The 11 Most Famous Animal Celebrities

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Animals are great. They’re not as great as humans — allow that to be stated — but they’re great. And what makes animals even more great? When they book great jobs or become animal celebrities thanks to memes and social media. Sure, there is an unending list of animal celebrities in the realm of animation and puppets, but we’d like to offer a little love to the guys with biological hearts-a-beatin.’ Or hearts that were once beating. Here are 11 of the greatest celebrity animals in the history of celebrity animals.

11. Tuna

“The underdog with the overbite.” How oddly cute is this guy? By far the closest this list will get to a cartoon character, Tuna is a rescue Chiweenie — as in rescued from the streets — that became an Internet sensation because of his recessed jawline, and really great front teeth. His Instagram enjoys over a million followers, and his owner, Courtney Dasher, recently wrote a book entitled, Tuna Melts My Heart: The Underdog With an Overbite. It all seems a little silly, but then you’re privy to a meet and greet with Tuna, and all bets are off the table. Who’s to say how long this fame will last, but once people fall in love with an animal, they’ll remain loyal to the grave.

10. Mr. Ed

“A horse is a horse, of course, of course…” It was a television show about a talking horse. How could any network producing black and white TV possibly go wrong with a talking horse? The comedy came from the relationship with Mr. Ed and his eccentric owner, Wilbur Post, who was the only person Mr. Ed would speak to… because Mr. Ed felt he was the only person worth speaking to. This show ran from 1958 to 1966 and featured a classic, two-man stand-up routine between Mr. Ed and Wilbur (Alan Young), and it also pushed the forward the idea of talking animals in the traditional sitcom. Most notably, Mr. Ed featured Clint Eastwood in his youth — as Clint Eastwood — a person who falls victim to prank phone calls from the talking horse. The best thing about Mr. Ed? When he was tired of working, he’d simply walk off set.

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9. Benji

Benji is a lovable, mix-breed pooch who has starred in several movies, beginning in 1974. Yes, readers. You’re keen. There’s no way a dog could star in movies for 40 years… that would be like, 280 human years. The original Benji was played by a shelter rescue pup named Higgins, and since then, the character has gone into dog lore much the way James Bond is carried throughout human lore — they’ve both enjoyed so many enviable adventures. Benji has been portrayed by a few different dogs, but BenJean, the off-spring of Higgins, enjoyed the most screen time. The best thing about Benji? He was always in the right place at the right time, helping people solve problems.

Source: Mulberry Square Productions

8. Trigger

There was never a better horse in cinema than Trigger. Trigger was the trusty stallion of motion picture cowboy, Roy Rogers, and he was a true grade. His pops was a thoroughbred; his momma a grade mare. Trigger was palomino, and as handsome as a horse could come. Trigger was originally named Golden Cloud, and made one film appearance before becoming Roy’s trusted sidekick, and enjoying a new moniker. This horse was treated as well as one might imagine, and enjoyed a relatively long life. He was an estimated 31 years old when he died, born during the Great Depression, and going to horse heaven around the time the United States entered the Vietnam conflict. Trigger lived on in the form of taxidermy after his death, and sat in several museums before being sold at auction in 2010.

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7. Flipper

Flipper was faster than lightning, according to the theme song of the original TV show. If you’re unaware — and the photo hasn’t offered a clue — Flipper was a dolphin. In fact, Flipper was several dolphins who were trained to play the part, and did so expertly. Flipper originally debuted in 1963 as a feature film starring Chuck Connors, then enjoyed a TV spin-off in 1964. The character then enjoyed a revival in the 1990s for both TV and film, the theatrical release starring Elijah Wood and Paul Hogan. People love bottlenose dolphins. They’ll likely take over the world one day, because they’re so smart, but in the meantime, we can just enjoy them helping humanity out of some tough, fictional jams in all the incarnations of Flipper.

