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What Kind of Dog Is Beethoven?

Two Saint Bernard Dogs sitting outside in garden
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Few dog movies have captured the hearts of animal lovers like the early ’90s classic, “Beethoven. The film tells the story of the bonds that form between the Newton family and their newly adopted puppy. As Beethoven grows, he helps the Newton children overcome obstacles as they, too, come of age. 

The film ushered in an era of dog movies that took the ’90s by storm, and had fans wondering just what kind of dog Beethoven was. 

What Kind of Dog Is Beethoven?

Saint Bernard dog in the garden

Beethoven was a Saint Bernard, a type of mountain dog. The Saint Bernard is a large working dog breed that hails from the Western Alps. The breed was originally developed for rescue work in the mountains along the border of Italy and Switzerland. 

Saint Bernards are known for their large frames and sweet temperaments. They are truly “gentle giants” who look to please their families and those closest to them. 

Beethoven bears all the calling cards of the Saint Bernard dog breed, both in appearance and in personality—well, for the most part. His large size and coat is emblematic of the breed, as is his drive to bond with his family. Some of his higher-energy antics, like the iconic scene where he ruins the barbecue, are a little out of character for the typically laid-back breed. 

Beethoven Dog Movie: Behind the Scenes

Saint Bernard dog standing outside in a field

As an iconic film, “Beethoven” of course has some interesting stories. Here are some fun facts about the film and dog.

Beethoven wasn’t always going to be a Saint Bernard. Beethoven was originally written as a Golden Retriever, since Saint Bernards aren’t known for their agility. However, one of the film’s trainers, Karl Lewis Miller, was eager to use a Saint Bernard and put the breed in a positive light after an unflattering portrayal in “Cujo.”

Several dogs helped bring Beethoven to life. The character’s first portrayal was by a large Saint Bernard named Chris, but he had 12 doubles during filming! 

The film caused the breed’s popularity to spike. After the release of Beethoven, the Saint Bernard enjoyed unprecedented popularity. 

The movie was a box office hit. The film grossed more than $147 million over the course of its release. 

The script was written by a film legend under a pseudonym. Edmond Dantès, the title character of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” was credited as writing Beethoven. This was actually a pseudonym used by John Hughes, of ’80s film fame. 

Beethoven FAQs

Two happy Saint Bernard dogs

The original “Beethoven” movie gave rise to an entire series of films and spinoffs that continued to capture the imaginations of viewers. Some of the more commonly asked questions about the original and its sequels include: 

When did “Beethoven” come out?

Beethoven was released during the spring of 1992. Critically, reviews were mixed to negative. Audiences, however, were more enthusiastic, and the film went on to gross over $147 million at the box office. 

How many “Beethoven” movies are there?

The success of the original “Beethoven” inspired a franchise that included four sequels and three standalone movies. Films using the Beethoven name include: 

  • Beethoven (1992)
  • Beethoven’s 2nd (1993)
  • Beethoven’s 3rd (2000)
  • Beethoven’s 4th (2001)
  • Beethoven’s 5th (2003)
  • Beethoven’s Big Break (2008)
  • Beethoven’s Christmas Adventure (2011)
  • Beethoven’s Treasure Tail (2014)

Is the “Beethoven” dog still alive?

Chris, the Saint Bernard who played the original Beethoven, is no longer alive. He played Beethoven for the first two films of the franchise, but sadly passed away at age 12. 

Who wrote “Beethoven?”

Beethoven” was written by ’80s film iconoclast John Hughes, under the pseudonym Edmond Dantès. “Beethoven” is one of only a few films by the late writer that takes place outside of Illinois.