Any lover of this breed will appreciate a review of some of the world’s most famous German Shepherds.
While all working German Shepherds are heroic, not all have made it into the history books.
German Shepherds have a long history as service dogs, known for their obedience and excellence in tasks such as herding, or as seeing eye dogs.
Many are recognized for their courage in saving people in the police force and the military. Across the world this dog breed is enrolled into the military or police forces, such as the American Alsatian or the Belgian Malinois.
Such a distinguished breed of dogs should be praised and recognized for their work.
This is a tribute to this dog breed, even if not all have made it onto the list.
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1. Horand von Grafrath – 1891 The First Famous German Shepherd
Who knew that the first famous German Shepherd started with the name of Hektor Linksrhein?
Max von Stephanitz bought Hektor in Germany in 1899 and changed his name to Horand von Grafrath.
Von Stephanitz was so impressed with Hektor’s characteristics that he established the Society for the German Shepherd Dog.
This society replaced the defunct Phylax Society, a kennel club established in 1891.
As the first dog on the new Society register, Horand sired Hektor von Schwaben and Beowulf (among many others) with inbreeding and wolf crosses.
Horand is the first famous German Shepherd from which all others originated.
The first GSD registered in the United States, Queen of Switzerland, was a direct descendent.
2. Strongheart – 1921
Strongheart was the first German Shepherd to enter the glamorous world of movies. His first appearance was in The Silent Call in 1921.
Strongheart had been a police dog. His transition from police dog to movie star took several months and rigorous dog training, but he finally lost his aggressiveness.
He appeared in five more movies, one of which was White Fang in 1925.
Strongheart’s legacy is recorded in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He also has several books written about him by author J. Allen Boone.
His fellow human stars praised him for his gentleness in ripping their clothes to shreds without leaving a bite mark on his victims.
Even though this famous German Shepherd lost his aggressiveness as a police dog, he never lost his instincts.
He would often run after people who were later found to have criminal intent.
3. Lightning and Silver King – 1930
Strongheart died after a tragic accident in 1929 after burning himself on some movie lights. He developed a tumor, but he had left a legacy in the form of his grandson, Lightning.
Lightning starred in three movies, one which was called ‘When Lightning Strikes’.
Silver King was another of Strongheart’s grandsons who continued in Strongheart’s footsteps. Silver King appeared in several lesser-known movies and achieved greater fame for making personal appearances.
He helped with training children in a variety of safety programs.
4. Rin Tin Tin – 1918
Rin Tin Tin was a World War I rescue dog who contributed to the fame of Warner Bros. Studios. Fondly known as Rinty, Rin Tin Tin is also remembered in the Hollywood Walk of Fame for contributing to the movie world as a famous German Shepherd.
He appeared in 27 silent Hollywood movies during his career before dying in 1932.
Rinty was so beloved he became the star of his very own television series, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, one of the first dog shows on television.
His successors included his own offspring with female German Shepherd Nanette II: Rin Tin Tin Jr., Rin Tin Tin III, Rin Tin Tin IV.
However not all his on camera successors were his offspring. Flame Jr., who appeared in the television shows, came from a different bloodline.
Following the original Rin Tin Tin’s success, the famous German Shepherds that came after him also appeared in film, television, and radio.
Rin Tin Tin is better remembered than Strongheart, but both these dogs started the breed’s popularity in the U.S.
5. Bullet Von Berge – the Wonder Dog – 1951
Bullet Von Berge shot to fame in the television series entitled The Roy Rogers Show.
This Western show starred Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, who eventually married in 1947.
Bullet quickly became known as the Wonder Dog because he was larger than life, appearing in 100 episodes of the show over six seasons.
Bullet was fast. He was brave, and he was smart. Together with Roy, and Roy’s horse Trigger, Bullet shot to fame.
He made a household name for himself as he kept viewers glued to their screens with his antics and because he was just so helpful.
Bullet remains a legend until today as one of the most famous German Shepherds in history.
6. Chips – Dog of War – 1939
Many dogs were conscripted to serve as Military Working Dogs (MWD’s) in the Second World War.
