Aside from our own pets, most of us can remember a lot of dogs from our childhood. From Snoopy gracing our Sunday morning comic strips, to Scooby-Doo shows in the afternoons, to all the dogs in all forms of media, we can still remember a handful of dogs we all know and love.
But even if these dogs are cartoon characters and don’t totally resemble real-live dogs, did you know that most of their designs were based off dog breeds that exist in real life? Here are some of the most iconic cartoon dogs and which breed each of them were based of.
Snoopy from Peanuts
Snoopy may be almost 70 years old (almost five times the expected lifespan of his real-life counterpart), but since the 1950s, he has had a prominent role in the Peanuts comic strips and all the other books, TV shows, movies, and merchandise.
Snoopy is a beagle owned by Peanuts protagonist Charlie Brown, but Snoopy’s iconic look has made him even more famous than Charlie Brown in countries where Peanuts aired. His look is based off Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz’s childhood beagle, Spike. Like his real-life counterpart, Snoopy shows affection and loyalty to Charlie Brown, a trait most beagles show to their owners when properly cared for. However, Snoopy has a habit of being lazy and a bit of a glutton at times.
All the Dogs from Lady and the Tramp
A few years after Peanuts was published, Disney released the 1955 classic film of Lady and the Tramp, a light-hearted story about the romance of two dogs living in two different worlds but also a cautionary tale to pet owners about what happens to dogs when neglected. Because most of the film’s characters are dogs, we have a lot of dogs to go through. These include:
Lady is an American Cocker Spaniel. A cousin of the English Cocker Spaniel thanks to the different breeding standards in the United States and the United Kingdom, the Cocker Spaniel is a type of sporting dog often used as a working dog in the late-19th century before it became a house pet in the early 20th century. Fun fact: around the time of Lady and the Tramp’s release, Cocker Spaniels were a popular breed that were appearing more in US households, which is why it’s no surprise that Jim Darling, one of Lady’s human owners, gifted his wife with Lady.
Unlike Lady’s real-life counterpart, Lady was never used for work and was pampered and spoiled in an upper-middle class lifestyle. Contrary to the way Lady was portrayed in the film as shy and scared to explore the world outside her home, Cocker Spaniels are known as “Merry Cockers” because they are far from timid creatures. They are also very food at handling children and young babies. However, Lady accurately shows how sensitive they are to the outdoor surroundings, rough treatment, and loud noises.
Tramp is a mongrel (or in more colloquial terms, a mutt), which is a term for a mixed-breed dog. The practice of dog breeding is mating dogs of selected breeds to maintain specific physical or behavioral characteristics in its offspring. This is a practice that’s been done for centuries to produce dogs ideal for activities such as sheep herding, hunting, or simply for aesthetics to show off in dog shows. Mongrels are dogs that do not have a specific breeding and physically look like they have no purebred ancestors.
While some breeders and enthusiasts argue that mongrels are healthier than breeds since they have a wider gene pool, they are unfortunately more overlooked than bred dogs. People who want bred dogs will have to pay more compared to a dog that has no breeding. So you’ll more often find unwanted mongrels on the street than a breed dog. This is why dogs like Tramp are used to the street and aren’t as pampered as purebred dogs like Lady.
One of Lady’s neighborhood friends is Jock, a Scottish Terrier, also known as a Scottie. True to its name, the breed originated in Scotland. They are relatively small and have a wiry outer coat. They’re described as territorial and feisty dogs who are loyal to their family members, which resembles Jock in the film.
Trusty is a bloodhound, a breed that originated in Western Europe. These dogs were bred around the Middle Ages and were used as scent hounds, bred for their good sense of smell. They can trace the scent of humans and hunting game for over great distances and even days later. Because they’re good at tracking (similar to the way Trusty tracked down Tramp), Bloodhounds are one of the preferred breeds used by law enforcement to track down missing people, escaped convicts, and lost pets.
