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Is Clifford – The Big Red Dog a Labrador

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Is Clifford A labrador - The big red Dog

Is Clifford, the beloved Big Red Dog, actually a Labrador? This question has intrigued many fans of the iconic children’s character for years. Labradors are known for their friendly demeanor, loyalty, and playful nature, much like Clifford’s own traits.

While Clifford’s enormous size and vibrant red coat might not be typical of the average Labrador, there’s more to a breed than just appearance. Dive into this article as we explore the origins, characteristics, and tales of Clifford, drawing parallels with the Labrador breed. Whether you’re a die-hard Clifford fan or a Labrador enthusiast, this exploration promises intriguing insights.

Let’s uncover the mystery together!

Origins of Clifford

Clifford, often referred to as “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” has been a beloved character in children’s literature for decades. But what are the origins of this iconic giant dog, and how did he come to be?

Norman Bridwell’s Inspiration and Journey

Norman Bridwell, the creator of Clifford, embarked on a unique journey that led to the birth of this iconic character. Bridwell was a commercial artist who had a passion for illustrating children’s books. However, he often faced criticism, with many stating that his dog illustrations were ordinary.

But fate had other plans. An editor’s suggestion to use one of his drawings—a young girl named Emily Elizabeth riding a red dog the size of a horse—changed everything. The character of Clifford was born from this inspiration, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Initial Depiction of Clifford as a Large Bloodhound

The initial character of Clifford was imagined to be a large bloodhound. They are known for their keen sense of smell and tracking abilities. In the earliest Clifford books, he exhibited droopier jowls, much like a bloodhound, and his size was comparable to that of a small horse.

The choice of a bloodhound might have been influenced by their gentle nature, loyalty, and the breed’s popularity in children’s literature.

Evolution of Clifford’s Size and Design Over the Years

Over the years, Clifford’s design underwent significant changes. While he started as a dog the size of a pony, he soon grew to the size of a house in subsequent tales. This evolution can be attributed to the need for more adventurous and larger-than-life stories that children would find fascinating.

The character of Clifford was not just about his size but also his bright red color. Bridwell once mentioned that the choice of red for Clifford was serendipitous—he simply “happened to have red paint” on his drawing table that day.

The breed of Clifford has also been a topic of much speculation. While the initial books hinted at a bloodhound, later adaptations and discussions leaned towards the Vizsla breed, known for its red coloring and loyalty.

Vizslas, like Clifford, are incredibly loyal and would do anything for their owners. They also have a distinct red coloring, much like our beloved giant dog. However, the exact breed of Clifford remains a mystery, with some even speculating about a red Labrador Retriever’s influence.


The Vizsla, often referred to as the “Hungarian Pointer,” is a breed with a rich history and distinct characteristics. As we delve into the world of Vizslas, one can’t help but draw parallels with the iconic character, Clifford the Big Red Dog. Let’s explore the Vizsla breed in detail and see how it compares to our beloved Clifford.

Historical Background and Origin of the Vizsla Breed

The Vizsla has its roots in Hungary and dates back to the 10th century. These dogs were the companions of early Hungarian tribes, assisting them in hunting and guarding. The breed’s name, “Vizsla,” is derived from a Hungarian word meaning “pointer,” which is a testament to their exceptional tracking abilities. Over the centuries, the Vizsla has been revered for its keen sense of smell and agility, making it a favorite among hunters and royalty alike.

Physical and Behavioral Characteristics

The Vizsla is known for its sleek, golden-rust coat, which is one of its most distinguishing features. This breed possesses a muscular build, lending it both speed and endurance. Their expressive eyes, often in a shade of brown that matches their coat, exude intelligence and curiosity.

Behaviorally, Vizslas are:

  • Loyal: Much like Clifford, Vizslas form strong bonds with their families and are known to be affectionate.
  • Energetic: These dogs have high energy levels and require regular exercise to keep them happy.
  • Intelligent: Vizslas are quick learners and can be trained for various tasks, from hunting to performing tricks.
  • Social: They thrive in the company of humans and other dogs, making them excellent family pets.

