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What Breed Was Cujo? The Terrifying True Story Behind the Stephen King Classic (Answered 2024)

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What breed of dog is cujoYou probably recognize Cujo as the savage St. Bernard from Stephen King’s chilling novel. But did you know Cujo was inspired by a tragic real-life incident? King based the story on a mysterious monster dog who killed a young boy in Maine.

While we don’t know the real Cujo’s breed, the fictional Cujo was a Saint Bernard.

These gentle giants normally make loyal family pets. But Cujo shows even man’s best friend can become a nightmare if rabies turns them mad. Though exaggerated for horror, Cujo touches a nerve – our fear of loving pets turning on us.

Yet if we treat our animals with care and caution, even legends like Cujo need not become reality.

Key Takeaways

  • Cujo is a St. Bernard dog.
  • Cujo’s aggression was caused by contracting rabies.
  • Multiple St. Bernard dogs were used in the film, with the lead dog named Mushroom.
  • Mechanical dogs and a stuntman in a dog costume were used for dangerous scenes in the film.

Who is Cujo?

Who is Cujo
You’re looking at a massive Saint Bernard when you see Cujo. Known for their gentle nature, especially with children, Saint Bernards were originally bred in the Swiss Alps to rescue people.

Though large, Saint Bernards are calm, loyal family dogs. Their double coats and sheer bulk make them better suited to colder climates. Stephen King chose this breed carefully for his novel Cujo. While not inherently aggressive, Saint Bernards have the size to appear intimidating onscreen.

For the film adaptation, trainers worked hard to make the real dogs snarl and bare their teeth. Mechanical dogs simulated the most violent attacks. While Cujo was fiction, the choice of a Saint Bernard added to the horror.

The beloved family pet turned predator. This made the threat feel more real, highlighting how disease can change even a dog’s basic nature.

The novel and film preyed upon audiences’ assumptions about Saint Bernards.

The Inspiration for Cujo

The Inspiration for Cujo
You discover that Cujo wasn’t just some rabid dog, but instead a fictional character brought to life through clever filmmaking. The setting of Castle Rock, Maine transports you into Stephen King’s horror world.

Yet, this frightening tale required more than rabid canines. Instead, the production involved extensive planning to depict Cujo’s aggression. Trainers like Karl Miller handled the Saint Bernards, while stunt people wore costumes for dangerous scenes.

Shots focused on the dogs’ snarling faces, avoiding their happily wagging tails. Treats kept the dogs motivated between takes. Rabies—that brain infection from infected animals—explained Cujo’s madness.

But the true horror arose from the mother and son trapped in their car, unable to escape the crazed Saint Bernard. Cujo tapped into every rabies fear, captivating Stephen King’s horror fans. While CGI effects impress today, Cujo relied on costumes, trainers, and editing to terrorize audiences.

  • Meticulous planning of shots
  • Costume design for stunt actors
  • Expert trainers to manage dogs
  • Editing created terror, not just rabid dogs

The Story of Cujo

The Story of Cujo
As you’ve noticed, Cujo was portrayed by Saint Bernard dogs in the movie. While the cuddly canines lent an air of authenticity, the true terror arose from clever direction and editing. Teague used tight camera angles and ominous music to transform the gentle giants into monsters.

Yet telltale signs of the dogs’ innocence peeked through – tails wagging despite being tied down, soft eyes belying the vicious snarls. Though loving pets, the Saint Bernards made compelling screen villains once infected with rabies.

Their sheer size allowed them to physically dominate the film’s protagonists. Still, the audience knew these were fundamentally good dogs corrupted by disease. This underscored the tragedy of Cujo’s transformation from his owner’s best friend into a danger.

Breed: Saint Bernard

Size: 26-30 inches tall, 120-180 lbs

Temperament: Gentle, calm, good with families

Ultimately, Cujo proved even man’s best friend could become his worst enemy when illness turns docile nature against itself.

Bringing the Words to the Big Screen

Bringing the Words to the Big Screen
Director Lewis Teague’s intricate efforts made the Saint Bernards appear aggressive for the cameras to bring Stephen King’s words to life on the big screen.

  1. Using multiple real Saint Bernards for different tasks and shots.
  2. Employing mechanical dogs for dangerous scenes.
  3. Having stuntman Gary Morgan wear a dog costume.
  4. Selecting remote filming locations that emphasized isolation.
  5. Designing gritty set pieces that reinforced the horror.

To convincingly portray the rabies-infected Cujo, Teague manipulated the Saint Bernards’ appearance and behavior through tight camera angles and strategic direction. Though gentle in reality, the dogs became frightening on screen. Teague’s adaptation captured the essence of King’s thriller, translating the sinister Saint Bernard from page to screen.

Through his directorial choices, Cujo’s tension and dread sprang vividly to cinematic life.

Behind the Scenes of Cujo

Behind the Scenes of Cujo
When handling the Saint Bernards, trainer Karl Miller had his work cut out for him. The dogs were not inherently vicious, so Miller had to coax aggressive behaviors from them through clever directing techniques.

