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5 Dogs (or Dog Teams) Made Famous by History

Learn about 8 famous dogs.

Dogs are often referred to as "man's best friends" and with good reason. They have been by our sides for centuries, making big and small contributions to our daily lives. The 5 dogs or groups of dogs in this article are all famous for different reasons, but every dog to touch a human's life is special and worthy of remembrance.

Laika, the First Dog to Orbit Earth

Laika was a stray Russian dog that was chosen to go into space. She was launched on November 3, 1957 and became the first dog to orbit Earth. Scientists at the time were trying to determine whether a living being could survive launch into space and the conditions once there. Unfortunately, Laika overheated and died a few hours into her space flight, but she is remembered today as the first dog in space, and science has progressed to allow living creatures to survive space missions. Laika was never intended to survive her mission, and the ethics of animal testing remains a controversial issue today.

Pal, the Original Lassie

Pal was a male collie that was chosen to play the role of Lassie in 1943. In the story, Lassie was a female, but she was always played by male dogs, including Pal, who played the role in seven films and two television pilot episodes. After he retired, Pal's descendants played Lassie.

Lassie is a beloved American story about a special dog that was extremely loyal and performed all manner of amazing feats for her humans. It is a story of how humans and dogs can bond completely, both experiencing increased quality of life because of the other.

Pavlov's Dogs

Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist, famously used dogs to research and learn about conditioning and involuntary reactions. A sound was played just prior to the dogs receiving food, and eventually, the dogs would salivate in preparation for being given food simply by hearing the bell.

Pavlov's dogs were research dogs, and they lived long-term in the research facility. They endured testing and experiments that included painful stimuli like electric shocks. They contributed to a leap in the understanding of many physiological responses in the human body, including classical conditioning, which has been the basis of much scientific discovery since then, but they deserve to be remembered for their sacrifices as we continue to debate the ethics of animal testing today.


In the winter of 1925, a diphtheria outbreak in Nome, Alaska was threatening to decimate the town's population. Serum was needed to stop the epidemic, but it was in Anchorage. The serum was sent by train to Nenana, AK, but then it had to be brought by sled dog teams the rest of the way. The run between the two cities was done relay style, and Balto was the head dog of the last team, which carried the serum into Nome. Along the way, the teams all experienced blizzard conditions with high winds and frigid temperatures. Balto was able to stay on the trail in a whiteout environment. All of the mushers and dogs involved in this lifesaving mission deserve to be remembered for their feat, including Balto, the dog that ultimately brought the serum into Nome.

The Dogs of 9/11

This is not one dog, but actually a team of around 350 search and rescue dogs that worked tirelessly in the days after the attacks on the World Trade Center in America. These dogs and their people, as well as thousands of other human rescue workers, searched through the terrible atmosphere of rubble and toxic fumes for survivors.

The dogs suffered as much as the humans when much of their work went unrewarded because survivors were rarely found. The dogs of 9/11 represent many service dogs that work daily to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities and help rescue those who find themselves in dire circumstances.

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