Some people love Super Bowl Sunday for the big game. Others, for the commercials and the chip-n-dip selection. But a bunch of you look forward to the footballiest day of the year because it also happens to be the cuddliest. On Feb. 5 at 3 p.m. ET, Animal Planet will unveil Puppy Bowl VIII, the annual spectacle in which little pooches scurry about a mini-football field and drag chew toys across the goal line. Before you watch this year’s contest, stick your nose in these facts about Puppy Bowl and those fetching canine athletes.
1. Fifty-nine puppies will hit the gridiron this year, selected from a casting call that went out to shelters and rescue groups across the country. They hail from California to Rhode Island to everywhere in between. (Last year, a few dogs were even flown in from such faraway locales as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.)
2. The puppies — or rather, their human helpers — submit a “headshot” that depicts them standing next to a soda can, so producers can easily assess their size. While they must be between the ages of 9 and 17 1/2 weeks, “we don’t have a cutoff in weight,” says Puppy Bowl executive producer Melinda Toporoff. “That feels just wrong somehow.”
3. Although all players are up for adoption, in a perfect world, you will not be able to claim these guys. Why? With the annual special shooting in October, it is hoped that they will have already found good homes by Super Bowl Sunday. So far, 57 of the 59 players from this year have been adopted.
4. Puppy Bowl films over two days on a Manhattan soundstage that houses the 10′-by-19′ field. By the time this year’s final whistle blew, the producers gathered about 70 hours of footage from their half-dozen cameras (including a “water bowl camera” that afforded a view of the action from beneath the field). And don’t worry, an onset vet examined all of the dogs while a representative from the Humane Society monitored the proceedings to make sure they were treated like champs.
5. The kitty halftime show, which features 19 kittens and a grand finale confetti shower this year, was shot on a different day than Puppy Bowl. It takes only two hours to film.
6. The biggest obstacle facing the game? Pooch poop. (New ref Dan Schachner — who’s also the announcer on The Nate Berkus Show — will assess a “personal puppy foul” in these situations.) The Puppy Bowl staff had to clean up about four deposits per 20 minutes of play, estimated Toporoff. “We do have them go for a quick walk before they get on the field,” she notes, “just to encourage a little less pooping and a little more playing.”
7. Puppy Bowl VIII went through 1,500 square feet of paper towels and 364 feet of cleaning wipes, as well as 272 liters of water.
8. This year’s contest boasts more touchdowns than any other Puppy Bowl. One dog scores four times.
9. While the sixth Puppy Bowl featured bunny cheerleaders and the seventh boasted chicken cheerleaders, the eighth offers up a Piggy Pep Squad. The five piglets — named Bubbles, Hank, Othello, Khalessa, and Beulah — hail from a farm in Pennsylvania, and were bribed handsomely with Cheerios for their rah-rah spirit). How did the pigs stack up against the bunnies and chickens? “They definitely squeal more,” says Toporoff. “They’re harder to wrangle. They don’t line up so well, but they bring it. They’re hamming it up.”
10. Pork isn’t the only side dish being served. A cockatiel who goes by the handle “Meepthebird” will tweet during the game, and hampster pilots once again will fly the blimp.