Comparison with Clifford’s Appearance and Behavior

At first glance, Clifford’s bright red coat might not seem to have much in common with the golden-rust hue of the Vizsla. However, if we look beyond the color, there are striking similarities. Both Clifford and Vizslas have a lean, athletic build, indicative of their agility and strength.

The floppy ears, a characteristic feature of the Vizsla, can also be seen in some depictions of Clifford, especially in his puppy days.


The Bloodhound, a breed with a rich history and unparalleled tracking abilities, has often been the center of discussions when it comes to Clifford’s breed. Let’s delve deeper into the world of Bloodhounds and explore their significance, physical traits, behavior, and how they relate to our beloved Big Red Dog.

The Significance of Bloodhounds in Tracking

Bloodhounds are renowned for their exceptional tracking abilities. Historically, they have been used in search and rescue missions, criminal investigations, and even in tracking down lost individuals. Their keen sense of smell is unparalleled, with some claims suggesting they can follow a scent trail that’s days old.

The significance of Bloodhounds in tracking is evident in their frequent use by law enforcement agencies. Their ability to distinguish human scents, even in crowded places, makes them invaluable assets in criminal investigations. Their tracking skills are so precise that evidence trailed by a Bloodhound has been used in court.

Physical Traits and Behavior

Bloodhounds possess a distinct appearance characterized by:

  • Droopy Eyes: Their sad-looking, droopy eyes give them a unique expression.
  • Wrinkled Skin: The loose, wrinkled skin, especially around the neck and head, is a defining feature.
  • Long Ears: Their big floppy ears, which often sweep the ground, help funnel scents to their nose.
  • Muscular Build: Despite their droopy appearance, Bloodhounds are strong and have a sturdy build.

Behaviorally, Bloodhounds are:

  • Persistent: Once they catch a scent, they’ll follow it tirelessly.
  • Gentle: They are known to be affectionate and good with families, including children.
  • Independent: While they are loyal, they can sometimes show a streak of independence, especially when they’re on a scent trail.
  • Vocal: Bloodhounds have a deep, booming bark and are known to be quite vocal.

Clifford’s Early Resemblance to Bloodhounds

In the early depictions of Clifford, especially in his puppy days, there’s a noticeable resemblance to the Bloodhound breed. The droopy eyes, the big floppy ears, and even the way Clifford would often follow scents in his adventures, all hint at Bloodhound characteristics.

Norman Bridwell, the creator of Clifford, might have drawn inspiration from various dog breeds, and the Bloodhound’s traits are evident in Clifford’s design and behavior. The gentle nature of Clifford, his loyalty to Emily Elizabeth, and his occasional bouts of mischief all align with typical Bloodhound behavior.

Labrador Similarities

The Labrador Retriever, one of the most popular dog breeds worldwide, shares some intriguing similarities with Clifford, the Big Red Dog. While at first glance, a giant red dog might not seem to have much in common with the average Labrador, a deeper dive reveals some striking parallels.

Comparison with Clifford’s Loyalty and Adventures

Labrador Retrievers are renowned for their loyalty, affection, and playful nature. These traits align perfectly with Clifford’s character, who is always by Emily Elizabeth’s side, showcasing unwavering loyalty and love.

Labrador Traits vs. Clifford’s Adventures:

  • Loyalty: Labradors are known to form deep bonds with their families. Similarly, Clifford’s loyalty to Emily Elizabeth is evident in every adventure they embark on together.
  • Playfulness: Just like Labradors, Clifford is always up for an adventure, whether it’s playing in the park, helping out neighbors, or embarking on a journey with his friends.
  • Protectiveness: Labradors are protective of their families, and so is Clifford. Numerous stories showcase Clifford going to great lengths to ensure Emily Elizabeth’s safety.
  • Energetic Nature: Labradors are high-energy dogs that love to play and explore. Clifford’s adventures, from chasing after balls to playing with other dogs, mirror the energetic spirit of Labradors.

The Rare Red-Colored Labrador: The Fox Red Labrador

While Labradors are typically known for their black, yellow, or chocolate-colored coats, there’s a rarer shade that’s reminiscent of Clifford’s iconic hue: the fox red Labrador. This shade is essentially a deeper shade of the yellow Labrador, ranging from a rusty red to a dark ginger.