Peg is a Pekingese, a toy dog that hails from China. Toy dogs are very small dog breeds that have been bred for their small size for owners that prefer smaller dogs. In the past, Pekingese dogs were the favorite breed of the Chinese Imperial court and served as royal family members’ lap dog and companion. While its size has made it a popular designer breed, its size has created multiple health issues common in these breed compared to other types of dogs.
Scooby-Doo from the Scooby-Doo Franchise
Arguably one of the most iconic cartoon dogs, Scooby-Doo is based from a Great Dane. His real name is Scoobert Doo, but the name Scooby-Doo was originally inspired by a Frank Sinatra song. Scooby’s original designer, Iwao Takamoto, knew someone from Hanna-Barbera (the production company that created the Scooby-Doo franchise) who bred Great Danes outside of his regular job. He studied what a purebred Great Dane looked like, and then drew the opposite of its features so Scooby would have his recognizable look that separated him from the other Great Danes.
While Scooby’s features are the opposite of your average Great Dane, his personality seemed to match the breed. Despite their size, Great Danes are laid-back and friendly. They prefer to sit with their owners and eat rather than to be active, kind of like the way Scooby and Shaggy prefer to eat rather than solve mysteries. However, they can become fierce and aggressive if they sense their friends are in danger.
Brian from Family Guy
It may be difficult to determine Brian Griffin’s breed since he’s basically a white dog that walks and acts like a human. But Family Guy fans found that Brian is actually a white Labrador Retriever. We learn in season 2 that Brian was born to a gray Labrador named Biscuit along with four other siblings. Biscuit’s owner took Brian away because she thought Brian would have a happier life elsewhere.
While Brian has human-like tendencies, he still has some personalities and quirks visible in dogs. For instance, Labradors are one of the more intelligent breeds and are easily trainable. They’re also very mature for their age, which is why 8-year old Brian acts like a grown man.
Pluto and Goofy from the Mickey Mouse Franchise
It’s always been a question of mine why Pluto and Goofy are both dogs in the same franchise, but Pluto acts like your everyday dog while Goofy is an anthropomorphic dog. It’s one of the more mysterious questions, along with what kind of dogs these two are. Unfortunately, there’s no official word from Disney about what breed they are, though based from dog lovers on the internet, it’s possible that both dogs are mixed-breed mongrels with Coonhound ancestry.
Coonhounds, also known as coon dogs, are a type of hound commonly used for hunting. Coon dogs are known for their long ears and elongated snouts that help them sniff out their targets when on the hunt, features that are prominent in both Pluto and Goofy.
Sparky from South Park
Sparky is a popular homosexual dog from the animated series South Park. Unlike most of the cartoon shows that stay vague about dog breeds, Sparky’s breeding is mentioned in one episode. According to his owner, Stan Marsh, Sparky is part Doberman and part wolf.
While Sparky does resemble a brown Doberman, Stan’s claims that Sparky is half-wolf should be taken with a grain of salt. Wolves can grow up to two meters long and have a height of almost a meter, which is much larger than Sparky’s tiny frame.
Santa’s Little Helper from The Simpsons
Despite The Simpsons lasting for 30 seasons since 1989, Santa’s Little Helper has sadly been a background character despite living in the homes of the eponymous family since the very first episode of the series. The very first episode aired was a Christmas special where Santa’s Little Helper’s first owner abandons him, a greyhound, because he failed to win in a greyhound race. Homer and Bart happened to be in the race track to try and win some money, but they find Santa’s Little Helper instead and adopt him.
Greyhounds were a popular choice for family pets during the time The Simpsons aired. Because Santa’s Little Helper acts more like a real-life dog than most cartoon dogs, Santa’s Little Helper has some traits matching with his real-life breed, including his physical traits and gentle personality.
Although they’re cartoons, these show and movie creators put a lot of thought into creating these memorable dog cartoons. While some dogs (like Jake from Adventure Time) don’t have a specific species, you’d be surprised to find that a lot of dogs actually have real-life counterparts and may actually have a real-life basis.