Throughout history evidence of man’s best friend can be found playing an important role in many societies – even with the pilgrims! Life was hard for the pilgrims who set out on those first ships from England to explore a wild territory. It’s no wonder they brought at least two dogs with them to the new world. Back then dogs were not just great companions. They were used for protection and hunting too.
Pilgrims & The Mayflower Dogs
The two dogs we have a record of making the journey across the sea were written about in the journals of the ship’s passengers. They were said to belong to a John Goodman and be a Mastiff and a Spaniel. Mastiffs have a long history of being used in ancient cultures for hunting. Some even depict them as killing lions. In England, where the Mayflower departed from, they were commonly used by the upper classes as guard dogs. Spaniels were often trained as hunting dogs and some breeds are considered water dogs.
History did not record the names nor what became of the fearless dogs. It does record an account of two pilgrims who became lost in the woods after gathering thatch and were left to spend the night in the frozen forest with only the dogs for warmth and protection. They miraculously made it and recorded their story forever immortalizing the two nameless pets that accompanied them across the Atlantic ocean.
We know that dogs were brought over on the Mayflower, but there has been no historical mention of them at the first Thanksgiving. One may find them featured in a painting or two and it’s likely if they were brought over, that there were still some hanging around by the time of the first big harvest.
Native Americans had fostered relations with dogs from their first arrival on the American continent during the ice age. Much like the ancient Europeans, the dogs of the Americas had also been domesticated from wolves and coyotes.
The early days of the Pilgrims were blessed with the knowledge given them by the Native Americans and were likely able to continue the familiar companionship with dogs even after the Mayflower dogs expired.
This Thanksgiving, don’t forget to be thankful for not only your pooch, but for all the dogs that have abandoned their wild ways to stand loyally by humans and help guide us through our hardships.