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Five Famous Dogs in United States History

Americans love dogs! Most dogs are beloved members of a family and never make the news. But some American dogs have become famous for on-screen antics, military heroism, and celebrity last names. These five dogs are canine icons in United States history.

Sergeant Stubby

Sergeant Stubby is undeniably the most famous military dog in American history. This short American pit bull terrier wandered onto the field of military exercises at Yale in 1917 and quickly became a beloved mascot of the 102nd Infantry based at the Yale campus. When soldiers were deployed to France, Sgt. Stubby was smuggled onto the freighter. When the troops reached the shores of France, Stubby joined the men in the trenches and spent his time in France alerting troops to gas attacks, guarding prisoners and rallying morale. Stubby is the only dog in American history to reach the rank of Sergeant in the armed forces. After the war, Stubby received several military honors and toured the US, celebrating the American war victory.


Lassie is arguably the most famous dog in America. The first “Lassie” was a male collie named Pal, who starred in the 1943 movie classic Lassie Come Home. Since the 1940s, Pal’s descendants have played Lassie in movies and television shows, entertaining generations of American children. Interesting to note that while Lassie is a female character, the roles are almost always played by male dogs, who are larger and have thicker coats.

Rin Tin Tin

German shepherd Rin Tin Tin mixed military and Hollywood to become a famous movie star. This handsome dog was rescued as a 1-week old puppy with his mother and litter from an abandoned kennel in France during a World War I battle. Rin Tin Tin and his sister returned to the United States with an American soldier. Rin Tin Tin’s owner showcased him in dog shows, and he eventually caught the eye of Hollywood. Rin Tin Tin starred in 27 movies during this lifetime.


It’s no surprise that the kids from Our Gang had a dog. Petey, the best canine friend of Alfalfa, Spunky, Darla and the other children in the beloved series, was an American pit bull terrier with a circle around his eye. The original Petey was named Pal the Wonder Dog. Sadly, he died in 1930, but his son, Lucenay’s Peter, continued to star in the popular television series.


The small, wiry Cairn terrier from The Wizard of Oz embodied the dog ideals of loyalty, friendship, and bravery. Toto also is considered by many as the smartest character in the movie, outsmarting the flying monkeys and exposing the wizard as a fraud. The dog who played Toto was originally named Terry, but she became so famous after the film that her owner officially changed her name to Toto.

Americans love their dogs, and their dogs return the sentiment. Throughout the history of the United States, dogs have had a presence in every walk of life. These five famous dogs show just how much we value our canine companions.