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Pets On The Mayflower: Dogs, Cats, & More!

We know Pilgrims came over on the Mayflower, but were there any pets?

As the  Mayflower was loaded up in Southampton, England, for its 66-day trip to the new world, many supplies were packed into the ship too. Then, of course, there were also the new settlers for the Plymouth Colony. But were there any pets on the Mayflower? A journal documenting the first years in the new world points to a couple of dog breeds coming along on the journey.

Pets On The Mayflower

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Surprisingly, the Mayflower passenger list did not include any livestock. But, it seems like they may have had some chickens and pigs. In one journal, Edward Winslow gave the Wampanoag sachem Massasoit chicken broth when he was ill in 1623.

However, according to journals kept by the pilgrims on their voyage to America, there were two dogs on the ship, a Mastiff and a small dog. According to the American Kennel Club, the earliest mention of dogs in the journal "Mourt's Relation" does not say what the small dog is. However, it is believed to be an English Springer Spaniel.

They were also referenced in accounts of the first winter when half the pilgrims did due to the lack of food supplies and harsh conditions. It is not clear why the two dogs were brought to the new world, but one can assume they were there to perform tasks. The Mastiff was likely a guard dog, while the spaniel was probably used for hunting. From the stories, the two pups were an essential part of getting established in the foreign land.

History interpreter Chris Messier plays Master Jones, the captain of the Mayflower. He told VetStreet that he has been in the role for over ten years. "We meet a lot of children, and they always ask about the animals on board. Dogs are the most certain answer I can ever give. There was a Mastiff, and there was a Spaniel, and because they do interesting things, they get written about."

Messier believes that Jones had a dog on board since there is evidence that he was taken to court over not having enough land to be a dog owner. However, he also believes that dogs were not the only animals to make the voyage. There is evidence in journals that there may have been chickens, goats, pigs, and some cats on the trip. In fact, bringing cats along on ships was considered good luck for the voyage, and it didn't hurt that they were excellent mouse control.

It is said that the dogs on the Mayflower belonged to 25-year-old John Goodman and Peter Browne. Messier said that one story of Goodman's dogs is that they met up with some wolves thinking they were other dogs and brought them back to the Pilgrims, who then had to defend themselves from the wild animals. Eventually, the wolves were chased away.

It also turns out that the Native Americans also had dogs, which both had in common. However, the Native had small dogs while the settlers had large Mastiffs.

Since dogs often hung around the dinner table in England, it is likely that the pups likely sat down with their pet owners and enjoyed the first Thanksgiving.

Are your pets going to be joining you around the table at Thanksgiving? Tell us on our Wide Open Pets Facebook page. 

READ MORE: Thanksgiving & Cats: What Foods Are Safe For Our Feline Friends?