'Lassie' Was a Female Dog Always Played by Male Dogs

Posted by Christy Caplan
Rough Collie

'Lassie' is the most famous farm dog and Rough Collie that ever existed.

The Collie breed became popular when people fell in love with 'Lassie', a fictional dog on a TV series. The famous dog, Pal, played Lassie in the movie and sired a line of descendants who continued to play the fictional character he originated. Pal was also a male dog that played a female dog! 

Did you know that Pal was a male Rough Collie performer and the first in a line of such dogs to portray the fictional female collie Lassie in film, on radio, and on television? Here are fun facts about 'Pal' who was chosen after 200 dogs were considered for their role. 

Facts about 'Pal' who played 'Lassie' 

How did they choose Pal?

Modern Farmer says that 'Lassie Comes Home' considered over 200 dogs to play the leading lady.

"Rudd Weatherwax, who had trained a number of dogs in Hollywood, was trying to work with the dog that they had hired, and the dog simply was not very good -- he would not get in the water, he didn't want to swim in the water."

We learned some wonderful facts about Pal in this story Modern Farmer published.

  • Rudd had a dog named Pal at his kennel that was a collie; it was just a dog that the owner had left so that Rudd could break the dog out of the habit of barking and chasing motorcycles.
  • Pal was an intelligent dog, and he knew that Pal was athletic.
  • Following his film debut, Pal starred in six more Lassie films for MGM from the mid-1940s to early 1950s, then appeared briefly in shows, fairs, and rodeos around the United States before starring in the two pilots filmed in 1954 for the television series, Lassie
  • Pal retired after filming the television pilots, and died in June 1958.

Fun facts about other dogs that played 'Lassie'

How many Lassies were there from the movie and then the TV show? How many dogs were cycled through? A lot! 

In the Modern Farmer interview, we discover that there have been 11 generations now and always sons of the previous dogs.

"If you count Pal being the original Lassie and then looked at the Lassies that followed, they were always sons of the previous dog. When the original Lassie series went off the air in the '70s, you had five different generations of Lassies that had participated."

Experts have said that Pal had "the most spectacular canine career in film history."

Who starred in the 'Lassie' movies and TV shows?  

There were five sequels and "The Son of Lassie" introduced Elizabeth Taylor who had a small part as the child in the movie and "Magical Lassie" featured Jimmy Stewart. 

The films following the feature include Son of Lassie (a sequel to Lassie Come Home), Courage of LassieHills of HomeThe Sun Comes UpChallenge to Lassie, and The Painted Hills

Pal seemed to like eleven-year-old Tommy Rettig more than the other two. Rettig won the role based on Pal's response!

'Lassie' in pop culture 

Collie

This story is about the profound bond between Yorkshire boy Joe Carraclough and his rough collie, Lassie. This throwback article takes a look at how special 'Pal' is and how this dog shaped pop culture for decades. Did this bring back memories for you? Lassie was a dog that was at the center of American popular culture for a couple of decades. We all wanted to live on a farm with Lassie. I definitely had a Lassie lunchbox. Did you? She was my hero. 

Other fun facts:

  • Lassie was born in a short story in 1939 in The Saturday Evening Post written by Eric Knight.
  • Hugh Reilly was best remembered for co-starring from 1958 to 1964 as the father, Paul Martin, in the CBS television series, Lassie.
  • The feature film also starred Roddy McDowall and canine actor, Pal.
  • Fred m. Wilcox (December 22, 1907 - September 23, 1964) was the director for Lassie Come Home.

Main cast

  • Roddy McDowall as Joe Carraclough, a Yorkshire schoolboy
  • Donald Crisp as Sam Carraclough, Joe's father
  • Dame May Whitty as Dally, an elderly woman who aids Lassie on her journey homeward
  • Edmund Gwenn as Rowlie, a tinker who befriends Lassie
  • Nigel Bruce as Duke of Rudling, grandfather to Priscilla
  • Elsa Lanchester as Mrs. Carraclough, Joe's mother
  • Pal as Lassie (credited as Lassie)
  • Elizabeth Taylor as Priscilla, a young girl sympathetic to Lassie's plight
  • Ben Webster as Dan'l Fadden, married to Dally
  • J. Patrick O'Malley as Hynes
  • Alan Napier as Jock
  • Arthur Shields as Andrew
  • John Rogers as Snickers
  • Alec Craig as Buckles
  • George Broughton as Allen (uncredited)

Do you remember Pal, please let us know what you think below? 

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'Lassie' Was a Female Dog Always Played by Male Dogs