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"The Michael Jordan of the dog world," says Bill Gorodner, co-author of The World of the Cocker Spaniel. The Poughkeepsie, N.Y.--bred Brucie won best-in-show at Westminster in 1940 and '41, defeating more than 14,000 dogs. In an era in which most champions were European, he helped make the cocker spaniel the most popular breed in America through the '40s. During four years of competition he was never beaten in his breed, and his animated performances alongside owner Herman Mellenthin made him a bankable star. Brucie did ads for Hunter Fine Blended Whiskey, in which he was billed as the "Greatest Show-Dog of All Time." When he died of kidney trouble in '43, his obituary appeared in The New York Times and said in part, "He was brilliant in the ring, a beautiful showman and was the idol of the dog-show public."
MICK THE MILLER
Upon Mick's retirement, in 1931, London's Sunday Despatch wrote, "Mick the Miller was not the first, and it is certain he will not be the last animal hero of the British public, but there will be none greater." The Irish-born greyhound's astounding career--chronicled in the 2004 book The Legend of Mick the Miller, Sporting Icon of the Depression--included wins in the English Derby in 1929 and '30. He had an unheard-of 19-race winning streak before starring in the '34 film Wild Boy, in which he escapes kidnappers to win the derby. His body stands at the Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire.
JIM THE WONDER DOG
Born in Missouri in 1925, the black and white Llewellyn setter was not only a terrific hunter--he led his owner, the hotelier Samuel Van Arsdale, to some 5,000 birds--he was also thought to be psychic. He picked the winners of 1936 World Series and seven consecutive Kentucky Derbys. Jim gave performances across his home state and baffled professors at the University of Missouri by following commands in several languages, picking out cars by their license plates and identifying types of trees. Jim died in '37. In '99 his hometown of Marshall [pop. 12,017] opened the Jim the Wonder Dog Memorial Garden, which surrounds the statue above. "You can't go by it without seeing someone in there," says mayor Connie Latimer. "Everybody in Marshall knows who he is."
On Aug. 28, 1947, the 30-year-old torero Manuel Rodriguez--"Manolete"--entered the bullring in Linares, Spain. He was the world's greatest matador and his opponent was a 1,000-pound bull, Islero, of the fierce Miura breed. The animal immediately proved a difficult test. As LIFE reported, "The bull refused to follow the matador's cape, stopping short after each charge to glare at Manolete." After a long battle, Manolete went for the kill, "plunging the sword so far in that he wet his fingers in Islero's blood," according to one account. But with his horn, Islero opened a long, ragged gash in the matador's groin, before collapsing dead. In the infirmary Manolete accepted Islero's ears and tail as a trophy, but 10 hours and four blood transfusions later, the bullfighter died. "If Charlie Chaplin and Babe Ruth and General MacArthur all died at once, Americans would not feel the loss as poignantly as millions of Spaniards and their cousins felt the death of Manolete," wrote TIME. Islero made headlines again in the late '60s, when Lamborghini produced a limited edition sports car named in his honor.