Dogs have played key roles in numerous television and movie cartoons, from Snoopy to Scooby Doo to perhaps the grand-daddy of them all, Goofy. Yet, while it’s certain that Snoopy is a beagle and Scooby Doo a great dane, what kind of dog is Goofy in the Disney cartoons?
Goofy is what is known as an anthropomorphic dog, or even a “dogface” ~ basically an animal with human characteristics. Essentially, Goofy has a dog’s head and face, atop the body of a human being.
One needs to look no further than Mickey Mouse’s own dog, Pluto, to see the difference between what is without doubt a cartoon dog who walks on 4 legs (Pluto), and Goofy the dog who walks on 2 legs, wears clothes, has human body motions like hand gestures ~ and talks! (Pluto is a mixed breed, by the way).
In summary, Goofy is unlike almost all other dog-based characters in film and television, whether they speak or not. Let’s examine Goofy and his growth into the well-known character he is today.
Another reason why we know Goofy is some sort of a dog, and not another animal, is his original name. The character was introduced by Disney in 1932 as Dippy Dawg, in the Mickey Mouse movie “Mickey’s Revue.”
Originally planned as a one-time character, Goofy quickly gained fans for several reasons including his huge guffaw, and he became a recurring character in Disney film shorts, and some movies. He was tabbed for his own film series starting in 1939 with “Goofy and Wilbur.”
To get a better idea of what exactly Goofy became, consider a detailed definition of anthropomorphism: “the attribution of uniquely human characteristics to non-human creatures and beings, phenomena, material states and objects or abstract concepts.”
Dogface is what fans call anthropomorphic characters in cartoons, comic books and comic strips. Most of the time dogfaces look like cartoon humans, except with non-human characteristics like fewer than 5 fingers or toes on the hands and feet; black round noses like dogs; big droopy or pointy ears; or a big overbite.
Some have called Goofy a genetic link between dog and man. Dog, man, who cares, as long as he’s funny, right?
Goofy is a Disney cartoon character known for being inept and clumsy, with a tendency for comedy in the slapstick category. He’s a tall, wiry anthropomorphic dog with atypical attire: turtleneck and vest up top, with pants, big well-worn shoes, white gloves, and a tall floppy hat.
Every now and then Disney surprised audiences by making Goofy clever, or rather eccentric.
He’s close friends with early Disney stars, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. When Goofy talks it usually is in a slow drawl, Southern in nature. In past days he might have been called a hick.
For a few years Goofy became quite a star in Disney short films, including a couple that garnered Oscar award nominations, “How to Play Football” in 1944, and “Aquamania” in 1961.
They are both dogs, after all. Yet, Goofy speaks (nearly) complete English sentences, while all Pluto can express is a throaty “Yeah! Yeah!” or maybe a hoarse, panting laugh. Otherwise, Pluto is limited to yelps, yaps, and woofs.
Pluto came first, by the way, with a 1930 introduction in the Disney short film, “The Chain Gang,” a couple of years before audiences saw Goofy on screen. So, Disney’s first dog character was created to be a dog.
Goofy, remember, was a character written specifically to fit into a single appearance, in the feature “Mickey’s Revue” (as Dippy Dawg). So Disney creators did not anticipate the character sticking around for 90-plus years, and as audiences proved they loved the character and wanted more, Disney creators expanded the character and developed his linguistic tendencies.
The description of what Goofy is, “dog with human characteristics,” includes the very human characteristic of talking.
For whatever reason, Disney creators in the 1930s made Goofy (initially) into a sidekick of Mickey and Donald Duck. As a near-equal, Goofy had to speak to communicate, and get across some of his comedy as exchanged with the other stars.
Pluto simply was and remains a pet dog, who communicates in barks and yelps, and maybe some entertaining body language.
Goofy might not be the most famous cartoon dog today, but he certainly was the earliest to gain acclaim. Joining him in early Hollywood stardom was Felix the Cat, an anthropomorphic black cat created in 1919.
Over the years, several dogs became highly featured characters in popular cartoons or movies. Here are some of them, in order of the type of dog used most:
- Beagle. From Snoopy in the Peanuts comic strip (and later books and movies); to the main Underdog character in the cartoon TV series, and Mr. Peabody in “The Bullwinkle Show,” also a television cartoon series.
