I always thought that ‘Pongo’ was an unusual name for a dog. It appears to have originated from a 16th-century account by Andrew Battel, an English sailor held prisoner by the Portuguese in Angola. He describes two anthropoid “monsters” named Pongo and Engeco which are now believed to have been gorillas. But by the 18th century, the terms orangutan and pongo were used for all great apes.
So did Dodie Smith name the lead character in his 1956 children’s book The Hundred and One Dalmatians after apes? Not likely. Another possibility for the strange name comes from a popular fictional character named Pongo Twistleton, who appeared in P. G. Wodehouse’s Uncle Fred stories from the 1930s to 1960s. This would fit the time period as Mr. Smith would have been familiar with the Uncle Fred stories in his day.
Or yet another possibility is that Roger, Pongo’s owner, named him after the British military slang for ‘soldier’, that being ‘pongo’, as used especially by members of the Royal Navy or RAF. So Pongo would be Roger’s ‘little soldier’.
Pick the one you like best, for I’m not aware that Mr. Smith or Disney have ever explained the origins of the name.
Even if he does have a name that makes you wonder what his owner was thinking, he does have a strong character and sense of duty to family. And demonstrates bravery and loyalty that are examples to us all!
This figurine stands about 5″ tall. He appears to have about 50 spots, whereas his animated doppelganger is said to have 72 spots. You may also notice that he does not have a collar. In the Disney animated movie Pongo wears a red collar, but has been seen with a blue collar in later appearances and sequels.
This figurine is made of Bone China and was manufactured in China. Appropriate, wot?
FUN FACTS: When is a bark not just a bark? Why, when it’s heard again and again, of course! Some of Pongo’s growl’s and barks in the animated movie were recycled from the live-action film Old Yeller. And later, some of those same sounds were paid further forward in The Great Mouse Detective for the faithful tracking dog Toby. “Sit!” Good readers. But I meant Toby.