Strongheart was born Etzel von Oeringen on October 1, 1917 in Germany and originally trained as a police dog.
He was trained in the style of K9 Police Dogs and assigned to the German military during WWI. A descendant of a very carefully bred line, the 125 pound dog was fearless and powerfully built.
Famous animal trainer and American director, Laurence Trimble and his screenwriter wife, Jane Murfin (who had previously worked successfully with Jean, the Vitagraph Dog), began searching for a dog in Europe that could appear in motion movie pictures. Laurence Trimble came across 3 year old Etzel von Oeringen in 1920, he knew he found what he was looking for.
Trimble had to work very hard to socialize him and de-empahasize the harsh training he had received as an aggressive police dog. For months on end, Trimble kept the dog by his side virtually non-stop, using continuous positive reinforcement for good behavior.
Eventually, he shed his police aggressiveness and became a very well trained animal. A great judge of moral character, he never lost his instincts. He would often pursue passersby that were later found to have been frauds, embezzlers or were abusive to their spouses.
His first movie, "The Silent Call" (1921), and a star was born. He was beloved by movie-goers of all ages.
Strongheart was given the star treatment, traveling by train to make personal appearances, at which he was greeted by crowds of adoring fans. He was written up in newspapers and magazines, and even the radio proclaimed "Strongheart" a star.
A dog food named after him became popular and is still being produced over three-quarters of a century later.
Strongheart also appeared in Brawn of the North (1922), The Love Master (1924)
North Star (1925), White Fang (1925), and The Return of Boston Blackie (1927). The Return of Boston Blackie is thought to be the only Strongheart movie still in existence.
In the movie The Love Master (1924), Strongheart was cast opposite of Lady Jule, a beautiful German Shepherd. The happy canine couple produced many litters, including offspring who would sire pups who grew up to be movie stars themselves. Lady Jule and Strongheart's line survives today.
Strongheart and Lady Jule's grandson Lightning was a canine movie star in the the 1930's, appearing in The Case of the Howling Dog (1934), When Lightning Strikes (1934), Man's Best Friend (1935), Wings in the Dark (1935), A Dog of Flanders (1935), Two in Revolt (1936) and Renfrew of the Royal Mounted (1937).
Their grandson, Silver King, also appeared in the movies: On the Great White Trail (1938)and Rusty Rides Alone (1933). He also made personal appearances as part of a safety program for children.
In 1929, while being filmed for a movie, Strongheart accidentally made contact with a hot studio light and was burned. The burn, which appeared minor, progressed into a tumor within a few short weeks. He died soon afterwards on June 24, 1929.
Strongheart was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for motion pictures.
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