- Great Dane. Astro the Great Dane became well-known in the “Jetsons” television series of 1962 to 1963; followed by the introduction of another famous TV Great Dane starting in 1969, Scooby Doo.
- Mixed. There have been several popular mixed-breed cartoon dogs including the aforementioned Pluto in Disney pieces.
- Chihuahua. This is Ren from the groundbreaking “Ren and Stimpy” cable TV series.
- Greyhound. Remember Santa’s Little Helper in “The Simpsons”?
- White Labrador. Brian in “Family Guy.”
- English Bull Terrier. Think the white dog with the Target store logo over an eye.
Yes, after a rather lengthy period where he was seen only in television and Disney comics. In the 1960s he became almost a forgotten character, with only 3 new Goofy-focused short films.
He returned to theaters in 1983’s “Mickey’s Christmas Carol.” He then appeared periodically in features including on “House of the Mouse” from 2001 to 2003, on the “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” from 2006 to 2017, in “Goof Troop” in 1992, and a theatrical appearance in “How to Hook Up Your Home Theater” in 2007.
Currently, you might see Goofy in the Disney series “Mickey and the Roadster Racers,” which first appeared in 2017 and remains in production into 2022.
This rumor, long dismissed including by Snopes.com, started with a Reel Rundown article originally posted in 2012, titled “Is Goofy a Dog?”
That one article initiated discussions over the years about whether or not Goofy was a cow, with mentions occurring as late as 2019. Yet, what the people who kept the rumors alive all these years missed was, the original article in Reel Rundown was clearly satire.
Give a close read, and you’ll see a section in the article where it says “The physical evidence of Goofy’s bovine heritage is obvious.” It then goes into the flat front buck teeth (consistent with a herbivore), a “cow nose,” and large flaring nostrils.
What really gives it away as a piece of fiction is the next section, subtitled “Goofy’s Cow Heritage Revealed,” where it claims Goofy’s full name is Dipalwa Dawala, born in Scotland. The article says he came from a line of hornless cattle known as Aberdeen Angus cattle.
The article claims Dipalwa was discovered by Disney talent scouts at a livestock sale in Scotland. In the early 1930s, Disney created characters from scratch, using the ingenuity of their creativity and ideas. Until it started making real motion pictures featuring human beings, Disney’s cartoon film world did not need talent scouts.
Pure satire ~ yet, over the years, it proves one of today’s often-stated commentaries, that people don’t read past headlines.
Think about it, Goofy was created in the 1930s, a very rough decade dominated by a historic economic depression, and ending with extreme global tensions that would eventually erupt into World War II.
During the Depression years, few Americans could spare extra dollars for leisure or recreational activities like going to the movies. When they did, much of the time they appreciated humor, to laugh when little else in life then was worthy of laughter.
Hence, notice how Goofy’s bodily gestures, the way he speaks, and the laugh, is so very much exaggerated ~ a reason why so many of us love him. That Goofy walk, the voice, the guffaw, is all part of a package developed carefully to be attractive at that period of time.
It’s interesting to note another claim in the Reel Rundown article noted above, which argued that Goofy is a cow. Why would Disney rather quietly change Dippy the dog into a bovine?
Because, the Reel Rundown article says, Goofy was born in Scotland and therefore was a foreigner ~ which by the late 1930s was not quite popular in an America where nationalism reached previously unseen levels due to the conflict brewing in Europe.
“Goofy’s true heritage could have created a huge scandal for Disney,” the article satirically stated.
Question: Why create a character that is part dog, part human?
Answer: Why not? Disney at the time was creating all kinds of characters brand new to Hollywood features including talking mice and lisping ducks. Goofy is an early example of a natural tendency by man to identify canines with human qualities, specifically the ability to talk.
Q.: Didn’t Goofy go by proper names in some features?
A.: Yes. He might have, at one time or another, gone by George G. Geef, G.G. “Goofy” Goof, or Goofus D. Dawg.
Q.: Who were Goofy’s relatives?
A.: There was his teenage son, Max Goof, who appeared with Goofy in several features.
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Family Dog Expert Author
Hi there! I’m Stuart, a devoted dog lover and family dog expert with over a decade of experience working with our furry companions. My passion for dogs drives me to share my knowledge and expertise, helping families build strong, loving bonds with their four-legged friends. When I’m not writing for SirDoggie, you’ll find me hiking, playing with my beautiful dog, or studying music.