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What Breed of Dog Is Clifford the Big Red Dog? Famous Dogs!

Old yellow dog Labrador Retriever is lying on the beach

“Clifford the Big Red Dog” is a series of children’s books written by Norman Bridwell. The books were adapted into several television shows and animated movies. In December 2021, the huge, clumsy, and affectionate pup became a movie hero in Walt Becker’s film, “Clifford.” However, it’s never been specified what breed of dog Clifford is, although he does bear resemblances to a Vizsla, a Bloodhound, and a Labrador Retriever. Let’s explore this topic more here!

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Clifford the Big Red Rog’s Breed

In the original book and animated TV show, it is never specified what breed of dog Clifford is. Indeed, author and illustrator Norman Bridwell never unraveled the mystery surrounding the breed that was the big red dog, other than the fact that he was the tiniest offspring of his litter. It was the boundless love of his owner, Emily Elizabeth, that allowed Clifford to grow to gigantic proportions, as the following quote from the movie explains:

  • Emily Elizabeth: How big is he going to get?
  • Bridwell: That depends, doesn’t it?
  • Emily Elizabeth: On what?
  • Bridwell: On how much you love him.

What Is the Story Behind the Character of Clifford the Big Red Dog?

The first “Clifford the Big Red Dog” book was published in 1963, and the whole series has been read by hundreds of millions of children around the world for over 50 years.

But before the adorable big red dog won the hearts of millions of children, Mr. Bridwell worked as a commercial artist in New York, where he lived with his wife and baby. Since money was scarce, his wife suggested that he try his hand at illustrating children’s books. Unfortunately, if one believes the criticisms of a young editor of the time, Mr. Bridwell was not very good at drawing. So, the editor advised him to tell a story from an illustration that Mr. Bridwell had done of a little girl with a horse-sized red dog.

It appears that Mr. Bridwell did not base his drawing sketch on any particular breed but most likely drew inspiration from the behavior of several types of dogs to define Clifford’s endearing and loyal personality. As he once said in an interview when asked about his process for writing Clifford, there was “no process at all. He just seems like the kind of dog that would be fun to own.”

What Breed of Dog Could Clifford Be?

Although the dog in the original drawing could be a Bloodhound, many dog lovers have suggested that Clifford bears more similarities to a giant Vizsla. These athletic dogs with golden-red coats could indeed have served as an inspiration for Clifford, especially due to their gentle, affectionate, and loyal character.

The CGI Clifford in the live-action movie looks more like a Labrador puppy that’s been dyed red. Either way, both Vizslas and Labradors would do anything for their owners, just like Clifford does for his beloved human, Emily Elizabeth!

Why Is Clifford Red?

Clifford the dog is red simply because that’s the color that the author had on his drawing board at the time! Clifford’s name comes from the name of an imaginary friend that Mr. Bridwell’s wife had as a child.

The personality of Clifford —a big, clumsy dog that’s adorable and kind — was based on the temperament of the creator himself, although he never wanted to admit it, or so said his wife. Indeed, she said in an interview with The Associated Press that just like the dog Clifford, her husband Norman “always tries to do the right thing but ends up doing a mess of it. But he’s the most lovable grown-up man. He’s just a nice guy.” No wonder Clifford the Big Red Dog is so endearing!

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Last Thoughts

Clifford the Big Red Dog may have similarities to the Vizsla, Bloodhound, and Labrador Retriever, but author and illustrator Norman Bridwell never said what breed he drew inspiration from to create this sweet, affectionate red dog. Regardless, this adorable dog has all the characteristics of a perfect companion.


Featured Image Credit: Radek Ziemniewicz, Shutterstock

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