One of these famous German Shepherds was named Chips. Chips was not a purebred German Shepherd but a mixed Husky breed trained to be a sentry dog.
Chips was stationed in Italy with the 3rd Infantry Division during World War II. While on duty, Chips attacked and defeated an enemy machine gun group.
He received several medals for valor after causing the enemy’s surrender.
Unfortunately, the Purple Heart, Distinguished Service Cross, and Silver Star were later revoked due to army policy.
Chips has, however, gone down in history as one of the bravest German Shepherds to serve in the military.
7. Nemo – Famous German Shepherd MWD – 1962
Nemo first entered the Air Force in 1964 when he was just 18 months old. He was trained as a sentry dog and first served with Airman Leonard Bryant Jr.
After being sent to serve in the Republic of South Vietnam, Nemo began working with 2nd Class Airman Robert Thornburg.
Thornburg’s group came under attack from the Viet Cong guerrillas in the early hours of December 4.
On the same night, Thornburg and Nemo were on duty when Nemo was released to attack the enemy.
Nemo’s attack gave Thorneburg time to call for backup. Despite Nemo’s bullet wounds in the face, he bravely warded off four soldiers, and both Nemo and Thornburg survived.
8. Apollo and Trakr K9 search and rescue dogs – 2001
Apollo came to the rescue of thousands of people after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York.
Together with his handler Peter Davis, this famous German Shepherd was the first rescue dog to arrive at the fallen towers.
The pair spent over 18 hours on a search and rescue mission to retrieve survivors and bodies from the debris.
Working in hazardous circumstances and avoiding fires, Apollo would almost certainly have died if he hadn’t fallen into a pool of water. Undaunted, Apollo continued his work.
James Symington and his rescue dog Trakr are credited with saving Genelle Guzman-McMillan, the last survivor of this attack. She had been lying under the rubble for 27 hours before she was found.
Apollo received the Dickin Medal for bravery.
9. Zino – MWD Afghanistan – 2013
Nate Korpusik worked with Zino MWD in Savannah, Afghanistan. Zino was trained to sniff out over 60 different types of compounds used in explosives.
As a result, this German Shepherd saved hundreds of lives.
This story has a happy ending as Zino survived military service and was bought by Carol Clark of North Carolina.
She then returned Zino to Nate in 2014. Luckily, the military’s policy changed about leaving dogs behind as disposable assets for almost a century.
Congressman Frank LoBiondo and Senator Claire McCaskill were instrumental in returning MWDs to the U.S. after they retired.
Their handlers and families have also been allowed the first choice in adopting these MWDs after legislation changed in 2015.
10. Buddy – 2020
Buddy is regrettably the one famous German Shepherd that died in June 2020 due to COVID-19 related causes.
Buddy is thought to have caught the coronavirus from the owner, Robert Mahoney, who had the virus.
Although Buddy had lymphoma, authorities believe that the coronavirus caused breathing problems.
He started producing excessive mucus and vomited clots of blood in April 2020. His owners euthanized him to prevent further suffering in June.
11. Ranger the famous German Shepherd on Instagram – 2020
Ranger is an especially adorable German Shepherd because he has dwarfism. This rare condition means that Ranger is only 15 pounds despite being an adult.
Adult German Shepherds weigh in the region of 90 pounds, but Ranger will never get that big. He will remain looking and behaving like a puppy for life.
Ranger has become popular on Instagram and now has over 90,000 fans who are always willing to advise on caring for German Shepherd puppies. Despite experiencing a range of health conditions, this little German Shepherd love his family and doesn’t let his size get in his way of playing.
Ranger joins other German Shepherds who have gained loyal followers on Instagram. But Ranger is the only one who will stay tiny for the rest of his life.
There are many famous German Shepherds
There are too many famous German Shepherds to list.
Some of these dogs are the main characters in books. A few are the focus in movies. Many have been real-life heroes, and others have become popular on social media.
All of them have crept into our hearts.
We remember these famous German Shepherds for their entertainment, readiness to help, and courage.
Sadly, and notably, some are remembered for their willingness to sacrifice their own lives to save their human handlers.
All are honored for their worth as individual animals that have captured people’s hearts worldwide.