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What are Pet Rocks?

By Bronwyn Harris
Updated May 23, 2024
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For anyone in need of the perfect pet — low maintenance, cheap, and obedient — Gary Dahl offered the perfect solution: Pet Rocks. In April 1975, Dahl, a Californian working in advertising, was joking with friends about how he had the ideal pet. His pet never misbehaved, made no mess, and didn't cost a lot of money. His friends helped him extol the virtues of a "pet" rock, and a fad was born.

During the next two weeks, Dahl wrote The Pet Rock Training Manual, an manual for owners who wanted to have a good relationship with their rocks. The manual contained instructions for teaching it tricks such as how to play dead and roll over, as well as how to house train your rock. Owners were instructed to place their rocks "on some old newspapers. The rock will never know what the paper is for and will require no further instruction."

After the manual was written, Dahl created a pet rock to go with it. He bought a Rosarita Beach Stone at a builders' supply store. This stone, a round gray pebble, was the most expensive stone in the store. Dahl packed it in excelsior in a pet carrying case gift box, added the manual, and the first of more than 5 million Pet Rocks sold before the fad went out of style.

The Pet Rock was first sold in the San Francisco area, then caught on and spread to New York. Neiman-Marcus ordered hundreds of Pet Rocks to stock their stores, and their creator appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Dahl sold his Rocks for $3.95 US Dollars (USD) each, almost instantly becoming a millionaire. The fad was quickly over, leaving Dahl with leftover rocks that were relabeled as Valentine's Day gifts, but didn't sell.

Originally, the Pet Rocks were simply plain rocks, but personalities were quickly created, including rocks with faces painted on them, birth certificates and "papers," and several pebbles sold together as a family. Copycat versions were also sold.

Pet Rocks may have been a short-lived fad, but they marked a memorable moment in the 1970s and in the history of silly fads. Many people who remember the 1970s think fondly of their own one, proving that marketing really is everything, and that Americans will buy anything, no matter how truly useless it is.

Sports n' Hobbies is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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Discussion Comments
By anon310386 — On Dec 22, 2012

Just find a good old stone and add googly eyes.

By MissCourt — On Aug 03, 2011

@MedicineBall - My brother still has his pet rock. He plugs it into his computer and uses it as a paper weight. It's actually pretty useful for a gag gift.

I have this sneaking suspicion that he's going to buy me one next Christmas. He always pets it when I'm around just to annoy me. The little kids in our family of course love it and want one.

Hey, cheap Christmas gifts that aren't made out of coal. I have no objections.

By MedicineBall — On Aug 03, 2011

My pet rock's brand name is "Pet Rock Pals." I got the kind that's shaped and painted like a little brown owl. I collect owls and it makes a great paper weight.

My mom still has her original pet rock, complete with it's manual, carry case and of course -- the gray rock. It's not in perfection condition, but it's probably worth a lot.

Every time I suggest selling it, she tells me that she "just couldn't" do that. I always thought it was a really strange keepsake, but she has fond memories of it from her childhood. I guess it's not any stranger than my collection of baby teeth.

By Jacques6 — On Aug 02, 2011

@MissCourt - Me and my kids went on a pet rock catching expedition to get them pet rocks. We went out to the beach and dug around in the water until we "caught" the right rocks. Then we went home and painted faces own them, named them and made them birth certificates. We even made them little pet carriers.

The pet rocks are the cheapest toys I ever got my kids and they are loved as much as the rest of their toys. They “catch” several pet rocks now whenever we go to the beach. Occasionally, I have to have them gift the pet rocks to family members.

By MissCourt — On Aug 01, 2011

Yes, you can still buy pet rocks. In fact, there is a wide variety to choose from.

I got my brother a USB plugin pet rock for last Christmas. It's from some geeky site online. It's just a rock with a USB cord hooked into the side. It doesn't do anything, it doesn't use power -- it's just a rock.

I occasionally see pet rocks in the store, hanging in an isle as one of those random toys you buy on a whim. I've seen ones with faces painted on them and ones that are made to look like a cat or dog -- complete with ears and tail.

So, if you really, really want one -- pet rocks aren't that hard to find.

By anon77994 — On Apr 16, 2010

can you still buy them? if you can, then where?

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