Higgins (dog)

Higgins (December 12, 1957 – November 11, 1975) was one of the best-known dog actors of the 1960s and 1970s. Most people remember him as the original Benji or as the uncredited dog from Petticoat Junction, two of the most popular roles he played during a 14-year career in show business.

Higgins the Dog.jpg
BornDecember 12, 1957[1]
Los Angeles, California,
United States
DiedNovember 11, 1975 (aged 17)
Los Angeles, California,
United States
Notable roleDog in Petticoat Junction
Benji in Benji
Years active1960–1974
AwardsPATSY Award for Best Canine

Early lifeEdit

In 1960, animal trainer Frank Inn found the dog at the Burbank Animal Shelter as a puppy.[2][3] A fluffy black-and-tan mixed breed dog, he was marked like a Border Terrier, and Inn believed him to be a mix of Miniature Poodle, Cocker Spaniel, and Schnauzer.[4][5]


Higgins' career was facilitated by Frank Inn, who also trained Arnold Ziffel (the pig) and all of the other animals used on The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, and The Waltons TV series. His on-set assistant trainers included Gerry Warshauer and Karl Miller.[6]

As an actor, Higgins first came to national attention as the uncredited dog who played the character of "Dog" on the television sitcom Petticoat Junction for six of the show's seven seasons, from 1964 to 1970, appearing in 149 episodes.[7] He guest-appeared on the television sitcom Green Acres with Eva Gabor in 1965 and also made a guest appearance on the television sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies. Due to his work in Petticoat Junction, Higgins received a PATSY Award in 1966 in the television category,[8] and he was cover-featured on an issue of TV Guide magazine[citation needed].

Higgins was able to convey a broad range of emotions through his facial expressions. Inn, who trained thousands of animals of many species during his lifetime, told reporters that Higgins was the smartest dog he had ever worked with and noted that during his prime years in television, he learned one new trick or routine per week and retained these routines from year to year, making it possible for him to take on increasingly varied and complex roles. Higgins's tricks included yawning and sneezing on cue.[9][10]

In 1971, Higgins starred in the film Mooch Goes to Hollywood with Zsa Zsa Gabor and Vincent Price. He came out of retirement at an estimated age of 16[11] to star in the 1974 feature film Benji, which became his greatest commercial success.[12]

Personal lifeEdit


Higgins had a close rapport with the actor Edgar Buchanan, who played Uncle Joe Carson on Petticoat Junction. In the official cast pictures taken each year during the run of Petticoat Junction, Buchanan is shown holding or petting Higgins.[13][14][15] Buchanan guest-starred on 17 episodes of the sitcom Green Acres, and Higgins guest-starred in two of those appearances. Buchanan and Higgins crossed paths for the last time in Benji, which was coincidentally also the last film in which both actors starred. The two actors had an obvious fondness for one another, which is especially clear in Benji, because the movie's naturalistic pacing allowed them to interact as friends rather than requiring that Higgins perform a specific trick to which Buchanan would react.

Frank Inn and Higgins were very close in real life as well as on the job. Inn wrote a poem about the dog called My Little Brown Dog.[16]


Higgins' progeny carried on his work in a continuing series of movies and television series featuring the Benji character, beginning with For the Love of Benji in 1977, in which Higgins' daughter Benjean inherited the role of Benji after Higgins' death.[17]

Benjean, who was also trained by Frank Inn, starred in more Benji movies than Higgins did because she was younger when she first took on the role. Benjean can be differentiated from Higgins by the fact that she was a female with no visible genitalia, and she had a large patch of white hairs on her muzzle around her nose, whereas Higgins was mostly black around his nose. In addition, Higgins’ bark was a deep, froggy sound, while Benjean had a higher-pitched, more traditional-sounding yelp. This is readily apparent when comparing Benji and For the Love of Benji.

Confusion between the two dogs was increased when VHS and DVD videos of the original Benji movie were released with pictures of Benjean on the cover.

Also, the dog "Tramp" from the TV series My Three Sons was one of Higgins' puppies; his real-life name was "Mac".


