They are often the brains of the operation, a calming influence or usually the scene-stealers whenever they appear. It’s an endless list but here’s our top ten…
Santa’s Little Helper: The Simpsons
Possibly the only character in The Simpsons without one ounce of cynicism in his body, Santa’s Little Helper is happy to just be a dog and act accordingly. A greyhound, he’s been in the show since the very first episode where he was adopted by Homer and Bart after his owner ditched him at the track for finishing last in a race. He’s fathered pups, been trained at the police academy and even been the mascot for Duff Beer. Shy and always happy, Santa’s Little Helper is everything a family pet should be.
Brian Griffin: Family Guy
Arguably the star of Family Guy and one of the smartest of all animated dogs, Brian Griffin is without peers. A struggling writer with a taste for the finer things in life, he is the pet Labrador of the Griffin family. So popular is Brian, that when the unthinkable happened and he was killed off in Season 12, large portions of the show’s sizeable worldwide audience threatened to never watch Family Guy again unless he was reinstated. Duly, Stewie went back in time to save his life just two episodes later.
Scooby Doo was one of the pioneers of cartoon pets – though it’s never made exactly clear who is the owner of Scooby, it appears to be Shaggy, one member of the Mystery Inc. teenager crime solving team. Frightened of his own shadow and addicted to Scooby Snacks, this truly Great Dane has been entertaining generations of kids for close to 50 years.
Another megastar of the cartoon world, Garfield is the first cat in our list. The lasagne-loving feline’s internal monologues largely narrate each episode – a result of Garfield originally being a cartoon strip for the funny sections of newspapers. Laconic, cynical and highly intelligent, Garfield is everything a cat should be plus plenty more.
Gromit: Wallace and Gromit
The greatest of all animated dogs? Gromit’s expressions, looks to camera and head shakes have become the stuff of legend and made him a worldwide superstar. Always by his owner Wallace’s side, ready to dig him out of whatever hole he has dug himself into, Gromit nearly always saves the day – and all without every uttering anything other than the occasional sigh. Who wouldn’t want a dog like Gromit?
Ladybird: King of the Hill
Hank Hill’s pride and joy in King of the Hill, Ladybird is the Hill family’s beloved 16-year-old purebred Georgia Bloodhound. Placid and advanced in years, Ladybird was named after the First Lady of America (Lady Bird Johnson) and was the occasional focus of the show. She went deaf in the later episodes of the long-running Arlen, Texas-based show and was never less than a calming influence on Hank. A loyal companion.
Much like Garfield in that he began life as a newspaper cartoon strip, Snoopy is the central character of Peanuts and is owned by Charlie Brown. He first appeared in 1950 and spawned books, TV shows and millions of dollars’ worth of merchandise around the world. Happy, super-cool and often lost in his own daydreams and fantasies, Snoopy can – more often than not – be found asleep on his back on top of his kennel. Iconic, mute and smart, Snoopy was perhaps the forerunner for Gromit – if not, it’s hard to believe they don’t share the same DNA.
Tom: Tom and Jerry
Tom the cat is the only pet in Tom and Jerry – Jerry, a smarter-than-average mouse is the interloper that continually drives Tom to distraction, living in the skirting board. The cat and mouse rivalry is as old as time but while Jerry sees Tom as little more than a nuisance, Jerry is the bane of Tom’s life. He’s that cat and is expected to deliver the goods but though he blows hundreds of opportunities, the pair often save one another in-between the fights. The classic early cartoons were works of art, lovingly created and scripted.
Sylvester the cat has been around since the 1940s and has picked up three Academy Awards during his career which has mainly been centred on catching (and eating) Tweety Pie, Speedy Gonzales and other small, edible creatures. Smart, but with flaws, he is often outwitted by his quarry while maintaining his dignity throughout. His list ensured the phrase ‘sufferin’ succotash’ became known around the planet and he is still loved to this day. The opening scenes to Mrs Doubtfire were homage to the clip below…
Klaus the goldfish: American Dad
The talking German goldfish from American Dad has gained a large cult following over the years. Cynical and often bitter at his life in the bowl, Klaus Heisler was once an Olympic ski-jumper whose brainwaves were exchanged with that of a goldfish to prevent him winning the gold medal. He has never really come to terms with his new life and his relationship with his owners, the Smith family, is often an uneasy one…