Eight Below is a touching 2006 adventure film based on both true events and the 1983 Japanese film Antarctica. This movie tells the story of eight sled dogs and their human companions as they navigate the treacherous and cold landscape of Antarctica. The sled dogs, which play a central role in the story, are as much characters in the film as the humans, and they each have their own unique personality and name. Let’s look at the Eight Below dog names–and the names of the real dogs whose scientific expedition inspired the films.
Dog Names from 8 Below
The film Eight Below pays homage to the incredible endurance, loyalty, and intelligence of sled dogs, and each of these named characters adds depth and dimension to the story. These eight canines teach us about survival, friendship, and the unbreakable bond between dogs and humans.
The Disney film Eight Below prominently featured a team of sled dogs, and while the story gave each character its own narrative arc, the real dogs that played these roles were trained professionals. It’s worth noting that about 30 dogs portrayed members of the team, depending on the required stunts or scenes.
Let’s look at each of the characters and the primary dog actors who portrayed each dog.
Maya is a beautiful Siberian Husky and is the lead dog of the sled team. As the alpha female, she exhibits strong leadership qualities and plays a pivotal role throughout the movie.
The lead dog of the pack was played by a dog named Jasmine, a dog with an expressive face that was critical for the many emotional scenes involving Maya. The seven-year-old, who transitioned from a Colorado dog shelter to stardom went on to lead sled dog tours at a renowned Bed & Breakfast in British Columbia.
Maya was also played by seven-year-old Koda Bear. Among the cast’s seasoned artists, Koda Bear has been featured in movies like Snow Dogs and TV shows like Malcolm in the Middle. Initially overlooked due to the director’s preference for a white canine, she eventually captivated the filmmakers, becoming a cherished favorite of director Frank Marshall. On set, her trainers affectionately dubbed her “The Princess” for her attachment to her special blanket.
The sled double for Jasmine and Koda Bear was Kalista, a seasoned sled dog known to prevent her fellow canines from mishaps during shoots.
One of the oldest in the pack, Old Jack is an Alaskan Malamute. He’s loyal, dependable, and calm, showcasing wisdom that comes with age.
The wise and strategic Old Jack is portrayed by the young and striking Suli, a Pinto (black and white) Husky from British Columbia, and Buck, an all-white Husky previously seen in Snow Dogs. Buck spent quite a few hours during production at the canine spa getting his fur dyed with non-toxic dye.
Shorty is the smallest in the team but compensates for his size with a lively spirit. He is a Siberian Husky with a striking coat.
The boisterous and slightly clumsy rebel, Shorty was brought to life by the spirited, snow-loving, three-year-old Jasper. Found on the streets and thrilled with his icy surroundings in Eight Below, Jasper’s dedication to sledding was shared by the determined Yukon, an accomplished sled puller.
Another Siberian Husky, Dewey has a close bond with his brother, Truman. They often work together and look out for one another.
Dewey was depicted by the talented four-year-old Floyd. A star of films like Snow Dogs, he went on to entertain audiences at the Universal Animal Show in Florida.
Paired with Floyd was Ryan, a young two-year-old unfamiliar with snow, yet he swiftly developed an ardor for sledding.
Truman is Dewey’s closest companion and brother. His strong bond with Dewey provides an emotional anchor to the duo’s narrative.
Truman was played by the adventurous three-year-old Sitka, who gave her trainer, Mike Alexander, a jolt by momentarily escaping during transit. Having returned, she made an impactful debut, showcasing a fondness for Canadian duck treats.
Her dynamic double was Chase, a five-year-old known to trainers as “the big goofball.” Chase underwent routine non-toxic dye treatments to mirror Sitka’s appearance.
True to his name, Shadow is a Siberian Husky with a dark-colored coat. He’s quiet and observant, often acting as a silent protector for the team.
The role of the elegant Shadow features Noble, a method actor canine of three years, and Troika, a four-year-old transformational tale from Tennessee’s streets to stardom. Troika’s mesmerizing howl was a distinct feature on the set. Both Noble and Troika were all-rounders, balancing acting and sledding.
One of the more spirited dogs in the pack, Buck often gets himself into tricky situations, but his tenacity and energy also help pull the team through many challenges.
Flapjack played the feisty Buck. With an energetic personality and agility, Flapjack’s scenes often involved action and movement. Flapjack, hailing from Alaska, continued his sledding endeavors post-filming. He also held the title as the film’s heaviest dog.
Another dog named Conan also played Buck in some scenes. Originally a show dog, Conan transitioned to performances in Florida’s Universal Animal Show.
Max, an Alaskan Malamute, is the youngest among the dogs. He looks up to Maya and learns from her, embodying the heart and determination of the entire team.
The young and impressionable Max was played by D.J. who showcased both the physical strength and innocence required for Max’s role. The exuberant six-year-old D.J. had earlier impressed audiences in Snow Dogs. His innate improvisation skills garnered admiration from both his trainers and director Frank Marshall.
His sled counterpart, Timba, just a year old during filming, demonstrated agility and warmth. Timba went on to guide sled trips in Canada.
Dogs from the Japanese Expedition and Film
Poster from the Japanese film Antarctica
Eight Below was loosely based on a 1983 Japanese film titled Antarctica, inspired by a true story of a 1958 Japanese expedition to the South Pole. The scientists had traveled with a group of Sakhalin Huskies (a breed from Sakhalin Island, off the coast of Russia.)
In Antarctica, there were 15 dogs initially, but two of the most famous and celebrated dogs are:
- Taro: Taro was one of the two dogs found alive when the expedition team returned a year later.
- Jiro: Jiro, also a male, was the other dog found alive. He was Taro’s brother.
The survival of Taro and Jiro is remarkable considering the harsh conditions of Antarctica. Their story has been a point of national pride in Japan, and they were celebrated upon their return.
The two dogs were preserved after their deaths and are currently on display in Japan; Taro at the National Showa Memorial Museum in Tokyo, and Jiro at the Museum of Nature and Human Activities in Hyogo.
Some of the other dogs in the expedition that did not survive included Riki, Anko, Shiro, Jakku, Deri and Kuma.
Do the dogs in Eight Below talk?
The dogs in 8 Below bark and make plenty of other sounds–but no human talking from these pooches! This is a live action movie.
Who was the dog trainer in Eight Below?
Mike Alexander was the head animal trainer for the Eight Below production. Alexander is the head trainer/coordinator at Birds & Animals Unlimited and has worked on productions including Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Garfield, Homeward Bound II and more.