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6. Rin Tin Tin

Rin Tin Tin made working breeds cool. Before Rin Tin Tin, dogs such as German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers were merely known as guard dogs, or dogs used by police and military forces. In truth, that is precisely what Rin Tin Tin was. He was rescued on the field of battle by an American soldier in World War I, and after the war, “Rinty” scored a load of film work. He became an early Hollywood sensation, and appeared or starred in 27 films. Rin Tin Tin was wholly responsible for the involvement of the German Shepherd breed becoming the choice of military branches and law enforcement departments in the United States. His legend lived on in the 1950s in the popular television show, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.

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5. Willy The Orca

Call him an Orca, or call him a Killer Whale — Willy doesn’t care. Because his name wasn’t Willy. It was Keiko. Keiko was the star of Free Willy, the film which was boosted in popularity by a Michael Jackson hit song, “Will You Be There.” Keiko had a long history in captivity, before being one of the first orcas to be released from captivity following his role as Willy in the film. Keiko was captured as a youngster, and held in a terrible Mexico City aquarium, where he lived in tap water and table salt. He was eventually rescued, and rehabilitated in at a facility in Oregon, with the purpose that he would be released in the wild to see if he adapt to life after captivity. Keiko was awesome in Free Willy, and he eventually found some awesome in the wild, though his case is still cause for controversy and debate among wildlife activists.

Photo by Moviestore Collection / Rex Features

4. Lassie

There’s has been an ongoing debate about the “birth” of Lassie since Eric Knight’s novel, Lassie Come-Home was published in 1940, following a series of short stories by the writer. Many have suggested that Knight grabbed the idea of Lassie from Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1859 story, “The Half-brothers,” which featured a border collie named Lassie, which saved the day. In Knight’s story, he opts for the traditional Collie, which is a little less athletic, but nonetheless, just as awesome as a border collie. Knight’s novel was adapted into an MGM feature film in 1943, and it was a smash success. It is still one of the highest reviewed and rated films starring an animal. Regarding Lassie, the female collie is a problem solver, and has been mentioned throughout popular culture — and satire — for over 75 years.

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3. Grumpy Cat

“I have a stellar personality,” said Grumpy Cat… never. In reality this mixed breed is an Arizona house cat, and goes by the name of Tardar Sauce, which is also quite hilarious. Misspelling? Ignorance of political correctness? Who’s to say? The cat is just approaching maturity, so Internet lovers will eventually get to enjoy new versions of Grumpy Cat, like Old Crotchety Cat or Senile Grumpy Cat. Whatever the case, Tardar Sauce was born in 2012, and is presently only three years old. To answer the question that people want to know: does this cat make money? Grump Cat lives in the nine figure range, folks. We’re talkin’ more money than most people could imagine — an estimated wealth of over $100,000,000. The Internet may be the best and worst thing to ever happen.

Photo by REX/Dan Callister

2. Toto

Not to be confused with the epic, Los Angeles-based progressive rock band of the 1970s and 1980s, Toto the dog — from The Wizard of Oz fame — was a female Cairn Terrier named Terry. Terry was a movie star. When people called for a little dog, Terry was the Angelina Jolie of depression era filmmaking. It is true that Terry almost lost her life while filming The Wizard of Oz, when one of the Winkie Guards stepped on her during a scene. Ultimately, she suffered a broken foot, and was nursed back to health by none other than Dorothy (Judy Garland) herself. Judy tried to adopt the dog, but the owner refused. Because of the popularity of The Wizard of Oz, Terry’s name was changed to Toto. She died at age 11 in 1945. A memorial now honors Toto “Terry” at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

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1. Old Yeller

Old Yeller… “best doggone dog in the west…” It was a catchy tune, and it was a gut-wrenching experience for children everywhere. It remains so to this day — an introduction to kids that life can really tear your heart out. Old Yeller was born in novel form in 1956, and was lapped up for a film adaptation by the legendary Walt Disney, which was released in 1957. The film stands the test of time, and the character, played by a dog named Spike, has gone down in history as one of the most tragic ends for a cinematic hero. Spike was a rescue dog from a Van Nuys animal shelter, and appeared in a few films, and several times in the television series, The Westerner, as a dog named Brown, ironically. While the book suggested Yeller was a Black Mouth Cur, Spike was a 170 pound Mastador (Lab/Mastiff mix).

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James Sheldon

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