What kind of dog was Toto?

What kind of dog was Toto?

Toto was pivotal in the plot of the Wizard of Oz. In the 1939 movie classic, The Wizard of Oz, it’s clear that Toto was a Cairn Terrier. But the book that inspired the movie, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, features illustrations of Toto that make him look a lot like a Yorkie.

amazon book the wonderful wizard of ozTHE BOOK

  • published in 1900
  • written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W. Winslow
  • a tremendous success; critics loved the lavish illustrations and full color printing
  • 13 sequels followed but the first was by far the most successful
  • the first edition, a total of 10,000 copies, quickly sold out. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz sold three million copies by the time it entered the public domain in 1956


the wizard of oz original movie poster


  • released in 1939
  • produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and directed by Victor Fleming
  • a sensation; the first Technicolor movie
  • the film stars Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale alongside Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Frank Morgan, Billie Burke and Margaret Hamilton with Charley Grapewin, Pat Walshe, and Clara Blandick,
  • dozens of versions followed over the years including The Wiz, starring Diana Ross as Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow


Toto was pivotal in the plot of Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz movie starts with a bang when Dorothy’s nasty neighbor, Miss Almira Gulch, threatens to have the young girl’s dog, Toto, put down for biting.

The dog manages to escape the clutches of Miss Gulch and run back to Dorothy. At this point, Dorothy and Toto run away from home, just as a tornado hits….and the fun begins!

How Toto compares in the book and in the movie

In the book

In Denslow’s illustrations, Toto was a scruffy-looking little dog. Many fans argue that in the book, Toto was clearly a YORKSHIRE TERRIER. His personality matches a Yorkie too: brave, protective and smart!

Supporting this theory is the fact that Denslow himself owned a Yorkie. The breed was quite popular at the time, so it’s possible.

The Oz books don’t spell out Toto’s breed, but the illustrations certainly look a lot like a Yorkie.

In the movie

Toto in the movie was a female Cairn Terrier called Terry.

Owned by Carl Spitz, Terry was in 10 other blockbusters, including some with Shirley Temple.

In the Wizard of Oz, Toto made more than many of the actors, earning $125 per week (equivalent to $2,200 a week today).

The little dog lived to be 11 and has a memorial stone in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles 

You have to admit it - Toto was a YORKIE in the book

The strange life of W. W. Denslow

An American illustrator and caricaturist remembered for his work in collaboration with author L. Frank Baum, especially his illustrations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.


After the phenomenal success of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Denslow, the artist and the writer managed to quarrel with Baum,  and refused to work with him ever again. Baum, always desperate for money, went on to publish 13 more volumes of the Oz saga, but without Denslow’s wonderful drawings. 

KING Denslow?

Denslow (and Baum) made so much money from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz book royalties, that he was able to buy an island off Bermuda, called Bluck’s Island in the Great Sound, and build himself a turreted castle-like house, pictured here.

He then proclaimed himself King Denslow I.

Denslow was married and divorced three times. Go figure.

The most iconic line in the movie is spoken to Toto

Though most people say ‘Looks like we’re not in Kansas anymore,’ or ‘Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,’ those quotes aren’t quite right. Dorothy actually says ‘Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.’

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

Was Toto a Yorkie?

Was Toto a Yorkie?


Judy Garland and Terry the Cairn Terrier, on the set of the 1939 Wizard of Oz

“Toto” is one of the most loved small dogs in movies and books. But what breed was Dorothy’s faithful sidekick? In the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, the part of Toto is played by a Cairn Terrier. The dog’s breed is never mentioned in the original Oz books; however, based on the illustrations, it looks like Toto definitely started out as a Yorkie.

Toto in the original books

Most of us first remember Toto from the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz. However this movie was based quite closely on a children’s book classic of the same name, published in 1900.

The original editions of the wildly popular book were illustrated by W. W. Denslow who drew Toto as a terrier – but was it a Cairn Terrier or a Yorkshire Terrier?


The book’s artist, Winslow owned a Yorkie himself

Scholars of the Wizard of Oz books (yes there are many!) feel that L. Frank Baum, the author, meant for Toto to be a mongrel. The book does not distinctively mention Toto’s breed, but the dog is is described as “a little black dog, with long, silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose.”

Denslow himself owned a Yorkshire Terrier, and when you look closely at the drawings you can certainly see “Yorkie” all over them!

 Toto’s role

toto in wizard of ozIn the movie, Toto (which means “to make whole”) holds the plot together: he’s the loyal and brave pet who starts the journey and who travels with her while keeping the plot moving.

(Dorothy’s conflict with Miss Gulch was focused on Toto, and the reason Dorothy was caught in the storm. And don’t forget that in the movie, it was Toto who pulled back the curtain, revealing the Great Oz to be a sham. )

It’s also interesting that Toto is the only dog in the Wizard of Oz books who does not speak.

The 1939 Movie The Wizard of Oz

Metro Goldwyn Mayer made the story into the now classic movie The Wizard of Oz (1939) starring Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale. It was the first full length film in colour and is still aired at least once a year on TV stations around the world. Its rich imagery and symbolism, and the quest allegory keep it fresh.

The part of Toto was played by a 6-year-old female Cairn Terrier called Terry toto from movie3(renamed Totoin real life after the popularity of the movie). Terry was a veteran film star, and appeared in 13 movies during her lifetime, starring with actors like Shirley Temple and Joan Crawford.

During the filming of The Wizard of Oz, Terry was nearly killed when one of the witch’s guards accidentally stepped on her, breaking her foot.

She spent two weeks recuperating at Judy Garland’s home, and Garland was reported to have grown quite attached to the dog. She wanted to adopt her, but Terry’s owner refused.

The dog’s salary, $125 per week, was more than many human actors in the film; the Munchkins for example, only received $50 a week for their parts.

Terry/Toto died in 1945 at the age of 12.

Other Totos

The Wizard of Oz was remade many times over the years, always with a Toto.

In Frank Baum’s later Oz books, Toto becomes a Boston Terrier for reasons that are never explained, but then changes back to a terrier in the last books of the series.

In The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz, Toto is played by Pepe the Prawn and in dog_toto_book2the Veggie Tales version, Toto is replaced by a pig named “Tutu.”

Check out this beautiful 100th Anniversary Edition of The Wizard of Oz 

From Amazon.com

This hardcover 100th
Anniversary Edition of The Wizard of Oz is bound to be a real keepsake.

 Click to see details.



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