Once In A Lifetime

Once In A Lifetime

This is the sixth edition of “The Archives”, a blog series intended to give an inside look into the complicated past of pit bull dogs through photographs, newspaper articles and other historical artifacts pertaining to this controversial debate. 

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The Archives – 1929 Pete the Pup

For nearly a century – children of all generations, regardless of which decade they were born in, have grown up to know and love a dog named Pete. ‘Pete the pup’ was a character from the popular American comedy series – “Our Gang“ in the late 1920s and 30s, which later became known as “The Little Rascals“.

There were several dogs who played the role of Petey, but the first ‘Pete the pup’ was a dog named Pal the Wonder Dog pictured in the below Hershey’s Ice Cream trading card from 1929.

Pete the pup of "Our Gang"/"The Little Rascals"
click to zoom

Pal the Wonder Dog – who was said to have been born in 1925 with a natural ring around his right eye that made him visually unique and easily recognizable, was already a Hollywood star prior to taking on the role of Pete. 

Pal made his acting debut in an appearance in the 1925 film called “The Freshman” (at 30:25), and went on to perform as Tige in the mid-1920s “Buster Brown” film series, before being recruited by famous television and film producer Hal Roach to play the role of Pete the pup beginning in 1927. 

"The Freshman"| 1925

He signed a three year contract, earning $125 per week with incremental raises of $25 each week, making Pal the second highest paid actor on the set.

A United Kennel Club (UKC) registered American Pit Bull Terrier, Pal the Wonder Dog was trained by his owner – a man named Lt. Harry S. Lucenay. Lucenay acquired him through the breedings of Earl Tudor – a famous breeder of pit bull terriers, who was also went by “The Oklahoma Kid”.

Pal was sired (his father) by 16x winner Grand Champion (GC) Tudor’s Black Jack. What this means is – the original ‘Pete the pup’ was the direct offspring of a very accomplished gamebred pit bull dog.  

Sadly, Pal passed away shortly after his last production in June 1930 at the age of five, due to being poisoned.

Before his suspect death, Pal the Wonder Dog sired a litter of puppies who were born on September 6, 1929. One of those pups – Lucenay’s Pete, took over the role after Pal’s passing.

Lucenay’s Pete went on to play Petey in the Our Gang series until 1932 when Harry Lucenay was dismissed from Roach Studios. To which, several more dogs played the role of Pete after.

Previously unwilling to accept American Pit Bull Terriers into their registry due to their association as pit fighting dogs, the American Kennel Club (AKC) accepted Lucenay’s Pete as (one of) the first American Staffordshire Terriers registered at the AKC in 1935 once the new breed name was formed.

He died of old age on January 28, 1946, and is buried in the Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park in L.A. County.

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