The Bizarre History Behind Everyone's Favorite Super Bowl Tradition: the Puppy Bowl


Super Bowl Sunday is almost upon us, but not all of us are interested in watching football for hours. For those who don't care much about Seahawks or Broncos, there is a much fluffier animal to watch: the puppies in the 10th Puppy Bowl.

Animal Planet will air the beloved annual event at 3pm EST. And if you think animal lovers are less intense about this than football fans are, you'd be wrong. Last year, 12.4 million people decided to watch the puppy romp instead of the Ravens and the 49ers.

The history of the puppy bowl is about as hilarious as the event itself. The idea was first pitched as a joke, according to Margo Kent, the executive producer for the Puppy Bowl. "It was always a joke: How do you counter the Super Bowl? Let's just put a box of puppies up there and call it a day. It's not worth trying to go against the Super Bowl," she told Rolling Stone.

But it happened all the same. The Puppy Bowl's 2005 inaugural game was a humble affair set in a studio in Maryland. But Animal Planet quickly learned that the market for counterprogramming against the Super Bowl was big and untapped — a lot of Americans wanted to watch something other than football, but didn't have many options. The initial outing received 5.58 million viewers, and continued growing from there. Soon, it eclipsed ratings for both college football's Cotton Bowl and the NFL Pro Bowl.

And the event has only grown increasingly elaborate over time. Sunday's game was pre-taped at a soundstage in New York; it will feature aerial coverage by a team of hamster reporters, a squad of penguin cheerleaders, a tweeting bird correspondent and a Kitty Halftime Show with Internet celebrity Keyboard Cat (should be more controversial than milktoast human performer, Bruno Mars). The White House dogs, Bo and Sunny, are expected to open the event.

"Most other networks give up instead of trying to compete. We really had to [try to] always give viewers something different," said Dan Schachner, the referee of the Puppy Bowl.

The idea has caught on for other animals as well. For those who are feline-inclined, the the Hallmark Channel will air an inaugural, three-hour game of the Kitten Bowl at noon EST this Sunday, which means you can get in some kitty action before the Puppy Bowl — or, I guess, the Super Bowl.

And if the cuteness factor is not enough, keep in mind that both the Puppy Bowl and the Kitten Bowl promote animal welfare: the Puppy Bowl participants are from shelters around the country, while the players on the Kitten Bowl have been rescued through the North Shore Animal League.

But if you're looking for truly mindless entertainment after the game, look no further than the inaugural Fish Bowl. Starting at 6pm EST, Nat Geo WILD will air a four-hour special where you can watch a goldfish sitting on a table. 

God bless this country and its infinite variety of animal entertainment.