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Ask Dr. Jenn: What Kind of Breed is Clifford the Big Red Dog?

I want my own big red dog! What dog breed is Clifford?

February 18, 2022 2 min read
Ask Dr. Jenn: What Kind of Breed is Clifford the Big Red Dog?

Clifford is a Giant Vizsla. Although Clifford is over 10 feet tall and weighs A LOT (we don’t know exactly how much because he broke the scale!), the average Vizsla is only about 2 feet tall and between 45 and 65 pounds.

The Vizsla breed originated in Hungary as a hunting dog. Vizslas are both pointers and retrievers, stopping and pointing prey to their masters then retrieving the kill. Because they were bred to be both a pointer and a retriever, they were also bred to attach and stick very close to their master, making them excellent family dogs. Just like Clifford would do anything for Emily Elizabeth, Vizslas are very loyal.

Most Vizslas are companion dogs and family pets. But because of their sporting nature, they are very active dogs who love to play fetch with their humans. They need lots of space to run and play and don’t live well in small apartments and big cities. Clifford’s family quickly learned this and moved out of New York City for him.

Known for their red coloring and pink noses, Vizslas have a short, smooth, dense hair coat. The coloring is called rust and can vary from bright red rust like Clifford to a light rust color that is almost golden, or anything in between. They are sometimes confused with a hound dog because of their big floppy ears.

Clifford’s parents were both average-sized Vizslas, and so were his brothers and sisters. So why is Clifford over five times the size of the typical Vizsla? The movie tells us that Clifford grew so big because of how much Emily Elizabeth loved him. But if love is all it takes, I think there would be millions of giant dogs all over the world.

Clifford more likely has a medical condition called acromegaly. Acromegaly occurs when the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone. Acromegaly is rare in dogs and even more rare to occur in puppies. Dogs usually develop acromegaly in adulthood, after the growth plates have closed. Because the growth plates are closed, most dogs will be of normal stature but have a broad-based head and large feet.

When a young animal or person has too much growth hormone, and the growth plates are still open, they grow much taller and larger than average. This is known as “Giantism.” Clifford is probably the most extreme case of giantism in modern times.

Clifford, the Big Red Dog, is a very special dog. His sporting nature and high energy may get him in trouble, but he is a loving and loyal family dog who will always come to save the day. If you are looking for a beautiful and loving family dog, a Vizsla may be the right breed for you. But remember, they need a lot of exercise and training to make them the perfect dog.


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