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Thanksgiving: The dogs who sailed over on the Mayflower

By Gary Bogue
Thursday, November 19th, 2009 at 8:02 am in American Kennel Club, dogs, Thanksgiving.

MayflowerII. Photo by Flickr user Paul Keleher used under a Creative Commons License.
MayflowerII Paul Keleher

With Thanksgiving just around the corner (next Thursday), this seems like an appropriate time for this information I just received from the American Kennel Club (AKC):

Research confirms that pilgrims weren’t the only passengers aboard the Mayflower.  Turns out man’s best friend also made the transatlantic voyage from Southampton, England to Plymouth, MA in 1620.

In other words, two dog breeds were apparently the first to make dogs a part of everyday life for the earliest Western settlers. I figure that’s worth a little celebration, don’t you?

MayflowerII. Photo by Flickr user Paul Keleher used under a Creative Commons License.
MayflowerII Paul Keleher

The earliest mention of dogs in America appeared in a 17th century journal called “Mourt’s Relation” about the first years of life in the new world. According to this account, two dogs – an English Springer Spaniel and a Mastiff – were brought along by John Goodman. The dogs were involved in the first explorations of discovery on Cape Cod during the first winter ashore.

“This Thanksgiving we give special thanks to the English Springer Spaniel and Mastiff who came to America to help the Pilgrims begin their life in the new world,” said AKC Spokesperson Lisa Peterson. “While both breeds helped the settlers find and retrieve game, today, they were also trusted companions and it’s amazing to think our forebears enjoyed the same breeds as we do today.”

Mastiff. AKC/Mary Bloom.
mastiff akc mary bloom

This is one of the biggest dogs recognized by the American Kennel Club – some can even top 200 pounds. The breed is a powerful and courageous, yet gentle and loyal companion. Mastiffs were raised in Britain for more than 2,000 years and used as hunting dogs by nobility and watchdogs. They like to be around people and bond closely with their owners. Due to his large size and need for space, a Mastiff is best suited for country or suburban life and requires light exercise and minimal grooming.  Additional information on the Mastiff can be found online at

English Springer Spaniel. AKC/Mary Bloom.
eng springer spaniel mary bloom

This is a fun-loving dog adaptable to city or country life. The word “Springer” comes from the breed’s inherent desire to hunt. Springers are prized for their eagerness and ability to find and scare up a large variety of game birds as well as rabbits. In the field, they are light, lean and fast. The breed is recognized for his ability to keep going and going under adverse hunting conditions, which is partly due to his medium-sized, powerful body. Cheerful and affectionate, Springers love their families and like to stick close to their owners. They make excellent house pets, but require daily exercise and need regular brushing and trimming to keep their coats neat and free of mats. Additional information on the English Springer Spaniel can be found online at

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One Response to “Thanksgiving: The dogs who sailed over on the Mayflower”

  1. Sandy Ritchie Says:

    Regarding the letter about mysterious bug bites, I had the same experience. After returning from Mexico I started getting bites on my torso at night. I couldn’t find any evidence of fleas, bedbugs or anything else and my husband, next to me, wasn’t affected. I washed all bedding etc. but it got worse so I went to see a dermatologist who couldn’t tell what was causing it. I looked on line and finally ended up ordering a cedar oil based insecticide called Best Yet from Xerobugs that claimed that it was safe for children and pets. I sprayed the mattress and myself over a couple weeks and the bites finally stopped.

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