Hercules, the canine centrepiece of the "bugger" commercial that left viewers laughing or fuming, died of a heart attack yesterday.

The Tuakau-based dog boasted a CV that would be the envy of any New Zealand actor, with roles in productions such as Lord of the Rings, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted, The Chosen and more than 80 television commercials.

The popular Saatchi & Saatchi "bugger" advertisement for Toyota sparked about 120 complaints about the flippant use of a swear word when it first screened in 1999.

It was taken off the air temporarily but the complaints were not upheld and the ad eventually returned.


Only one complaint was lodged in Australia over the language contained in the advertisement.

Hercules died while filming a series of training videos aimed at helping children avoid being bitten by dogs.

His owner Mark Vette paid tribute to the dog's intelligence, saying Hercules understood more than 130 commands and had a knack for picking up new tricks very quickly.

The dog's only speaking role seems to have been mimicked by Beagle 2, the failed European Mars Lander.

When asked if the lander had any last words before disappearing, project leader Collin Pillinger replied, "Oh bugger".