For those who like film noir, the Netflix series Midnight Mass was an instant hit. With an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the show is a deep look at grief, faith, and how each person deals with both in their own deeply personal way. It’s also one of the most frightening and unsettling shows, and it takes “miracles” and turns them into something horrible and shocking.
Surprisingly, one of the most shocking scenes in the series comes in the 2nd episode, Book Ⅱ: Psalms. In this episode, Pike, faithful canine companion to the town drunk Joe Collie, gets poisoned and dies. It’s utterly devastating, heartbreaking, and chilling. You’ll need to watch the show to find out who did the poisoning!
One question millions of fans and dog fanatics had after being introduced to Pike (and watching his dramatic demise) was, “What breed of dog is Pike in Midnight Mass?” The answer is that Pike (who, we’re glad to say, is alive and well in the real world) is a Leonberger, a giant dog breed that originated in Germany.
To discover everything about Leonbergers (and get that horrible sight of poor Pike out of your head), read on!
What Are the Main Characteristics of the Leonberger Dog Breed?
One of the first things you notice about Leonbergers is that they’re giant dogs. Male Leonbergers can weigh upwards of 170 pounds, the same as a 6-foot-tall man. When standing on all fours, males can reach over 31 inches in height, while females can get nearly 30 inches. Below are a few more characteristics of this exquisite breed that aren’t as visible to the naked eye.
The Leonberger has a long, double coat of fur, with a dense but fluffy undercoat paired with a thick top coat that’s surprisingly water resistant. They shed all year long and, most of the time, profusely, which demands frequent brushing and grooming.
Leonbergers are dogs that live to please their pet parents and can usually be trained quickly and easily. They have a high energy level but not so high as to be exhausting, and while they do bark, it’s not constant or annoying. Their bark is, however, incredibly loud. Leonbergers also need a lot of mental stimulation and aren’t satisfied unless they’re doing something, whether playing, chewing, or running.
Like their personality, the Leonberger’s social skills are fine-tuned, making them both great companions and protectors. They’re playful (to a point), love anyone who loves them back, and are adaptable to several environments. You won’t find a Leonberger falling into a routine because every day is a new adventure for them. They are also fantastic with children and extremely affectionate, although they occasionally have a problem with other dogs.
What Is the History of the Leonberger Dog Breed?
The Leonberger breed was created in the 1830s by a German dog breeder named Heinrich Essig. Essig crossed a Landseer with a St. Bernard, and in 1946, the first puppies were born that were given the registration “Leonberger.” Many royals in Europe had Leonbergers, including the Prince of Wales. Legend has it that Essig bred them to look like the lion on the coat of arms from Leonberg, Germany.
Amazingly, it’s been said that all of the Leonbergers alive today can be traced back to eight dogs that survived World War II. During the war, so many were left alone or killed that trauma pushed the breed to the brink of extinction.
Why Do Leonbergers Have Such Short Lives?
Unfortunately, the Leonbergers’ average lifespan is only 7 years, although some have reached 8, 9, 10, and older. While they’re a healthy breed overall, Leonbergers are plagued by several health problems that can cut their lives short. They include cancer (osteosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma), bloat (a deadly twisting of the stomach), and hip dysplasia, which makes walking and running difficult and painful.
What Dogs Are Similar to a Leonberger?
If you’ve seen the show Midnight Mass and seen Pike, you know that a Leonberger looks suspiciously like a male lion, from their super-furry head to their large, lean body with shorter fur. Several dog breeds are very similar to a Leonberger, and some were bred to look this way. They include:
All of the above dog breeds have similar physical characteristics, including thick fur, massive bodies and heads, and gentle dispositions. Which one looks the most like a lion? Most dog lovers agree; it’s the Tibetan Mastiff!
What Is the Black Dog in Midnight Mass?
As we learned earlier, the big, black dog in midnight mass is a Leonberger, a giant dog breed that originated in Germany has a thick fur coat and is known as a gentle giant. However, there is debate about the dog breed in the show (named Pike). Some say Pike is a Neapolitan Mastiff, while others are sure he’s a Cane Corso. However, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC), Pike is a Leonberger. Whatever the final truth, there’s no denying that the dog in the show was beautiful.
Are Animals Harmed on TV and Film Sets?
Years ago, animals were routinely abused, hurt, and even killed on TV and film sets. The problem was so bad that, in 1940, the American Humane Association started monitoring film and television sets to ensure no animals were being abused. That led to the certification mark we still see today on movies and TV shows telling us that “No Animals Were Harmed” during the show or movie’s production.
According to a 2013 Psychology Today (PT) article, the only problem is that the AHA’s certification is often false. In their report, based on an essay in the New York Times entitled “Speaking for the Animals on Film Sets,” PT notes some disturbing claims about the American Humane Association.
Many in the industry believe that the AHA is simply “rubber stamping” most films and TV shows because they don’t have enough workers to monitor them. Yes, they have thorough guidelines that the industry is supposed to follow, and, yes, many do. However, the problem of animals being harmed on sets continues, unfortunately.
We’re happy to say one solution that has been gaining traction over the last few years is to use both mechanical and computer-generated (GGI) “animals.” However, while the Leonberger in Midnight Mass is alive and well, live animals are still used and often harmed in the movie and television business.
While there seems to be some debate, the dog named Pike in the TV show Midnight Mass is believed by most to be a Leonberger. Leonbergers, as we’ve seen today, are giant dogs with thick coats, massive bodies, and a charming disposition. They’re gentle, caring, intelligent, and excellent with children. Although “Pike” met an untimely death in the TV show, in real life, Leonbergers live upwards of 9 years. Like the character portrayed in the show, Leonbergers are also loyal to a fault.
We hope today’s information answered all your questions about Pike, his breed, and his characteristics. Also, just as a reminder, the dog that portrayed Pike in the movie is alive and well. If you’re considering adopting a Leonberger or any of the other large dog breeds we talked about today, best of luck! Be sure to have plenty of room and energy because you’ll need both to keep up with your new pup!
Featured Image Credit: Ricantimages, Shutterstock