Fox Red Labrador Traits:

  • Coat Color: The red fox Labrador’s coat is a deep, rusty red, similar to Clifford’s bright red hue. However, unlike Clifford, this shade in Labradors is due to the pigmentation and not any magical paint!
  • Temperament: Just like other Labradors, the fox red Labrador is friendly, affectionate, and loyal. Their behavior aligns with Clifford’s gentle and loving nature.
  • Popularity: While the fox red shade is rarer than the traditional Labrador colors, it has gained popularity in recent years due to its unique and striking appearance.

Drawing parallels between Clifford and the Labrador Retriever, especially the fox red variant, offers a fresh perspective on the beloved character.

The Message Behind Clifford

Clifford, the Big Red Dog, is more than just a fictional character from a children’s book series. He embodies values, life lessons, and universal themes that resonate with readers of all ages. Let’s delve deeper into the profound messages and impact of Clifford’s stories.

The Universal Appeal of Clifford’s Character

Clifford’s universal appeal lies in his relatable adventures and the genuine emotions they evoke. Whether you’re a child experiencing the world for the first time or an adult reminiscing about simpler times, Clifford’s tales strike a chord.

  • Relatability: Despite being a giant red dog, Clifford’s experiences, from trying to fit into making mistakes, are incredibly human. Readers see a bit of themselves in Clifford’s adventures, making the stories all the more endearing.
  • Diversity: The world of Clifford is diverse, with characters from various backgrounds. This inclusivity makes the stories accessible to a global audience.
  • Simplicity: The straightforward narrative, combined with vibrant illustrations, ensures that the tales are easy to understand, further enhancing their universal appeal.

Themes of Perseverance, Making Mistakes, and Forgiveness

Throughout the series, several recurring themes stand out, making Clifford’s tales timeless classics.

  • Perseverance: Clifford’s size often puts him in tricky situations. However, he always tries his best to make things right, teaching children the value of perseverance and resilience.
  • Making Mistakes: Like all of us, Clifford makes mistakes. Whether it’s causing a mess or misunderstanding a situation, these errors are a part of his journey. Through these tales, children learn that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as they learn from them.
  • Forgiveness: After every misadventure, the people around Clifford, especially Emily Elizabeth, always forgive him. This recurring theme emphasizes the importance of understanding, compassion, and second chances.

The Impact of Clifford’s Stories on Children

Clifford’s tales have left an indelible mark on generations of children. The impact of these stories goes beyond mere entertainment.

  • Moral Lessons: Each story imparts valuable life lessons, from the importance of honesty to the value of friendship. These morals guide children in their formative years, helping shape their character.
  • Boosting Imagination: The fantastical world of Clifford, where a giant red dog goes on adventures, fuels children’s imaginations, encouraging them to dream big and think creatively.
  • Emotional Development: The stories address various emotions, from happiness and excitement to sadness and disappointment. By engaging with these tales, children learn to understand and express their feelings better.
  • Building Empathy: By relating to Clifford’s experiences and emotions, children develop empathy, learning to put themselves in others’ shoes and understand their feelings.

In the world of children’s literature, Clifford stands tall, not just because of his size but due to the profound impact of his tales. Through his adventures, children learn about life, love, mistakes, and forgiveness, making Clifford’s stories a cherished part of their growing-up years.


The similarities between Clifford and Labrador Retrievers, especially in terms of loyalty and behavior, are undeniable but it’s essential to remember that Clifford’s character transcends breed. He embodies universal themes of love, friendship, and adventure that resonate with all.

If you’ve ever been touched by Clifford’s tales or have a Labrador that reminds you of him, we’d love to hear your stories. Share your experiences and let’s celebrate the magic of our furry friends, whether they’re real or from the pages of a beloved book.

Daniel Rowe
Daniel Rowe
Daniel is an experienced writer who specializes in canine topics. He has gained firsthand knowledge from years of research and engagement with dogs. This has given him deep expertise in breed profiles, behavior insights, and more. Fellow dog enthusiasts recognize Daniel for his authoritative content. He is dedicated to sharing reliable and trustworthy information. He is committed to enriching the lives of dog lovers through his writing.
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