What would Hollywood be without its famous canine stars? Dogs have been parading on the silver screen all the way back to the silent era and more than a few dogs have their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. How many of these doggy movie stars do you remember?

 

Strongheart. Every list of great dog actors has to start with Strongheart. Not only was he the first dog to win the heart of the American public but he was the first canine movie star. Strongheart was a male German Shepherd born in 1917. He was trained in Germany as a police dog before coming to the U.S. before appearing in many silent films, including a 1925 adaptation of White Fang. He did much to popularize the German Shepherd which was still a new breed at the time. Strongheart has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and his bloodline still survives today.

 

Rin Tin Tin. Strongheart was followed in films by Rin Tin Tin, another popular German Shepherd, who is probably better remembered today. Rin Tin Tin was rescued as a pup from a German battlefield in 1918 by an American soldier who brought him back to the U.S. The soldier trained Rin Tin Tin and found work for him in silent films. This canine actor went on to star in 27 films and was famous around the world. Rin Tin Tin did much to make Warner Brothers a successful studio. Along with Strongheart, he helped make the German Shepherd immensely popular in the U.S. Rin Tin Tin also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

 

Petey. Petey, Pete the Pup, or Pete, the dog with the ring around his eye, was well-known in his day as the dog in the Our Gang or Little Rascals comedies. Of course, Petey was an American Staffordshire Terrier – what many people today would call a “pit bull.” In the 1920-40s when Petey was a star, this breed was loved and admired in the U.S., and they were known to be especially good with children. Today negative media attention has given them an often undeserved bad reputation. A number of dogs played Pete over the years, including an American Pit Bull Terrier named Pal The Wonder Dog and his offspring Lucenay’s Peter.

 

Lassie. One of the best-loved of all canine stars is Lassie. For the movies, the role of Lassie (a female) was played by a male Collie named Pal in Lassie, Come Home in 1943. The story – and the dog – were so popular that Pal appeared in six more movies in the next few years playing Lassie. He was owned and trained by Rudd Weatherwax, a remarkable animal trainer. In 1951 Mr. Weatherwax acquired the Lassie name and trademark from MGM and he and Pal, as Lassie, toured rodeos, fairs, and other events across the country. Then in 1954 a new generation of fans discovered Lassie when his son carried on the name with the award-winning TV series. Lassie has appeared in every kind of media and his descendants continue the tradition today.

 

Asta. If you love madcap, screwball comedies from the 1930s, or if you’re a Nick and Nora Charles fan, then you know Asta. Asta, a Wirehaired Fox Terrier born in the early 1930s, may have starred in more classic movies than any other dog actor. His credits include The Awful Truth, Bringing Up Baby, the Topper movies, and the Thin Man movies. He worked with Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Irene Dunne, Myrna Loy, William Powell, and many other stars. Yet he could easily steal scenes from all of them. Asta’s real name was Skippy and he had other famous roles such as Mr. Smith in The Awful Truth and George in Bringing Up Baby, but he’s best known as Asta. Thanks to Asta, the popularity of Wirehaired Fox Terriers skyrocketed in the United States.

 

Toto. Most people know who Toto is. He’s Dorothy’s dog pal on her trip over the rainbow. Winsome little Toto appears in the 1939 Hollywood classic The Wizard of Oz as a Cairn Terrier. Toto was played by a female brindle Cairn named Terry. Terry was paid $125 per week during the filming of the movie which was more than many of the human actors received. During production of the film one of Terry’s paws was broken when one of the actors stepped on it and she had to be replaced by another dog for a time. Her owners and trainers changed Terry’s name to Toto.