No protagonist is complete without a trusty sidekick, and the world of fiction is brimming with them! Sometimes, these compatriots even outshine the heroes themselves. Whether the reason is their goofiness, kindness, or sheer combat prowess, most earn the affection of fans from across the globe. But if there is one thing everyone universally adores, it is animals!
Luckily, the fictional world is full of unique animal companions of all kinds, shapes, and sizes. That is why we wanted to take this opportunity to admire a few of these most iconic partners in crime (or adventure) by making this list!
One brief warning before we start — approach the term “animal” companion with an open mind since we plan to cheat a bit!
Now let’s get to our list!
8 Most Beloved Animal Companions in Pop Culture
Toto (The Wizard of Oz)
We start our list with a simple but adorable character! Toto is Dorothy Gale’s adorable Cairn Terrier, who journeys with her to the fantastic land of Oz. He is the embodiment of loyalty as he follows Dorothy every step of the way, through thick and thin! In a way, though, you could say that he is also why she ended up in Oz, but let’s not go into the what-ifs!
Despite Toto’s seemingly minor role in this cult movie, he was one of the most beloved pet characters of his era, which is what has earned him a spot on our list!
We all know and love the grumpy ogre from the swamp, but we’re sure even the most hardcore fans can agree that Shrek himself wouldn’t be nearly as interesting without Donkey!
Donkey is a well-needed contrast to Shrek in this beloved animated franchise with his over-the-top humor, hyperactive demeanor, and sometimes even his soft side, so much that there would be no show without him! Besides all of that, Donkey is a kind-hearted friend — the one that Shrek desperately needed when they first met each other.
That is the biggest reason Donkey has earned the favor of audiences worldwide. No wonder he is still considered one of the best animal companions of all time!
Now we enter the cheating territory! Mushu might not be a real animal (as he’s a dragon), but he has undoubtedly made a mark on many children’s childhoods the world over.
In the famous Disney cartoon Mulan, Mushu plays a seemingly minor role to an average observer — he’s a funny little companion to our protagonist, Mulan, who doesn’t impact the main plotline in almost any way. However, there is so much more to this little red dragon!
Not only is Mushu Mulan’s helper, but he is also her voice of reason — in a way, a reflection of her conscience! He is always at Mulan’s side, he cheers her on toward success, and he helps her deal with self-doubt. Oh, and on top of all that, he’s one of the most memorable comic reliefs in all of Disney’s cartoons!
Samantha (I Am Legend)
We couldn’t make a list of top animal companions without mentioning Robert Neville’s trusty dog, Samantha. In a post-apocalyptic, zombie-ridden world, only Samantha and her virologist master, Robert, survive.
Samantha is a German Shepherd who serves as the last bastion of sanity for lonely Neville. That is what makes her even more precious than any of the previous companions on our list. The unbreakable bond between the two becomes even more apparent once Samantha gets bitten by one of the undead and, eventually, succumbs to the infection.
If the scene where Robert had to put her down didn’t make you shed a tear, nothing will!
Although not necessarily animals, Pokémon are some of the most iconic fictional creatures out there. And what better way to pay tribute to them than by choosing the species’ cute little yellow mouse, Pikachu!
Even if you’ve never seen a single episode of Pokémon and have never even tried any of the Pokémon games, you surely know who Pikachu is! This adorable but incredibly powerful electric Pokémon is Ash Ketchum’s faithful companion and friend. The two are an inseparable duo constantly striving toward greatness, being there for each other every step of the way. In fact, Pikachu is much more famous than any of the other characters of the Pokémon universe, even trumping his trainer, Ash.
Few companions in pop culture have been able to top the love that fans worldwide have for Pikachu. The famous yellow mouse even became the mascot of the Pokémon series and games. We don’t think any other entries on our list can trump that!
K-9 (Doctor Who)
All fans of Doctor Who, prepare, for here comes K-9! This robotic dog has been around since 1977 — astonishing, isn’t it?
This mechanical companion is incredibly intelligent and has even seen dozens of upgrades and redesigns throughout the long Doctor Who series. He can do anything from playing chess to completing complicated mathematical calculations within seconds — a real math whizz!
Despite being little more than a brilliantly fun character whose primary purpose is to lift the mood in Doctor Who’s dark world, K-9 quickly became the center of many viewers’ fascinations. That adoration went as far as K-9 almost getting to star in a standalone movie in 2015! To many loyal fans’ disappointments, that didn’t happen; however, K-9 did get plenty of representation in fan merch!
Snuffles/Snowball (Rick and Morty)
Although this character was featured in one episode, Snuffles, who later renamed himself into Snowball) is such an interesting animal character that we couldn’t help ourselves but include him!
Snuffles was a fluffy, white, kind, and playful dog before he got his hands (or head) on Rick’s IQ-enhancing helmet. After putting it on, he underwent a dramatic personality change — he became a tyrant!
With his newly developed IQ, not only did Snuffles learn to speak, but he decided to begin his reign of terror over humans by “enlightening” his fellow canines by giving them intelligence and enslaving all humans. He even changed his name to Snowball as a sign of hate toward his former masters!
Luckily, his reign was short-lived. Morty managed to successfully convince him to leave to another dimension and rule his fellow dogs there. Regardless of Snuffles’ short role in the show, his story and adorable appearance made most fans of the series fall in love with him at first sight!
Chewbacca (Star Wars)
We’re sorry, but there was no way we’d not include Chewy on this list! Yes, Wookies don’t really fall into the “animal” category, but Chewbacca is undoubtedly one of the world’s most famous companion characters to date!
Chewbacca has become a staple in the Star Wars universe alongside his partner Han Solo. The two have been partners in crime for dozens of years and have been through thick and thin. Chewbacca’s raw physical strength perfectly complements Han’s sly, tactical mind. In fact, he can likely rip you in half with his bare hands.
But don’t think Chewy is all brawn and no brains! You’d be surprised how quickly he can beat you in space chess! Han has witnessed it first hand.
Are we excused for cheating? Did you like our picks for most beloved animal companions in pop culture? Are there any characters we’ve missed that you absolutely adore? Let us know!