Three Dog Night’s Name Was Inspired by Indigenous Australian Culture


  • Three Dog Night’s name came from a list of 60 names.
  • The name was inspired by a practice from Indigenous Australian culture.
  • The group had many hits in the United States but far fewer hits in the United Kingdom.
Members of Three Dog Night in front of a rock
Three Dog Night | Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer

Three Dog Night produced many classic rock songs such as “Joy to the World.” Despite this, the origin of the group’s name is unknown to many fans. A founding member of Three Dog Night, Danny Hutton, explained the name has its roots in Indigenous Australian culture.

Three Dog Night’s Danny Hutton was connected to The Beach Boys and Disney

During a 2019 interview with, Hutton discussed his early days as a musician. “[I was] working for Disney and then for Hanna-Barbera, the cartoon company when they started their own recording label, in the early ’60s,” he recalled. “I wrote songs for them.” 

While he was working for animation studios, Hutton met Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. This was during the creation of Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys’ most acclaimed album. “If I had one [mentor] it would have to have been Brian Wilson, but truly it was mostly me,” Hutton said. “I knew what I wanted to do from the beginning.”

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Three Dog Night’s name was inspired by a magazine article

Hutton explained the origin of Three Dog Night’s name. “I was in my kitchen, and my manager said ‘By Monday I want you to come in with a name,” he recalled. 

“We wrote down 60 names … however I used to get this magazine called Mankind, my girlfriend at the time showed me an article about the Australian Aborigines with the phrase, a night so cold you will need to take three dogs to bed with you to stay warm, and that was that, Three Dog Night,” Hutton remembered.

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How the band’s songs performed on the charts in the United States and the United Kingdom

Three Dog Night became successful in the United States. 21 of the group’s songs charted on the Billboard Hot 100. Of those, 11 hit the top 10. Those songs were “Shambala,” “The Show Must Go On,” “One,” “Eli’s Coming,” “Easy to Be Hard,” “Liar,” “Never Been to Spain,” “Just an Old Fashioned Love Song,” “Joy to the World,” “Black & White,” and “Mama Told Me (Not To Come).” The latter three songs topped the chart.

Three Dog Night was far less popular in the United Kingdom. According to The Official Charts Company, only two of their singles charted there: “Joy to the World” and “Mama Told Me (Not To Come).” The former reached No. 24 while the latter reached No. 3. 

Three Dog Night was a major force on the charts in the 1970s — and their name has an interesting backstory.

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