Decorated World War II sentry dog
Chips began life as a regular civilian dog before being sent to the War Dog Training Center in 1942. He became a sentry dog and accompanied the 3rd Infantry Division to Sicily as part of Operation Husky. While moving inland from their landing on the beach, the unit suddenly began taking fire from an Italian machine gun nest hidden in a nearby hut. The soldiers dropped down to avoid the shots, but Chips escaped his handler and charged directly into the hut, flushing out the machine gunners and enabling them to be captured. Shortly after, he saved his unit again by alerting them to ten Italian soldiers trying to sneak into the camp and helped capture all ten of the enemy. For his heroism in the face of injury, Chips was awarded the Purple Heart, the Silver Star, and the Distinguished Service Cross. His unit also unofficially awarded him with an arrowhead theater ribbon representing an assault landing, and eight battle stars for his campaigns.
At the end of the war, Chips returned home to a happy reunion with his family in Pleasantville, NY. He is remembered today as an example of the intelligence and bravery a dog can show, and Disney made a TV movie about him in 1990.
We hope you've enjoyed the stories of these five amazing dogs and the legacies they've left behind. One needs only to learn of dogs like these to realize the importance they've held throughout history and the way even a “household pet” can contribute so much to the world. Dogs are clearly more than just pets — they are friends, family members, celebrities, and heroes.
No matter what, it's obvious that dogs will always be Man's Best Friend. Give your pup an extra hug today!