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Home > Dogs > 15 Popular & Famous Dogs in Literature (2024 Update)

15 Popular & Famous Dogs in Literature (2024 Update)

Cocker Spaniel puppy and Asian boy under a tree

We’ve all been in the position of reading a book that features a dog, secretly praying that nothing happens to that dog. Our attachment to dogs goes back thousands of years, and literature is a great way to remind us of our attachment to these loyal companions. Here are some of the most popular and famous dogs you may have come across in literature.


The 15 Popular & Famous Dogs in Literature

1. Old Yeller

OLD YELLER, Kevin Corcoran, 1957
Image Credit: Characters by The Walt Disney Company. All rights reserved to the copyright owners.
Breed Black Mouth Cur
Color Yellow
Origin Old Yeller

It’s possible that you’ve never read the book Old Yeller, but you likely at least remember sobbing into your couch cushions watching the movie version of this story. Old Yeller was a large Black Mouth Cur who proved to be a loyal and protective companion to a young boy, protecting him from a variety of dangers and going on adventures with him. In the movie version of this story, Old Yeller was played by a Labrador Retriever and English Mastiff cross named Spike. Unfortunately, Old Yeller succumbs to rabies after protecting his family against a wolf attack, and his boy is forced to put him down.

2. Old Dan and Little Ann

Old Dan and Little Ann from the movie Where the Red Fern Grows
Image Credit: Characters by Wilson Rawls property of Crown International Pictures. All rights reserved to the copyright owners.
Breed Redbone Coonhound
Color Red
Origin Where the Red Fern Grows

Sorry to even bring this one up because we’re probably all equally scarred by reading or watching Where the Red Fern Grows. This beautiful coming-of-age story features the relationship a boy shares with his two Redbone Coonhounds, Old Dan and Little Ann. Like Old Yeller, this story doesn’t have a happy ending for the dogs. Both dogs fight off a mountain lion to protect their boy, killing the animal. However, Old Dan is severely injured in the fight and succumbs to his injuries. Little Ann, grief-stricken at the loss of her companion, passes a few days later on top of Old Dan’s grave.

3. Lassie

Still from Lassie (1954), Jack Wrather Productions
Image Credit: Characters by Jack Wrather Productions. All rights reserved to the copyright owners.
Breed Rough Collie
Color Tricolor
Origin Lassie Come-Home

Lassie is one of the most recognizable dogs in literature, thanks to a variety of movies and shows featuring this Rough Collie. Lassie was known for her protective nature of her boy, often saving him from dangerous situations. Lassie Come-Home is told from Lassie’s perspective and tells the story of Lassie attempting to find her way back to her boy after being sold due to the boy’s father losing his job. Lassie treks across Scotland, eventually finding her boy and living happily ever after.

4. Toto

Toto from The Wizard of Oz
Image Credit: Characters by  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc.  All rights reserved to the copyright owners
Breed Cairn Terrier
Color Black
Origin The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Toto is a small Cairn Terrier who accompanies Dorothy throughout her trip to Oz in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The dog is a constant companion that provides comfort to Dorothy, even being described as bringing light into Dorothy’s life. While some fandoms claim that Toto has the ability to talk once he arrives in Oz, he serves as a silent companion to Dorothy throughout the book and original movie.

5. Nana

Nana (still from Peter Pan 1953) - The Walt Disney Company
Image Credit: Characters by The Walt Disney Company. All rights reserved to the copyright owners.
Breed Newfoundland
Color Black
Origin Peter Pan

Nana is the official nanny to the Darling children in Peter Pan. She plays a minimal role in the story since she doesn’t accompany the children to Neverland, but she is a protective and loving presence nonetheless. In the book version, Nana is a Newfoundland, but in the movie version, she is a Saint Bernard. Either way, her commitment to the Darling children is typical for both breeds.

6. Marley

Image Credit: Characters by John Grogan property of 20th Century Fox from The Walt Disney Company. All rights reserved to the copyright owners.
Breed Labrador Retriever
Color Yellow
Origin Marley and Me

Based on a true story, Marley and Me tells the story of a young family learning how to deal with their mischievous Labrador Retriever, Marley. Marley gets up to no good consistently throughout the book, often proving destructive. Even though Marley is a bit of a naughty dog, his antics manage to bring joy to his family, bringing them closer together in the process. In the book, we’re treated to the start-to-finish story of Marley, often closely aligning with our own dog-owning experiences.

7. Clifford

Clifford the red big dog full body Scholastic Inc.
Image Credit: Characters by Scholastic Inc.  All rights reserved to the copyright owners.
Breed Unknown
Color Red
Origin Clifford the Big Red Dog series

Clifford is one of the most beloved dogs in children’s literature, going on lots of adventures with his little girl, Emily Elizabeth. It’s unknown what breed Clifford is, but he is truly an enormous dog. Although his height is relatively inconsistent in the books, he is typically shown as being around 25 feet tall. It’s believed that Clifford was originally based on a Bloodhound, but it has also been posited that he could be a Labrador Retriever or a Vizsla. No matter what breed he is, Clifford is always shown to be a dark red color that is not naturally seen in any dog breed.

8. Winn-Dixie

Still from Because of Winn-Dixie, 20th Century Fox.jpg
Image Credit: Characters by 20th Century Fox from The Walt Disney Company. All rights reserved to the copyright owners.
Breed Berger Picard
Color Fawn
Origin Because of Winn-Dixie

Winn-Dixie is a Berger Picard dog adopted by a 10-year-old girl named Opal after Opal makes a trip to the grocery store. Winn-Dixie is a loving dog who provides Opal with the emotional support she’s been lacking in her life. Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal works up the courage to begin discussing her mother with her father. When Opal was only a few years old, her mother abandoned the family, leaving Opal with many questions. Because of Winn-Dixie is a coming-of-age tale that shows the impact that a dog’s love can have on a person’s life.

