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5 Iconic Dogs Who Captured America’s Heart

When you think of movie and TV stars, you probably think of people. But dogs have played leading roles on screen since 1905 with the debut of “Rescued by Rover”, a silent movie starring a male collie named Blair, also known as Rover. (And now you know where the popular dog name Rover comes from!)

With that in mind, we present five dogs that have played leading roles in movies or on TV. Three of these leading dogs even have their own Hollywood Walk of Fame star.*

1. “Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” (TV series: 1954-59)*

Storyline – Rin Tin Tin and his human, Rusty, were orphaned in a raid and later adopted by troops at Fort Apache in Arizona. Together, they helped establish law and order in the Wild West.

In real life, Rin Tin Tin’s grandfather was a German shepherd rescued from a dog kennel by an American soldier in WWI. You can watch the show for free on YouTube.

2. “Hachi A Dog’s Tale” (Movie: 2009)

Storyline – College professor Parker Wilson adopts an Akita puppy he found at the train station during his commute. Parker’s friend, Ken, suggests giving the puppy a Japanese name, since Akitas are a Japanese breed.

Hachi eagerly waits for Parker at the train station every evening. When Parker tragically dies, Hachi continues to wait for him at the train station each day. During his daily visits to the station, Hachi touches the lives of commuters.  

The movie was based on a real-life dog from Japan named Hachiko, who also waited for his deceased owner at a train station. There is even a statue of him in the town he was from!

3. “Lassie Come Home” (1943)*

Storyline – Young Joe Carraclough of Yorkshire, England, is concerned when his beloved dog Lassie, a female collie, doesn’t show up to greet him after school. It turns out Joe’s unemployed father sold Lassie to a duke. Lassie escaped from the duke’s pen and made her way home. But Joe’s parents returned Lassie to the duke, who took her to Scotland.

Mistreated, Lassie escaped yet again and headed south toward home. On the way she faced many dangers. Despite the long and difficult journey home from Scotland, Lassie’s first priority was to go to Joe’s school to greet him.  

4. “Old Yeller” (1957)

Storyline – Rancher Jim Coates is away from his Texas home on a cattle drive, leaving behind his wife and two young sons, Travis and Arliss. One day a rambunctious dog named Old Yeller visits the Coates’ home and damages one of their fields. Travis shoos him away, but Old Yeller returns, winning the hearts of the two brothers and their mother after he saves Arliss from a bear attack. Travis and the yellow-colored mutt grow close. Then a rabies outbreak brings a heartbreaking turn to the story.

However, you can’t help but grin when you watch this clip of the “Old Yeller” theme song.

5. Strongheart (1921 – 1927)*

Bio – Strongheart was a German shepherd who appeared in seven movies throughout the 1920s. Originally from Germany, Strongheart was bred as an attack dog. Later, an American movie director and animal trainer, plus his screenwriter wife, were searching Europe to find a canine star. They came across Strongheart, who was now a 3-year-old a police dog. Strongheart required a lot of training to become the star he went on to be. After his passing his grandson, Lightening, became a canine movie star in the 1930s.