Trait Objects

Trait objects allow for values of different types, for instance in a collection:

trait Pet {
    fn name(&self) -> String;

struct Dog {
    name: String,

struct Cat;

impl Pet for Dog {
    fn name(&self) -> String {

impl Pet for Cat {
    fn name(&self) -> String {
        String::from("The cat") // No name, cats won't respond to it anyway.

fn main() {
    let pets: Vec<Box<dyn Pet>> = vec![
        Box::new(Dog { name: String::from("Fido") }),
    for pet in pets {
        println!("Hello {}!",;

Memory layout after allocating pets:

name:Fido<Dog as Pet>::name<Cat as Pet>::nameStackHeappetsptrlen2capacity2
  • Types that implement a given trait may be of different sizes. This makes it impossible to have things like Vec<Pet> in the example above.
  • dyn Pet is a way to tell the compiler about a dynamically sized type that implements Pet.
  • In the example, pets holds fat pointers to objects that implement Pet. The fat pointer consists of two components, a pointer to the actual object and a pointer to the virtual method table for the Pet implementation of that particular object.
  • Compare these outputs in the above example:
        println!("{} {}", std::mem::size_of::<Dog>(), std::mem::size_of::<Cat>());
        println!("{} {}", std::mem::size_of::<&Dog>(), std::mem::size_of::<&Cat>());
        println!("{}", std::mem::size_of::<&dyn Pet>());
        println!("{}", std::mem::size_of::<Box<dyn Pet>>());