9. Buck

Buck with his owner from the movie The Call of the Wild
Image Credit: Characters by Jack London property of 20th Century Fox from The Walt Disney Company. All rights reserved to the copyright owners.
Breed Saint Bernard and Scotch Shepherd mix
Color Brown and white
Origin The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild is a beloved book about a sled dog team during the Yukon gold rush in Canada. Buck is the main character of the story, and he ends up in Canada after being stolen from his cushy life as a pet of a judge in California. At the time, large, strong sled dogs were in high demand, and Buck’s parentage of a Saint Bernard and Scotch Shepherd meant he fit the bill. Throughout the book, Buck begins to connect with his more primitive and wild instincts, eventually choosing to leave civilization altogether in favor of living in the wild with a wolfpack.

10. Fang

Fang - Warner Bros. Pictures
Image Credit: Characters by J. K. Rowling property of Warner Bros. Pictures.  All rights reserved to the copyright owners.
Breed Great Dane
Color Black
Origin Harry Potter series

Fang is described in the Harry Potter books as a boarhound, which is an outdated term for a Great Dane. In the movie versions of the books, he is played by a Neapolitan Mastiff. Either way, Fang is a huge dog who is owned by the equally large Hagrid. Although Hagrid is known to keep dangerous pets, Fang is quite docile, with his most dangerous quality being the amount of drool he produces. That isn’t to say he won’t protect Hagrid at all costs, though, which is seen at various points in the story.

11. Pongo and Perdita

Pongo and Perdita from the movie 101 Dalmatians
Image Credit: Characters by The Walt Disney Company. All rights reserved to the copyright owners.
Breed Dalmatian
Color Black and white
Origin One Hundred and One Dalmatians

One Hundred and One Dalmatians is the story of how two Dalmatians meet through their humans. Pongo and Perdita have puppies together, which the evil villain, Cruella DeVil, wants to steal as part of her plan to make a Dalmatian fur coat. The puppies are kidnapped, and Pongo and Perdita go on a journey to save their puppies, only to discover more Dalmatian puppies that Cruella had stolen. In the end, the puppies are all saved, and Pongo and Perdita’s owners are stuck figuring out what to do with dozens of puppies.

12. Snowy

Snowy the Dog from The Adventures of Tintin series
Image Credit: Characters by Hergé property of Nickelodeon. All rights reserved to the copyright owners.
Breed Fox Terrier
Color White
Origin The Adventures of Tintin series

Snowy is a wire-haired Fox Terrier who is abnormally solid white. He serves as a constant companion throughout the adventures that a boy named Tintin goes on. Snowy proves himself to be intelligent, often solving problems to aid Tintin and his other companions. He’s also loyal and sticks by Tintin no matter what, often showing a willingness to put himself into dangerous situations in order to protect his human.

13. Argos

Breed Unknown
Color Unknown
Origin The Odyssey

Argos may not be a name you recognize, but this dog showed a level of loyalty not shown by most of the dogs on the list. In the ancient tale, The Odyssey, Odysseus was responsible for breeding and training Argos, developing a close relationship with him in doing so. However, Odysseus leaves home and is unable to get back for 20 years. When he returns home, there are multiple suitors staying in his home who seek to marry his wife, who is believed to be a widow. Odysseus hatches a plan to sneak into the home and take revenge, and only his son is aware of his true identity.

When he approaches the home, Odysseus spots his old dog, Argos, infested with fleas and dying on a pile of manure. Argos immediately recognizes his master’s voice, wags his tail, and raises his ears to Odysseus, but lacks the strength to do more. Although Odysseus sheds a tear for his companion, he is saved by the dog’s inability to get up, as this might give away who he really is. Unfortunately, he is not able to say goodbye to his friend as Argos passes away after knowing his master has returned home.

14. White Fang

Whitefang from the movie
Image Credit: Characters by Jack London property of The Walt Disney Company. All rights reserved to the copyright owners
Breed Wolf hybrid
Color White
Origin White Fang

White Fang is a story of a wolfdog hybrid by the name White Fang. Thematically, it mirrors the story of Buck from The Call of the Wild, exploring what it means to be wild versus civilized. White Fang begins his life as a wild animal, living with his mother and littermates in a wolfpack. When a Native American recognizes his mother as a wolfdog that had belonged to his brother, he takes the mother and pup back to their camp, naming the pup White Fang. Over time, White Fang goes through many hardships, eventually ending up with a kind man named Weedon Scott, who manages to tame the dog and keeps him as a pet.

15. Balto

Balto the Wolf
Image Credit: Characters owned by Universal Pictures. All rights reserved to the copyright owners.
Breed Siberian Husky
Color Black and white
Origin Various

You might recognize Balto’s name from a cartoon movie of the same name, but many books have been written about this dog. You may not have realized that Balto was a real dog that lived from 1919 to 1933. He is remembered for having helped to save the town of Nome, Alaska, by leading a team of dogs on the last leg of the trip to deliver diphtheria vaccines to combat an outbreak of the deadly disease. After Balto rose to fame, he lived out his days at the Cleveland Zoo. After his death, Balto was stuffed and can still be seen today in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.


The ways that dogs are written into literature strongly show the human-canine connection that has been forged through thousands of years of selective breeding. Literature also allows us to explore a variety of themes that can be impactful in our daily lives. By seeing how dogs are written about in literature, we can easily see that the way that humans feel about dogs has changed very little between The Odyssey and today.

Featured Image Credit: Jeanette Virginia Goh, Shutterstock

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