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Dogs for the Ages

Bracketology: The Final Four of Everything charts out the top dog of all time!
By Cameron Woo, Claudia Kawczynska, March 2014, Updated June 2021
Bracketology: The Final Four
Bracketology: The Final Four

Here at Bark, we adhere to the theory that humans coevolved with dogs. If wolves hadn’t chosen to leave their packs and join our humble campfires, who knows what rung of the evolutionary ladder we would still be on. Not only did dogs teach us the hunt (Sirius), they guided us through icy storms (Buck, Balto), waited our return from adventures (Argos, Krypto), saved us from hairraising travails (Checkers, Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Snowy, Toto, and Asta), acted as our confidants (Charley, Fala, Gromit), served as our muses (Boatswain, Flush, Man Ray, Marley, and Tulip) and in the end, became what they are best known as—our truest and oldest friends (Earl, Old Yeller, Skip, and Snoopy). See an enlarged image of this bracket.


Lassie vs. Rin Tin Tin
Lassie, the über-Collie, set the bar for canine exploits so high that all our dogs are doomed to pale in comparison. Rin Tin Tin, a scrappy German Shepherd, defined the rugged action hero. The tiebreaker? “Rinty” was a real dog discovered on a WWI battlefield, a dog’s dog. Lassie was an actor. Besides, who can resist a dog in uniform?

Balto vs. Laika
These two heroes captured the world’s attention—Balto in 1925, for his role in the Alaskan serum run, and Laika in 1957, for being the first earthling in space. Laika wins by a nose. Found on the streets of Moscow, the mongrel stray (dubbed Muttnik) wins points for her humble beginnings and her tragic end, while Balto tasted stardom.

Checkers vs. Fala
A runoff between two notable presidential pets—on one ticket, we have Checkers, the Cocker Spaniel who saved Richard Nixon’s career, and on the other, FDR’s constant companion and confidant Fala, a Scottish Terrier who never missed a photo opportunity, accompanying the president by plane, limo, and ship—giving new meaning to dogfriendly travel. Fala in a landslide!


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Goofy vs. Droopy
It’s a battle of styles— Goofy, the lead dog in Walt Disney’s cast of cuddly, sentimental characters, versus Tex Avery’s gum-chewing, sarcastic barnyard beboppers, represented here by the deadpan Droopy. Sorry, Goof …

Argos vs. Rin Tin Tin
One for the ages—Ulysses’ devoted dog Argos in Homer’s Odyssey faces off with Rin Tin Tin, Hollywood’s first animal star. Argos’ devotion helped win back the kingdom of Ithaca, while Rin Tin Tin’s loyalty saved Warner Bros. from bankruptcy. Rin Tin Tin bows to Argos, whose legend has been burnished through the millennia.

Charley vs. Tulip
J. R. Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip and John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley are classic meditations on the enduring bond between man and dog. In this matchup between Tulip, a German Shepherd, and Charley, a Standard Poodle—Charley wins. The quintessential co-pilot, he guided Steinbeck’s search of America, served as the journey’s social icebreaker, and played silent straight dog to his human’s musings.

Boatswain vs. Cujo
How else would these two masters of the written word face off but through their canines? Boatswain, a Newfoundland, inspired one of Byron’s best-known works, “Epitaph to a Dog,” while Cujo provoked fear in Stephen King’s bestseller. Boatswain, in a poetic finish.


Fala vs. Snoopy
Sorry, Fala, you’re already immortalized with your beloved FDR on the National Mall, but Snoopy is the iconic dog for the ages, so we award him the golden bone. Snoopy had many alter egos in his long career, and here’s one more for him: the archetypal “everydog.” Snoopy embodies all the characteristics (both good and bad) that we see in our own dogs. He is the muse, the prankster, the hero, the philosopher, the confidant, and the truest of companions. Snoopy possesses a little of everything that makes for the perfect dog—plus, just enough Joe Coolness to keep us on our toes. Good grief, how could he not win?

PEANUTS © United Feature Syndicate, Inc.

Cameron Woo is co-founder of The Bark magazine, and was its Publisher for over two decades. He was also the magazine’s Art Director.

Claudia Kawczynska is The Bark's co-founder and Editor-in-Chief.

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