The Mayflower Dogs

 |  Nov 26th 2009  |   4 Contributions


amber46624_1258286966In honor of Thanksgiving here is an article by Duane Cline, on Ancestry.com, about the two dogs who participated in the settling of Plymouth Colony.

According to historical records a mastiff and a spaniel were involved in the first explorations of discovery on Cape Cod.

The first indication of Pilgrim dogs being present comes during the second exploration of discovery (from November 30 through December 10, 1620). During that exploration the group of men stumbled upon two Indian dwellings. In recounting what they found, we are told they found two or three pieces of venison thrust into a tree, which they thought fitter for the dogs than for us. The specific words the Dogs are significant in that they seem to indicate specific dogs and are not used in reference to dogs in general. This passing remark would seem to indicate John Goodman and his two dogs were with that group men.

On Friday, 12/22 January, 1620, John Goodman, aged about 25 and Peter Browne, also in his 20s, went out from the village accompanied by two other unnamed men to cut thatch for roofing on the houses. With the men were John Goodman's two dogs, the mastiff and the spaniel.

The men cut thatch until about noon when John Goodman, Peter Browne and the two dogs moved farther way, instructing the two remaining men to bind up the thatch and follow when they had finished. However, when the men finished the task and moved to follow, they could not find John and Peter. Somewhat alarmed, they went to the village and alerted the men there. Several men joined in the search, but could not find a trace of John and Peter. Then on Saturday, a group of ten or twelve men joined the search with no success.

Finally, late Saturday afternoon, John and Peter stumbled into the village with the two dogs. They recounted the story of how they became lost in the woods with no weapons except their sickles and no food other than the meager amount they had with them for the first day's work.

Having become lost, they had wandered all afternoon, cold and wet. The men sat down that evening to eat what little food they had with them. That evening, after eating their meager supply of food, they went for a walk and found a small lake. By the waterside was a large deer. The excited dogs chased after the deer with John and Peter following until they became lost.

The night was bitterly cold, frosty and snowy. Neither of the men was dressed for the bitter cold, and they had no bed but the cold ground. During the night they heard what they took to be two lions roaring in the woods and a third nearby. Frightened, they climbed a tree for safety. However, it was bitterly cold and neither man was dressed for the extreme temperature. They descended to the ground where they walked about the tree all night. We are told they had to hold the bitch by the neck to keep her from following the lion. We are never told which of the two dogs was the female.

At first light on Saturday they traveled again until late afternoon, covering a distance they estimated to be about five miles.

When the cold, hungry men finally limped into the village on Saturday evening, John Goodman had to have his shoes cut from his frost-bitten feet because they were so swollen from the cold causing him to be lame.

However, we are told John Goodman and the spaniel ventured out of the village on 19/29 January 1620 because John wanted to use his lame feet. Nearby, they were met by two wolves who chased after the spaniel. The frightened dog ran between John's legs for safety. Having no weapon with him, John picked up a stick and threw it at the wolves, hitting one of them. Then with another stick in his hand, he stood watching the wolves with the frightened spaniel cowering between his legs. The wolves sat down at some distance, seeming to grin at them, and watched the pair for a while; then, losing interest, wandered away.

Although John probably had pet names for the two dogs, they were never recorded in the historical accounts. Even so, they are given a place of recognition in records of the founding of Plymouth Colony.

John Goodman died that first winter and we have no record of what became of the two dogs. Surely one of the surviving colonists took them in and cared for them.

From our family to yours....HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

*Pic is Dogster member Amber. And a special shoutout to Bella for barking to me about the Mayflower Dogs.

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