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The Eclectic History of Barbie and her Many Pets

Life in plastic may be fantastic, but Barbie's love of animal friends is anything but unrealistic (unless you count the sheer number of them). Let's explore!

dog with pink background

Let's take a stroll down memory lane, or should I say, the perfectly manicured pathways of Barbie's Dream House. For decades, this iconic doll has captivated our attention, not only with her fashionable outfits and high-flying careers but also with her interesting assortment of furry (and not-so-furry) companions.

Let's be honest, if Barbie stepped off the doll stand and into real life, she'd be known as quite the animal enthusiast! With over 40 pets collected since she first debuted, it's a good thing she's living in a world where space, time, and pet care logistics are all part of the playtime fun.

With the release of the live-action Barbie movie this year, all things pink have become popular again. So we wanted to know - what's up with the world's most popular doll and her relationship with pets?

An (incomplete) history of Barbie and her pets

While some of the earliest versions of the doll had unnamed pet "accessories" like caged bluebirds in 1965, Barbie's inaugural pet was a horse named Dancer, making its debut in 1971. Fast forward to the present day and Barbie's pet squad has grown and diversified, including everything from dogs and cats to horses and lions, and even a panda!

This expansive roster of pets shows us more than just Barbie's love for animals. It’s a reflection of the way we, as a society, view and value our relationships with these species. As our understanding and appreciation of animals have evolved, so too has the range of Barbie's companions.

Barbie's pets aren't just cute accessories; they're characters with their own stories. Take Tanner, for example, a Golden Retriever introduced in 2006. Not just any dog, Tanner could really 'do its business', and Barbie came equipped with a magnetic scooper to clean up. Through Tanner, Barbie conveyed a valuable lesson about the responsibilities that come with pet ownership.

Perhaps one of the most distinctive pets to join Barbie's family was a zebra, aptly named "Zizi." Part of the 1989 Animal Lovin' Safari Barbie set, Zizi showcased Barbie’s appreciation for wildlife and conservation.

The introduction of Blissa, a Persian cat, in 2005, took Barbie's pet game to another level. Blissa is no ordinary pet; she has her own backstory as Barbie's pampered feline friend who enjoys the finer things in life. Blissa’s presence also helped depict Barbie as a pet parent who understands the distinct needs and personalities of different pets.

In 2008, Barbie’s world expanded to include Taffy, a Yellow Lab, and Tawny, a horse, in 2011. Taffy, a playful and fun-loving dog, was often seen with a pink bow and matching leash. Tawny, on the other hand, was a symbol of Barbie's adventurous spirit and love for the outdoors. Within the same decade, Barbie also adopted Lacey, a tan Chihuahua, and Sequin, a Poodle.

Then there’s a pair of unnamed puppy and kitten friends who arrived on the scene in 2014. They were part of Barbie’s "I Can Be a Pet Vet" set. It's not a leap to think that many children were inspired by Barbie's care for her soulful sidekicks and may have even considered a career in veterinary medicine themselves.

It's important to recognize Barbie's role in shaping the dreams of generations of young girls (and boys). Through her multiple careers - from astronaut to veterinarian - Barbie demonstrated the power of ambition and the possibility of breaking free from traditional gender roles.

In this sense, Barbie's history of pet ownership isn't just about the pets. It's a testament to the multifaceted roles women can assume in society, including that of a pet parent, veterinarian, exotic animal doctor, and more.

So, as we look back at Barbie’s pet history, we're also tracing a path of societal change and progress. And Barbie, with her many pets, continues to be a role model, teaching valuable life lessons about care, responsibility, and the love we share with our soulful sidekicks.

After all, Barbie isn’t just a doll - she’s a cultural icon, a symbol of progress, and a mirror reflecting our evolving relationships with animals.

The history of Barbie and her many pets is far from over. Who knows what creature she'll adopt next? One thing's for sure though, Barbie's world wouldn't be complete without her pets, and ours wouldn't either.

Lizz Caputo is the Manager of Content Strategy at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.

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