Everyone has seen the Wizard of Oz – it’s hard to miss, since it seemsto be on TV at least once a day, on some station or another. Everyone also knows that Toto is a Terrier – a Cairn terrier, to be precise.
In the very first book in the Oz series, “The Wizard of Oz”, Toto was portrayed by illustrator W Denslow as a Cairn.Â Denslow, however, only illustrated the very first book in Baum’s prolific series. All of the others were illustrated by the artist R.A. Neill, and Neill took a very different approach.
Frank L Baum’s “Oz” series of children’s books featured two books that portrayed Toto as a Frenchie, *not* a Cairn Terrier as most people remember him. Both “The Road to Oz”, and to a lesser extent “The Emerald City”, featured illustrations by R.A. Neill, and clearly showed Toto as a French Bulldog.
“Illustrator R.A. Neill was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Believe it or not, his illustrations usually developed independently of Baum’s text.
Baum would write, send his work to the publisher, publisher would forward to Neill, Neill would illustrate, return to publisher, publisher would forward back to Baum to review…
Most often, Baum would love what he saw and that was that.
The two men were not known to have actually spent a lot of time together.
- courtesy of Larry Weisberg, the OZ Organization
No one seems to know what inspired Neill to portray Toto as a Frenchie, but since they were in the top five most popular breeds at this time (1909-1914), it is entirely possible that he in fact owned one himself.
I’ve found one source which states that Neill owned a French Bulldog named ‘Quinn’, along with a ‘miniature bulldog’ named Ruffian. This would seem to make perfect sense, in light of his choice of Toto’s breed, but I have not yet been able to verify it, and so it must remain as speculation. Perhaps, though, a little of both dogs found their way into his illustrations.
There is anecdotal evidence that the intial casting of Toto in the movie version of the Wizard of Oz was a brindle French Bulldog named ‘Captain’. Captain was unceremoniously ditched in favor of a Cairn Terrier when he proved to less than enthusiastic about some of the commands he was expected to be able to perform. A signed photo of Judy Garland with Captain was sold at an Oz Memorabilia auction for an astounding sum of money several years ago.
It’s hard to say what the impact on the breed would have been had Captain’s portrayal made it onto the screen.
The early Oz books make a fascinating addition to the collection of any French Bulldog fancier, but first editions can run as high as several hundred dollars. Later editions with color covers are much more reasonably priced.