They say dogs are a man’s best friend – and when you look at the starring roles these canine companions play in literature, it feels like never a truer word has been spoken. Whether they appear as a protagonist’s faithful chum, are helping to solve fiendish mysteries or even act as a terrifying adversary, this species has inspired writers for centuries (even millennia, if you're counting the dogs found daubed on cave walls from the earliest period of human civilisation).
With so many fictional hounds occupying the pages, narrowing down to a top handle feels almost impossible and so, of course, there are some notable omissions. But here we are, from the wonderful to the weep-inducing, this is our absolutely incontrovertible, definitive list of the top 11 dogs in fiction. No arguments, please.
11. Argos from The Odyssey by Homer
10. The dog from the Adrian Mole books by Sue Townsend
9. Bosun from Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
8. Buck from The Call of the Wild by Jack London
7. Snowy from the Tintin books by Hergé
The fact that Hergé named Tintin’s dog – Milou in the original French and Snowy in English – after his first love is probably a good indicator of his fondness for this little dog, and the important role he plays in this series of adventures.
Some might think of him as merely a sidekick but Snowy is as much a protagonist as Tintin. Always loyal, brave when he needs to be and with a penchant for whisky, it’s pretty hard not to like this furry friend – plus, his dry wit makes for the perfect counterpoint to Tintin’s boundless optimism which, let’s face it, could get quite annoying if it weren’t for Snowy to keep him in check.
Often to be found in a moral quandary about whether to chow down on a juicy bone or help Tintin out of a sticky situation, he is truly a dog after our own hearts.
6. Lufra from Frederica by Georgette Heyer
5. Six-Thirty from Lessons in Chemistry
4. Bull's-eye from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
3. Gaspode from the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett
2. Hairy Maclary from the Hairy Maclary and Friends books by Lynley Dodd
1. Snoopy from the Peanuts comics by Charles M. Schulz
Self-proclaimed famous writer, Flying Ace, Olympic figure skater, astronaut, expert animal impersonator… well, the list could go on for a while yet, so the question is, is there anything this beagle can’t do?
He might have started life as an average dog but Snoopy has evolved over the years, hauling himself up onto two legs, and becoming much more philosophical and human-like in the process. If you think Peanuts seems lacking in depth, get beneath the surface and you'll realise it's subversive, melancholy, satirical and deeply compassionate – and Snoopy is often to be found at the centre of it all.
It might be easy to write him off as just another cartoon dog but there’s a lot of going on in these deceptively simple panels. And with famous fans including George Saunders, Ann Patchett, Umberto Eco, Maxine Hong Kingston, Jonathan Franzen and many more, we reckon Snoopy is not just truly iconique but he's quite obviously the best fictional dog around.