Dogs are pretty amazing, right? If you’re reading this, we probably don’t have to convince you of that. But when you think about the impact dogs have had on history and culture…well, even the most devoted dog lover would be a little astounded.
From providing companionship, loyalty, and protection to world leaders, to serving their country, to starring roles in Hollywood, it seems there’s no limit to what dogs can accomplish.We’ve rounded up 9 (out of hundreds!) that have made their mark on history.
The first search and rescue dog at the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks, Appollo was one of over 300 other dogs who worked tirelessly to search for signs of life and help rescuers pull people from the rubble. Appollo was awarded the Dickin Medal on behalf of all the search and rescue dogs at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, recognizing their courage, faithfulness, and devotion in performing their duty.
Peritas saved his master, Alexander the Great, at least twice on the battlefield. According to legend, he leapt in front of a charging elephant during a Persian attack. By biting the elephant’s face, he diverted the animal from Alexander. In another story, he led soldiers to Alexander when he had been wounded and fought off enemies while the soldiers saved Alexander’s life.
The city of Peritas in India, founded by Alexander the Great, was his namesake.
Everyone knows Lassie – but who was the real dog behind the iconic role? The first was Pal, who made his film debut in 1943’s Lassie Come Home. Pal was a natural, often filming scenes in one take and doing his own stunt work. After six feature films and two TV pilots, Pal retired and his son, Lassie Junior, took over – and ever since, the role of Lassie has been played by one of Pal’s direct descendents.
The first dog to officially enlist and serve in the US Coast Guard, Sinbad served with the crew of USCGC Campbell for 11 years, including combat duty in World War II. The crew reportedly argued that Sinbad had the right to enlist because he, like the other sailors, drank coffee, whiskey, and beer, had quarters duty stations, and demonstrated seamanship. Sinbad used his pawprint to sign his enlistment papers.
During his time at sea, he was promoted and demoted in rank – when he retired, Sinbad had earned the rank of K9C Chief Dog. Though for publicity purposes he was pictured wearing a helmet at a general quarters station, during battles, Sinbad was usually kept safely below decks.
Along with Lewis and Clark, a black Newfoundland named Seaman made the famous expedition to the Pacific and back in the early 1800s. He was the only animal that made the entire trip, surviving a beaver bite (which required surgery, performed by Lewis and Clark) and being stolen by Native Americans (which made Lewis threaten to send armed men to kill the tribe). Meriwether Lewis even reportedly named a tributary of the Blackfoot River after his devoted companion.
Think your dog is smart because he can “shake”? Betsy is a Border Collie who’s been recognized as one of the most intelligent dogs. She knows over 340 words (which puts her equal with a human toddler) and can recognize and retrieve a physical object after only seeing a photo of it.
Queen Elizabeth II’s corgis are well-known. Her first, Susan, was given to her when she turned 18 by King George VI. Susan was the then-princess’ faithful companion for nearly 15 years, even tagging along on her honeymoon with Prince Philip. Susan started the line of the Queen’s corgis and dorgis (dachshund-corgi mixes) – she bred more than 10 generations of Susan’s line and owned more than 30 of her descendents.
Before Rin Tin Tin, there was Strongheart, a German Shepherd who made his film debut in 1921. His career began as a police dog in Germany, but Strongheart was brought to the US when he was three and discovered a talent for canine acting. He’s one of just three dogs with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Modern therapy dogs owe their jobs in part to Smoky, a tiny Yorkshire Terrier who was found by an American soldier during World War II. Smoky stayed with Corporal William A. Wynne for two years during his service in the South Pacific, surviving air raids, a typhoon, a 30-foot parachute drop, and 12 air missions. She is also credited as the first therapy dog for accompanying doctors and nurses on rounds starting in 1944. Her feats are all the more remarkable considering her size and breed!