What Breed of Dog Was Toto? Famous Movie Dogs!

Toto is arguably one of the most famous canine characters of all time. Known as the loyal sidekick of Dorothy Gale in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, Toto has been a household name for Oz lovers for over a hundred years.

Whether you’re new to the world of Oz or have loved the books and films since you were a child, you may wonder what breed Toto was. While we can say that a Cairn Terrier played Toto in the 1939 film, we can’t know for certain that this was the breed the author had in mind while writing the Oz series.

Keep reading to learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Toto and the breeds he was modeled after.


What Breed of Dog Is Toto?

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the first novel in the Oz series released in 1900, Toto was drawn by illustrator W.W. Denslow as a small terrier. The author, L. Frank Baum, did not disclose Toto’s breed in this novel but instead wrote a description that states he is a “little black dog with long silky hair and small black eyes.”

Without a breed specifically stated, readers are left on their own to decide what breed Toto is by using their imaginations. Some believe he was a Cairn Terrier, while others believed he was a Yorkshire Terrier. Yorkies were a very popular breed when the book was released, and the description does fit.

In the later books of the Oz series, Toto became a Boston Terrier before returning to his earlier Cairn Terrier or Yorkie appearance.

Toto in Oz-Related Pop Culture

Several film, musical, and TV adaptations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz exist. Toto has a very different role in all of the adaptations but is most well-known for his role in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

In the 1985 movie Return to Oz, Toto was played by a Border Terrier.

In the 1978 movie musical The Wiz, Toto was played by a Schnauzer.

In the 2005 made-for-TV movie The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz, Toto is not played by a dog at all but by a prawn.

Who Played Toto in The Wizard of Oz?

cairn terrier dog
Image Credit: doctarpa, Pixabay

Toto was played by a female Cairn Terrier named Terry. Terry was born on November 17, 1933, and passed away at age 11 on September 1, 1945.

She acted in several films outside The Wizard of Oz, but her role as Toto was the only one for which she received credit. She was featured in over 20 films, the earliest of which was when she was under a year old.

Terry did all of her stunts and actually came close to death while filming The Wizard of Oz. One of the Wicked Witch of the West’s foot soldiers stepped on Terry’s foot and broke it. Terry was forced to take two weeks off work to recover, which she spent at Judy Garland’s home. Garland and Terry forged a strong bond with one another to the point that Garland actually tried to buy Terry from her owner, though her owner never went through with the sale.

Terry earned $125 per week for her work on the Wizard of Oz. This large salary earned her more than much of the human cast. The actors who played the Munchkins were reportedly earning just $50 to $100 weekly. Her salary was even more than the average American family’s earnings at the time. Accounting for inflation, $125 in 1939 is equivalent to $2,489 in 2022, so you can understand how much Terry made for her role as Toto.

The Wizard of Oz was such a hit that Terry’s owners officially changed her name to Toto in 1942.

What Is the Cairn Terrier Dog Breed?

cairn terrier in grass flowers
Image Credit: OlgaOvcharenko, Shutterstock

Cairn Terriers are small working terriers developed in Scotland more than 200 years ago. Toto was characteristically Cairn, possessing all the traits one would expect in a dog of this breed.

Cairn Terriers are small, sturdy, and brilliant dogs. They’re always on high alert and ready to jump into action. They are a curious and independent breed that does have a bit of a stubborn streak, too. It’s no wonder the directors of The Wizard of Oz chose Terry to act as Toto, considering how intelligent this breed is and how easy it is for them to learn tricks and commands.

Cairn Terriers make a great family companion as they’re fun, entertaining, and love to play with children.


Final Thoughts

When most of us hear the name Toto we think of the scruffy black Cairn Terrier from the 1939 film. Whether L. Frank Baum pictured a Cairn Terrier for Toto as he wrote the Oz novels is up for debate. It seems that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz novel had pegged Toto down as a terrier, but what exact kind is left up to the reader to imagine.

Featured Image Credit: Marina Plevako, Shutterstock

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