4 min read

Top Puppy Bowl Athletes of All Time


Written by Kim Rain

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 01/14/2022, edited: 01/22/2024


Ah, February! It’s that slower time of year when we can kick back on a Sunday, pop some popcorn, crack open a beer, and engage in the time-honored tradition of shouting our support for our team as they run yard after yard in pursuit of an ever-elusive goal. It’s time for the Puppy Bowl!

What? You haven’t heard of the Puppy Bowl? It’s only where the most elite puppy athletes show off their stuff before they’ve even been potty trained. And it’s quite possibly the cutest thing on TV.

This year, Puppy Bowl XIX stars 122 pawdorable pups from animal shelters and rescues across the country, and is set to be the biggest, furriest and most spectacular dog sporting event in history! Best of all, each and every pup is a rescue, meaning those 122 pooches will fulfill their Cinderella destinies to find fame and their furever homes!

We’ve seen some incredible pup athletes come out of the Puppy Bowl in its 18-year history, but some of them do stand out from the pack. Let’s take a look at some of the greatest Puppy Bowl athletes of all time, but first, let’s take a quick peek of how the Puppy Bowl began.

football sitting on football field - Top Puppy Bowl Athletes of All Time

History of the Puppy Bowl

The Puppy Bowl started on Animal Planet in 2005 as a way to fill the airtime during the Super Bowl, the most popular event on TV that left the other networks in the dark. Rather than watching human players chase the ball up and down the field, the Puppy Bowl showcases the cutest puppies you’ve ever seen chasing toys up and down the field, and across goal lines for points in their pursuit of the coveted Lombarky Trophy. But the creators had more in mind than just filling two hours with cute, fuzzy faces.

Every dog that competes in the Puppy Bowl is a shelter or rescue dog who is down on their luck and looking for a second chance. Animal Planet pairs with each shelter and rescue organization to find loving homes for each and every one of them.

Pups are drafted based on their age, size and ability from selected shelters, and placed into either Team Ruff or Team Fluff for a chance at the trophy. In the past, they’ve been cheered on by chickens, pigs, hedgehogs and bunny cheerleaders, have entertained fans with the “Kiss Cam,” and have shared the spotlight with the purrtastic talents of the adoptable kittens of the Kitty Half-Time Show.

But despite all the fanfare, the athletes are who really shine. We’ve seen some greats in years past, pooches who have broken records, and played, napped and ran their teams to victory! 

Here are some of the top Puppy Bowl Athletes in the history of the game!

Max – 2005 MVP of Puppy Bowl I

This spritely Jack Russell Terrier was the smallest pup on the field during the first Puppy Bowl, but proved to be invaluable to his team’s success. Whether due to his cuteness or small size, he was often overlooked by the other players, and managed to take Mr. Sparkles and two of his teammates from the opposing team down with a cut block. His furbulous defensive moves earned him the very first MVP title and cemented his place in Puppy Bowl history.

Matilda – 2009 MVP of Puppy Bowl V

At just 9-weeks old, this little Beagle showed her true athletic colors in a career-defining game that would go down in history! Racing past her opposition, this spunky tri-colored pup ran circles around the field and the opposing team. Matilda earned her MVP title, having scored a record-breaking three touchdowns in a single play where she ran from endzone to endzone! With a furbulous interception by fellow Beagle Madeline, Puppy Bowl V has since been referred to as the “Hound Beatdown!" 

Aberdeen – 2012 Player of Puppy Bowl VIII

We know what you’re saying- but Aberdeen wasn’t the MVP that year! And you’re right. When Fumble took home the coveted MVP trophy, it caused quite the controversy as fans clearly saw Aberdeen as the best player in the game. This Australian Shepherd mix scored four touchdowns in a single quarter, a Puppy Bowl record and more than the MVP who actually slept through the second half of the game. Social media raged against the decision, saying Aberdeen was robbed of the title- and created a legend of the Puppy Bowl in the process.

Star – 2015 MVP of Puppy Bowl XII

Being pawdorable is easy for this fluffy Chow Chow/Lab mix who could have won MVP by looks alone. But this scrapper pulled her weight scoring a tie-breaking touchdown at the half, then scoring two more touchdowns in a single run that crossed both endzones. And all this after being involved in a deflated ball scandal too! Star helped Team Ruff win another Puppy Bowl with her energy, determination and fluffiness…er, athleticism.

Marshall – 2021 MVP of Puppy Bowl XVII

Another tiny contender, this 15-week-old Boston Terrier from Team Fluff proved that huge personalities can come in small packages. “Mad Dog” Marshall scored a spinning double touchdown early in the game to give his team a lead, then went on to score another touchdown. While his team didn’t win the game, this deaf pup won America’s heart and was voted Most Pupular and MVP of the year. To give back, Marshall went on to become a therapy dog

Special shout-out: Jett – 2021 Special Needs Player of Puppy Bowl XVII

No one can furget this incredible pup from Puppy Bowl XVII who stole the spotlight while trying to lead Team Fluff to victory. Drafted as the team’s kicker, this pawdorable two-legged Lab/German Pointer mix shocked everyone when he rolled onto the field on wheels. Born without his front legs, Jett didn’t let his disability stop him from completing a historic field goal in the fourth quarter. Together with teammate Marshall, these pups are out to prove that anyone can become a star athlete!

Who will be the MVP be this year?

With 122 four-legged athletes to choose from, anyone could take the title! You’ll have to tune in to Puppy Bowl 2024 on Sunday, February 11th at 2 PM ET to find out. 

Follow along on social media for Puppy Bowl updates from Wag! and Animal Planet!

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