Mechanical dogs aided in dangerous scenes, while stuntman Gary Morgan donned an elaborate dog costume for specific shots.

Still, there were challenges, like when stuntwoman Jean Coulter’s nose was accidentally bitten off by one of the dogs. The director manipulated the dogs’ body language by tying down their tails to prevent them from looking happy on camera.

Rabies, transmitted through bites and bodily fluids of infected animals, can cause aggression in dogs.

With clever handling, creative solutions, and a bit of movie magic, Miller and the crew overcame difficulties to portray the dogs as terrifying villains. Their work resulted in compelling performances from both human and canine actors.

The Truth About Saint Bernards

The Truth About Saint Bernards
You are about to learn more about the breed of dog Stephen King chose for Cujo. Are Saint Bernards good family dogs? How should you go about training a Saint Bernard? What considerations are needed with Saint Bernards given their large size? We will explore these key questions to gain further insights into the real temperament and needs of the breed demonized in Cujo.

Though Cujo depicted them as aggressive, Saint Bernards are typically gentle, especially with families.

Are Saint Bernards Good Family Dogs?

You feel your heart melt as those big brown eyes peer up at you, the gentle giant’s fluffy fur begging for a pat while its loyal spirit promises years of affection. Despite their intimidating size, Saint Bernards have fantastic temperaments, making them wonderful dogs and the ultimate family dogs.

Their patience and protective nature ensure they walk nicely when supervising playtime with children if given proper training, though be mindful of seasonal grooming needs for their heavy coats.

Training a Saint Bernard

Training a gentle giant like a Saint Bernard takes a very light touch. Use patience and consistency when training this breed. Positive reinforcement works best to shape behaviors. Socialize them early and often to ensure good temperament.

Invest in proper leashes and collars to control their size. Reward wanted behaviors immediately to get results.

How Big Are Saint Bernards?

Sizeable Saint Bernards stand sturdily instead of smaller suites. Despite their gentle giant nature, these dogs require ample room to roam. Adopters must provide sufficient space for their training regimen and grooming routines.

While their typical lifespan reaches eight to ten years, their sheer size necessitates proper care. Before bringing one of these giant dogs home, consider an ideal home size – both indoors and out.

Could It Really Happen?

Could It Really Happen
The rabid Saint Bernard in Cujo was Hollywood magic, but you’d still be smart to keep your pooch’s shots up to date. Rabies turns even the gentlest dog viciously rabid, with teeth wildly foaming, jaws uncontrollably snapping at anything that moves.

Though extremely rare, any warm-blooded animal can become dangerously unpredictable if infected.

  1. Strange behavior changes
  2. Excessive aggression
  3. Excessive drooling/foaming
  4. Paralysis
  5. No fear of natural enemies

Rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms start, so prevention is key. Keep Fido up to date on his shots, especially if exposed to bats or other potentially infected wildlife. Though the chances are slim, it pays to be cautious when dealing with such a devastating disease.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How many Saint Bernard dogs were used in the Cujo movie?

You’ll see that the filmmakers used about 4 or 5 Saint Bernard dogs for different purposes in Cujo. The breed’s gentle nature required creative directing and stuntwork to portray the rabies-infected Cujo as aggressive on screen.

What training methods were used with the dogs on set?

You likely used positive reinforcement to train the Saint Bernards, rewarding them with treats and praise for good behavior. The dogs were handled by experienced trainers like Karl Miller, who knew how to get compelling performances without cruelty.

What safety precautions were taken when filming dangerous scenes with the dogs?

You realize the production team used stuntmen in protective dog costumes and mechanical dogs to safely film the dangerous scenes with the Saint Bernards. This protected both the dogs and human actors while capturing the needed aggression on camera.

How did the crew create the aggressive behavior seen from the dogs on camera?

You, as the audience, must understand that the filmmakers used clever directing and trained dogs to portray Cujo’s alarming aggression, while protecting the cast and canines. The crew’s ingenuity created the tense scenes depicting the Saint Bernard’s horrifying transformation.

Were any actors or crew injured by the dogs during filming?

You’re right to wonder if the dogs hurt anyone during filming. Although the crew took precautions, stuntwoman Jean Coulter’s nose was bitten off by one of the dogs. The director likely pushed them too far in pursuit of a dramatic effect. Nevertheless, it’s a testament to the trainers that more injuries didn’t occur given the challenging circumstances.


My learned friend, to summarize succinctly, the rabid Cujo was a fictional exaggeration, not the true temperament of the gentle giant Saint Bernard. While Stephen King artfully portrayed man’s best friend turned beast, rest assured this loyal breed remains a cherished family companion.

Though Cujo’s fate was fatal, with care and compassion, your faithful Saint Bernard will be a friend for life.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is an author and software engineer from the United States, I and a group of experts made this blog with the aim of answering all the unanswered questions to help as many people as possible.