Higgins died at age 17, just four weeks short of his 18th birthday.[18] Inn had the dog's body cremated and saved the ashes in an urn on his mantelpiece. He then wrote a Christian poem in memory of Higgins called My Gift to Jesus.[19][20] Inn died in 2002 and requested that Higgins' ashes be buried in his coffin with him.[3] This request was not fulfilled due to legal reasons,[21][22] and Higgins' ashes remain with Inn's daughters. Inn is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills).[23]


  1. ^ "Higgins". IMDb. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  2. ^ "'Benji' began in Burbank". tribunedigital-burbankleader. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  3. ^ a b Martin, Douglas (2002-08-04). "Frank Inn, Who Trained Lassie and Benji, Is Dead at 86". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  4. ^ Bender, Marylin (1975-08-31). "'Benji,' a Doghouse Hero". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  5. ^ Ruthven., Tremain (1982). The animals' who's who : 1,146 celebrated animals in history, popular culture, literature, and lore. London: Routledge & K. Paul. p. 22. ISBN 9780710094490. OCLC 10573542.
  6. ^ "Petticoat Junction - Linda Henning w/ Higgins at the Patsy Awards". archive.li. 2002-08-07. Archived from the original on 2002-08-07. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  7. ^ 1966-, Cox, Stephen (1993). The Hooterville handbook : a viewer's guide to Green acres (1st ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312088118. OCLC 27146845.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Harris, Norene (September–October 1973). "1973 PATSY Awards" (PDF). Animal Cavalcade (Official Journal of the Animal Health Foundation). 4 (5). pp. 24–25. Retrieved November 26, 2018. Additional , December 15, 2015.
  9. ^ Robin, Ganzert (2014-08-19). Animal stars : behind the scenes with your favorite animal actors. Anderson, Allen, 1954-, Anderson, Linda C., 1946-. Notavo, California. p. 220. ISBN 9781608682645. OCLC 869266470.
  10. ^ Christine., Miele (2006). 1,001 reasons to love dogs. Tiegreen, Mary. New York: Stewart Tabori & Chang. ISBN 9781584795261. OCLC 65400365.
  11. ^ Robin, Ganzert (2014-09-15). Animal stars : behind the scenes with your favorite animal actors. Anderson, Allen, 1954-, Anderson, Linda C., 1946-. Notavo, California. pp. 219–220. ISBN 9781608682638. OCLC 869266470.
  12. ^ Greene, A. C. (2002-04-30). "Upwardly Mogul [November 1976]". Texas Monthly. pp. 142–145. Retrieved 2018-04-17. Alt URL
  13. ^ "Petticoat Junction - Cast Photo - Season Two". 2012-07-30. Archived from the original on 2012-07-30. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  14. ^ "Petticoat Junction - Cast Photo - Season Three". 2012-07-30. Archived from the original on 2012-07-30. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  15. ^ "Petticoat Junction - Cast Photo - Season Five". 2012-07-30. Archived from the original on 2012-07-30. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  16. ^ "Petticoat Junction - Frank Inn (Freeman)". topcities.com. Archived from the original on 2005-03-08.
  17. ^ "Benji superstar acting dog FAQ's". benji.com.
  18. ^ Diana (2017-07-30). "Famous Dogs in History: Higgins: From Shelter Dog to Beloved Benji". Famous Dogs in History. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  19. ^ "Petticoat Junction - Frank Inn (Freeman)". topcities.com. Archived from the original on 2005-03-08.
  20. ^ de Lavigne, Guillaume (2015). Chiens Celebres, Réels et Fictifs, dans l'Art, la Culture et l'Histoire. [S.l.]: Lulu.com. p. 381. ISBN 9781326035655. OCLC 982604562.
  21. ^ "The Trainer Who Created Four-Legged Stars". NPR.org. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  22. ^ Robin, Ganzert (2014-08-19). Animal stars : behind the scenes with your favorite animal actors. Anderson, Allen, 1954-, Anderson, Linda C., 1946-. Notavo, California. p. 222. ISBN 9781608682645. OCLC 869266470.
  23. ^ 1953-, Wilson, Scott (2016-08-17). Resting places : the burial sites of more than 14,000 famous persons. Mank, Gregory W. (Third ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina. ISBN 9780786479924. OCLC 948561021.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)