One of the best parts of Super Bowl Sunday is Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl. I mean, who can resist all those adorable baby dogs in one place clumsily running around? Fun fact: even though the 2021 Super Bowl had the worst ratings since 1969, the Puppy Bowl's rose 14% from the prior year with an audience of 2.1 million. Here are another 15 fun facts about the Puppy Bowl:
1. The First Puppy Bowl Was In 2005.
The first Puppy Bowl aired on February 6, 2005, during Super Bowl XXXIX when the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles met in Jacksonville, Florida.
2. The Idea Was Suggested In Jest.
The scheduling group at Animal Planet decided they wanted some type of counter-programming for the Super Bowl. And because it's so difficult to compete with the biggest event in U.S. sports, the concept of the Puppy Bowl was jokingly suggested. Former Animal Planet Vice President of Program Development David Doyle told Rolling Stone in 2014 that:
"It was always a joke: How do you counter the Super Bowl? Let’s just put a box of puppies up there and call it a day. It’s not worth trying to go against the Super Bowl."
3. It Was Inspired By The Televised Yule Log.
The Puppy Bowl was inspired by the holiday television program where a Yule log burns to the sounds of Christmas music. This may be hard to believe, given how elaborate the Puppy Bowl is now, but the first version was really just footage of puppies playing. Still, Puppy Bowl I drew an audience of 5.8 million during the 12-hour broadcast.
4. It's Filmed Months Before And Takes Many Days (And Dogs) To Film.
The Puppy Bowl does not air live. It's actually filmed in October over two full days. They use a ton of staff, volunteers, dogs (up to 60) and cameras (21 on the field). Fortunately, the participants get breaks every 20 or 30 minutes. But because there are so many hours of footage, it takes months to prepare and edit.
5. All Participants Are Shelter Dogs, Though Most Are Already Adopted.
Adding to the feel-goodness of the whole event, each Puppy Bowl participant is an adoptable shelter dog flown in from rescues across the country. That being said, by the time the show airs, most of the puppies have already found their furever homes. If a dog is available, they're often adopted within 5 minutes. But the puppies are usually part of litters, so if you miss out on a Puppy Bowl participant, you can likely adopt one of their siblings. Since the first event, the Puppy Bowl has helped adopt out over 500 dogs.
6. The Selection Process Is Extensive.
Not every puppy is eligible to participate in the Puppy Bowl because of the various requirements. Puppies must be between 12-21 weeks old, fully vaccinated and well socialized. They also need to meet specific height and weight standards due to the size of the stadium (a 10-by-19-foot field), which are measured through photographs of them next to a soda can.
7. Safety Is The Top Priority With Vets And More On The Sideline.
Puppies are rambunctious and don't necessarily know to play nicely, so safety is a top priority. There's a veterinarian on the sideline, as well as representatives from the Humane Society, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, each of the rescues and more. Also, those breaks every 20 to 30 minutes help make sure everything and everyone is safe.
8. Peanut Butter Is Essential To The Production.
Not only is peanut butter used to get the puppies to cooperate (a tough task with just one), but it's also spread on cameras to encourage them to lick the screen. Other tricks include peanut butter inside toys, cameras beneath glass water bowls and ones hidden inside chew toys.
9. They Go Through A Bunch Of Toys.
The next best tool used in the Puppy Bowl, after peanut butter, are toys. To keep all the puppy participants entertained for all of filming, toys are rotated every 20 minutes. Anything that makes noise, like squeaky toys, or resembles any type of meat are the most popular.
10. There's A Lot Of Poop You Don't See.
Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of poop involved in the Puppy Bowl - you just don't see it. That's because a grounds crew cleans up as much urine and feces as possible, as quickly as possible. Puppies are encouraged to go to the bathroom during film breaks and halftime but there's still (supposedly) an average of four poops per 20 minutes of play.
11. There's Always Been An MVP, But Competition Was Introduced Later.
Since the first-ever Puppy Bowl, one dog has been named MVP (most valuable puppy) of each event. But the actual competition launched in 2015. Puppies are now divided into Team Ruff and Team Fluff and the team that scores the most points wins. To score, puppies have to drag toys across the finish line on either side of the field for a touchdown. In 2017, a prize for the winning team was introduced, called the “Lombarky Trophy” - a large Petco-branded stuffed toy.
12. Penalties Are Actually Handed Out.
Even the cuteness of the puppies won't stop refs from handing out penalties. A few reasons why one might receive a penalty include: playing too rough, jumping and landing on others (called "pancaking") and being too lazy. In fact, "illegal or excessive napping" can be cause for disqualification. Many penalties are puns or dog-related, such as “pass inter-fur-ence,” “unnecessary ruffness” and “premature watering of the field.”
13. Special Needs Dogs Are Now Included.
The first-ever Puppy Bowl participant with special needs played in the 2017 event. And thus arose a new tradition. Past special needs participants have included puppies who are blind, hearing-impaired, have three legs and cleft palates.
14. The Cheerleader Species Always Changes.
The Puppy Bowl added bunny cheerleaders to the event in 2010 and have changed the species every year since - from farm animals to rodents to zoo animals. There were chickens in 2011; pigs in 2012; hedgehogs in 2013; penguins in 2014; dwarf goats in 2015; big-haired silkie chickens in 2016; rescue rabbits and guinea pigs in 2017; ducklings, piglets and baby bunnies in 2018; baby kangaroos in 2019; baby goats in 2020; and puppies in 2021.
15. The Puppy Bowl Draws Millions Of Viewers Every Year.
The Puppy Bowl has become increasingly popular since it's inception. For example, the 2008 airing had over eight million viewers (an increase of 1060% from it's first airing in 2005). More than nine million viewers watched in 2011 and, since then, 10 million or more have watched each year.