Ever hear of Benji, Lassie and, of course, the venerable Rin Tin Tin? Of course you have. Everyone has. When you think of famous pets, these three inevitably come to mind. Dogs seem to get most of the glory, with the lion's share going to just a few. Although it seems we're living in a canine-centric world, there are many unsung heroes and celebrities in other species.
Take the pig from the hit movie "Babe." Or the parrot from the flick "Paulie" – which was basically Babe with wings. These pets (and yes, a pig does qualify as a pet, albeit an unusual one) showed as much cinematic spunk as any canine. So before you think the world has simply gone to the dogs, consider the following famous pets.
The feline icon of 9Lives, Morris rejected his first dish 33 years ago. Morris' famously finicky nature has been passed down through three tabbies to the present Morris IV, who debuted in 2000.
The original Morris was rescued from an animal shelter in Illinois. His rugged good looks – for a cat – soon made cat lovers swoon. He was dubbed (no kidding here) "the Clark Gable of cats." He lived to the age of 19.
Morris II was found in a New England animal shelter. He made the transition from commercials to movies, appearing in the Burt Reynolds movie "Shamus." He passed away at age 15.
The third and fourth Morris' followed in the tradition of the first two: they were rescued from shelters combed to find cats that share the physical traits of the first two. They have appeared with many celebrities, including legends Bob Hope and Lily Tomlin.
In 1988 and in 1992, he campaigned for president, and polls showed that Morris had greater name recognition than the candidates – at least among the non-voting members of the public. Alas, the Constitution does not recognize the candidacy of pets.
Although not famous in the United States, Margate captured the hearts of Britons for the way she wooed Winston Churchill, one of the great leaders of the 20th century. In 1953, Margate, then just a stray black kitten, impudently marched on the doorstep of No. 10 Downing St. (where the Prime Minister lives and works).
Churchill had just finished writing an important speech on the need for Western solidarity in the face of Communism. The speech was to be given in the town of Margate. He took the kitten's presence as a good luck sign and a show of support. Churchill adopted the kitten immediately and named her Margate.
The speech was a success, and 10 days later Margate was promoted to a place of honor in Churchill's bedroom. Soon after, she managed a coup d'etat and slept with Churchill thereafter.
Belonging to the Clintons, Socks was the first cat to grace the White House since the Carter administration (First Daughter Amy Carter owned a cat named Misty Malarky Ying Yang). She moved into the White House in 1993 and, like the Bush dog Millie, soon had a best seller on her life in the Executive Mansion.
But in 1997, her star was eclipsed by Buddy, a Labrador retriever. When President Clinton was mired in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, it was Buddy who was seen trodding faithfully next to him. (Clinton obviously took Harry Truman's advice to heart: "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.")
When the Clintons left the White House, Socks did not join them. Instead, she found a home with the president's secretary, Betty Curry.
For those too young to know, Trigger was the horse ridden by Roy Rogers, the "King of Cowboys." Together, Trigger and Rogers performed stunts at rodeos and were featured in numerous movies and television segments.
Trigger had his own fan following, but few people know his original name: Golden Cloud. That wasn't western enough, so the name was changed to suit Hollywood's vision of a Western horse. Trigger and Roy Rogers performed together for 27 years. The horse died in 1965 at the age of 33.
Silver, of course, was the Lone Ranger's faithful steed. Silver was an Arabian horse that carried Clayton Moore across more than 60 movies. But like Trigger, Silver's name was changed. His original name was Dusty. It didn't quite fit with the Lone Ranger's calling card – leaving behind a silver bullet.
In 1957, Silver won an award for excellence from the television and motion picture industry. Beyond that, not much is known about the actual horse.
You don't need to be an adventure-seeking equine to be famous. The horse who portrayed the talking equine Mr. Ed was a show horse owned by the president of the California Palomino Society.
Mr. Ed was encouraged to speak using peanut butter, which made the animal move his mouth more (the speech, of course, was dubbed in). The popular show lasted from 1961 to 1965. Mr. Ed retired after the show, but his retirement was marred by a number of ailments, including arthritis and a broken leg.
Legend has it that Mr. Ed died in 1979 in Oklahoma, but that horse was actually one used to pose for publicity photos. Mr. Ed was 19 in 1968, so it is likely he was put to sleep around 1970, without fanfare.
Other Famous Dogs
There have been many celebrity dogs with resumes and film credits that rival any veteran actor. But fame can be fleeting, especially if you're a dog. Here are a few dogs whose names once rolled off the lips as easily as Rin Tin Tin. All of the following are buried at the prestigious Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, in New York (established in 1894, Hartsdale was the first pet cemetery in the United States):
Storm was a rugged German shepherd who appeared in many hit television shows. He played in many action shows, including "Adam 12," "Bonanza," Ironsides" and "Police Story."
This Yorkshire terrier was an inveterate globe-trotter, and was often seen accompanied by beautiful and glamorous models. Sir has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.
Boots, a veteran dog actor of the 1940s, helped raise more than $9 million in bonds to support the American war effort during World War II. He appeared before troops at more than a 150 locations and performed before President Franklin Roosevelt. He died in the early 1950s.