The Lassie reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Apr-2004
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Lassie is "the world's most famous dog" and a fictional character that has starred in many movies, TV shows, and books over the years.

Lassie is a super-intelligent Rough Collie who is owned by a boy named Timmy and his farm family. Timmy often gets into difficult scrapes, and Lassie has to rescue him.

The character of Lassie was created by American author Eric Knight in his 1940 Novel Lassie Come Home. In 1943 the book was made into what would become the first Lassie movie, also titled Lassie Come Home. Since then there have been numerous sequels and spin-offs.

The original Lassie was a dog named Pal. Prior to Pal's death, he was bred with a number of females, resulting in hundreds of offspring. All 10 subsequent Lassies have been direct descendants of Pal in some form. Currently, the "official" Lassie is used mainly for "celebrity appearances" at dog shows.