One of the greatest highlights of Super Bowl Sunday is putting everyone’s differences aside, gathering in front of the TV, and watching a bunch of puppies run around a tiny football field. While some may enjoy watching actual humans play football, others choose to watch the canine version, known as the Puppy Bowl. The Puppy Bowl began in 2005 and was originally conceived to be like the Yule Log, filming puppies playing around with dog toys in a small football field for twelve straight hours. However, the program garnered an unexpected 5.8 million viewers. Since then, the Puppy Bowl went from a simple program to a full-on annual event, and went through many changes. For example, the Puppy Bowl is still aired on Animal Planet for twelve hours, but much of that time is spent on the pregame or on replaying the Bowl. It is initially aired from 3 to 5 p.m. so that it does not conflict with the Super Bowl. Many new features have been added throughout the years, such as the Kitten Halftime Show, a Dairy Queen-sponsored Kiss Cam, animal cheerleaders (such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and chickens), a live-tweeting bird named Meep, and competition between Teams Ruff and Fluff, which has been in place for three years so far. It is also sponsored by many companies, from Geico to Subaru to Pedigree. The Bowl is pre-recorded three months in advance and shot for two full days, so what viewers see on television is only the best of what happened during the shoot. Nowadays, the event often gets over ten million viewers each year and is one of Animal Planet’s most-watched events.
This year, the Puppy Bowl made significant history in many ways. Team Fluff ended Team Ruff’s two-year winning streak, beating them for the first time with an unprecedented ninety-three points. Tucker, an Australian Shepherd mix and the captain of Team Fluff, took home the Lombarky Trophy, one of the many new additions of this year’s Bowl. Some other new features included mascots for each of the teams (a screech owl for Ruff and a chinchilla for Fluff) and the inclusion of three dogs with special needs: Winston, a hearing and sight impaired Australian Shepherd; Doobert, a deaf English Pointer; and Lucky, a three-legged terrier who was also the recipient of the Underdog Award. A Cocker Spaniel/Bichon Frise mix named Nikita also made history by becoming the first dog to use the referee’s flag to score a touchdown, and she also scored two other touchdowns and one field goal. She was a strong contender for MVP (Most Valuable Pup), yet lost to a Poodle mix named Rory who scored three touchdowns early on in the game.
All of the puppies that participate in the Puppy Bowl are living in either shelters or foster homes and are seeking a “forever home.” The ultimate goal is to get all of the participating puppies adopted every year, and oftentimes this goal has been achieved. This year, Animal Planet has brought attention to dogs with special needs, reminding viewers that they are no less worthy of adoption than their able-bodied peers. Although most of the dogs who compete have already been adopted before the Bowl airs, people can still adopt their siblings if they are still available for adoption. But overall, adopting any puppy from a shelter is important. When Animal Planet puts adorable, adoptable puppies on the small screen, it raises awareness of animal adoption and prompts people to adopt dogs in need of a loving home.