Pilgrim Pooches

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.  This Thanksgiving, the American Kennel Club® (AKC) celebrates the English Springer Spaniel and Mastiff, the two breeds who joined the pilgrims on their journey to the new world and who were the first to make dogs a part of everyday life for the earliest Western settlers. 

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.”generic20english20mastiff

The Mastiff 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 www.akc.org.  


g_english_springerThe English Springer Spanielis 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 www.akc.org.  

With Thanksgiving approaching the American Kennel Club® offers safety tips for pet owners to make their Thanksgiving gatherings and holiday parties fido-friendly.  Among them:

  • Never give turkey bones to your dog; they pose a serious choking hazard for dogs.
  • Always keep an eye on the Thanksgiving table and secure leftovers and garbage to prevent your dog from going through holiday foods.
  • Don’t give your dog scraps from the holiday buffet. Stuffing, pies, cookies and fancy hors d’oeuvres are inappropriate foods for dogs and may make them sick.
  • Keep burning candles on high tables or mantels out of the way of your dog’s wagging tail.
  • Alcohol is toxic for dogs, even in small amounts.
  • If you host a party, remember that some guests may be uncomfortable around dogs. Your dog may, in turn, be uncomfortable or frightened around a large group of unfamiliar people. You may want to confine your dog to a crate or a room that will not be used by guests.
  • Stick as closely as possible to your normal routine. Try not to vary your dog’s feeding, walking and playtime schedule.


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