Hairy Maclary & His Purebred Friends

Being a dog, “Hairy” doesn’t have access to genealogy websites to determine his ancestry, and his creator never stated what breed of dog the mischievous Hairy is, but he has characteristics of a terrier or terrier mix. His circle of friends are purebred dogs, however, and collectively, these canines with a nose for trouble expose children to different breeds as they fall into one adventure after another, usually pitched against cunning cats.

“Hairy” is “Hairy Maclary,” the literary invention of author and illustrator, Dame Lynley Dodd. The New Zealander created a series of children’s books in which all the dogs have fun names that rhyme with characteristics of their breed:  The Dachshund, Schnitzel von Krumm, has the very low tum; the Dalmatian, Bottomley Potts, is covered in spots; the Greyhound, Bitzer Maloney, is all skinny and bony, and the English Mastiff, Hercules Morse, is as big as a horse. And finally, the Old English Sheepdog, Muffin McLay, like a bundle of hay. Their dreaded nemeses are a couple of cats: “Scarface Claw” and “Slinky Malinki.

Given her talent for creating rhyming books, it’s not surprising that Dodd has cited Dr Seuss as one of her greatest influences, nor that her popular series of twelve book has sold over five million copies worldwide starting with Hairy Maclary’s first appearance in 1983 with Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy.

Early readers – and younger folks to whom the stories are read – are exposed to fluid rhyme and the melody of repetition, sometimes using multisyllabic words. Despite their simple stories, the Hairy Maclary books introduce children to words not part of an average preschooler’s vocabulary, but they are still understood because of the context in which they occur. To wit: The noise made by excited dogs upon their discovery of a stranded cat is described as a “cacophony.” Dodd’s trust in the capacity of her young audience to learn “big words” is appreciated, as are the teachable moments the stories offer. Not only do kids learn that there are different breeds of dogs, but classroom lesson plans and activity sheets we came across on-line encourage children to research the breeds of the dogs in the stories, and to make their own puppets to retell them. Dodd’s illustrations invite scrutiny as they are rich in detail, from the breeds of dogs to the plants growing in gardens. The canine walking out of the picture on one page might be continued on the next, and this encourages an eye for continuity. And always, Dodd relies on her own experiences as a pet owner to imbue her characters with realism.

Not just popular with children, Hairy got a mention on the hugely popular TV show, Coronation Street, and UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, once read him aloud on BBC television.

You’re in for a 21 minute treat with the video we found!

The recipient of many awards, including several Children’s Picture Book of the Year awards,  Dodd was made a Dame in 2009. In 2015, a waterfront sculpture of Hairy Maclary and other characters from the books was officially unveiled in Tauranga by former New Zealand prime minister, John Key.

Dame Lynley Dodd, Hairy Maclary, Mastiff, Dalmatian, Dachshund, Greyhound, Old English Sheepdog, literature

Photo by gérard from Nouméa is shared under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license

In 2023, Penguin Random House New Zealand set to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the very first book by conducting a search of real-life look-alikes of the lovable canines from the ‘Hairy Maclary’ series. You can see the winners on the Hairy Maclary Facebook page  where they were recently announced.

The top image, a poor representation of Dodd’s Hairy, was created by Dall-e

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