What Kind of Dog Was Clifford?

The iconic children’s book character Clifford does not belong to a specific breed. Yet, some have speculated that he’s a giant Bloodhound, Vizsla, or Labrador Retriever. Who knows?

Apr 9, 2024By Nikita Hillier
what kind of dog was clifford

We’ve all seen him, right? The iconic image of Clifford the Big Red Dog! This beloved character has left a big and unforgettable mark on generations of readers and viewers alike––us included! However, many people have always wondered about the specific breed of this very loveable giant.

It has caused A LOT of speculation throughout time. Was he a Vizsla, a Bloodhound, a Labrador Retriever, or a crossbreed of all three? Let’s find out!

Clifford’s Breed Is Never Confirmed in the Books

bloodhound dog staring down at camera
Image Credit: The Spruce Pets

We truly think that the truth behind Clifford’s true breed may remain a mystery, as author Norman Bridwell never explained or defined his specific heritage. However, with much research and canine education, many have many an educated guess.

Clifford has some interesting characteristics, including his large size, fluffy ears, and friendly temperament, but these things can belong to a lot of different breeds. Among the most common contenders in the discussion are the Vizsla, known for its distinctive red coat and affectionate nature, the Bloodhound, with its scent-tracking abilities and droopy ears, and the Labrador Retriever, a family favorite with a friendly disposition.

While the exact breed may remain open to interpretation, Clifford definitely embodies these breeds more than any others he’s been compared to. He has become a beloved fictional character that resonates with audiences all over the world. So really, we don’t mind what breed he is. It’s all up to interpretation!

Fun Facts About Vizslas

vizsla dog on harness staring up at camera
Image Credit: David Pupâsâ on Unsplash

Vizslas are quite big dogs, just like Clifford! They usually weigh anywhere between 55 to 60 pounds and stand between 21 to 24 inches at the shoulder, with females slightly smaller in size. Clifford’s big size could definitely resemble that of a Vizsla. Well, maybe not QUITE as big.

They are very commonly known as “Velcro dogs,” forming strong bonds with their owners and offering extreme loyalty. They are energetic, loyal, and truly thrive on human companionship. Clifford’s gentle and affectionate nature mirrors the typical temperament of the Vizsla.

Owners definitely need to know that they are energetic and will require regular exercise. Be prepared to run with your pup, hike with them, or engage with them often to keep them stimulated. Vizslas are very affectionate and will fit into any household. Yet, they require socialization from an early age to avoid issues like separation anxiety.

What to Know About Bloodhounds

two bloodhound dogs with tongues out
Image Credit: Horse & Hound

Bloodhounds are quite sizable dogs that often stand between 23 to 27 inches at the shoulder. Male Bloodhounds often weigh between 90 to 110 pounds, with females not far behind. Clifford’s huge stature definitely aligns with the large size characteristic of a Bloodhound.

Despite their imposing nature, Bloodhounds are known for their friendly and loving disposition. They truly are gentle giants, often being described as very good-natured and laid-back. This resonates with Clifford’s calm demeanor, and it is easy to draw parallels from him to the beautiful Bloodhound.

Owners should know that Bloodhounds have an AMAZING sense of smell, making them incredible scent trackers. Keeping them busy with scent-based activities is a great idea to keep them engaged. Despite their size, they get along very well with other pets and children, making them ideal for families.

Fun Facts About Labrador Retrievers

chocolate labrador retriever puppy staring at camera
Image Credit: Fernando Gago on Unsplash

Labrador Retrievers are medium to large-sized dogs, standing between 21.5 to 24.5 inches at the shoulder. Usually, they weigh between 65 to 80 pounds, but females are usually a bit smaller. They are very much renowned for their awesome, friendly, and outgoing nature.

They are highly social, adaptable dogs, and are always eager to please, much like the big and beautiful Clifford. They make excellent family companions which is why they are so often compared to Clifford himself.

Owners need to know that Labrador Retrievers are incredibly intelligent. These dogs should be kept engaged with various activities, from obedience training to agility classes. They are super energetic and require regular exercise. Owners should be prepared for daily playtime, walks, and other activities to keep these pups physically and mentally stimulated.

Other Famous Dogs in Children’s Books

winn dixie dog
Image credit: Amazon

When people imagine dogs in children’s books, Clifford the Big Red Dog isn’t the only canine that comes to mind. Some other dogs that have popped up in literature include:

  • White Fang. The eponymous dog was a wolfdog in Jack London’s classic novel.
  • Winn-Dixie. In Kate DiCamillo’s novel “Because of Winn-Dixie,” this ugly dog makes a great companion. In the movie, Winn-Dixie is played by a Berger Picard.
  • Toto. Toto from “The Wizard of Oz” is a Carin Terrier.
  • Snoopy. Believe it or not, Charlie Brown’s black-and-white pup is a Beagle.
  • Mudge. The brown dog from the book series “Henry and Mudge” is an English Mastiff.

Why We Love Clifford

clifford in costume
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Beyond just being big, Clifford is so much more. Regardless of his specific breed, it is essential to acknowledge just how cool this dog is and how he appeals to people all over the world. People are so much less worried about what breed he is and more focused on his beautiful friendship with his owner, Emily Elizabeth.

Author Norman Bridwell intentionally left some room for interpretation to allow Clifford to be a canvas in which every viewer and reader can make their own mind up and project their ideal image of the perfect canine companion. In doing so, he has become an ambassador for the joy and comfort we have all experienced with dogs in our lives, regardless of their breed.

His legacy will be around forever!

Nikita Hillier
By Nikita Hillier

Nikita is a huge animal lover who has grown up on a farm with many different animals, from dogs and cats to horses and cows! She has a lot of experience in the equine industry and is even in the process of studying for an internationally accredited Equine Sports Massage Certificate! In her spare time, she enjoys writing and spending time with her beloved animals!