Presidential Pups: A Breed Above the Rest
If you’ve ever heard the phrase “as American as George Washington,” it’s not just a figure of speech. George Washington was one of our country’s most famous founding fathers and served as the first president of the United States. But did you know that he also loved dogs?
Dedicated Dog Owner
Washington was a longtime dog lover and owner. As an avid fox hunter, Washington always had dogs around. He was constantly seeking out ways to improve his canine hunters to create, as he put it, “a superior dog, one that had speed, sense, and brains.”
Mount Vernon Habitat
During his many decades of residence at his home estate of Mount Vernon, George Washington kept many breeds of dogs. He even built and maintained a kennel on the estate grounds that housed dozens of dogs. Washington was known to inspect the kennels twice a day.
Over the course of his life, Washington owned dogs from each of the seven American Kennel Club variety groups – Sporting, Non-Sporting, Toy, Terrier, Herding, Working, and of course the Hound. Of note, there is record of a few of his canine companions: Vulcan, Tipsy, Mopsey, True Love, Ragman (French Hounds), Madame Moose (Dalmatian), and Pilot (Poodle). There were
Briards, Greyhounds, Italian Greyhounds, mastiffs, Newfoundlands, pointers, spaniels, and terriers too.
In the Army Now
Our first President’s favorite dog was a Staghound named Sweet Lips. A Staghound would resemble a mix of a Greyhound and a Scottish Deerhound. A large breed, Sweet Lips was known to travel with the General, having even attended the First Continental Congress with him in 1774!
Not uncommon of the time, the Commander-and-Chief was known to take a contingent of his courageous canines with him into battle. On one such occasion during the Revolutionary War, his adversary, General Howe, lost his own dog across enemy lines. It found its way into Washington’s headquarters, where Washington ordered it returned post-haste with a polite note (written by non-other than Washington’s aide, Alexander Hamilton).
After the war, Washington continued in his goal of creating the perfect hound. To help his efforts, the Marquis de Lafayette, who had commanded troops during the American Revolution, sent Washington seven Normandy hounds. The dogs’ chauffeur on their transatlantic voyage from France? A young 18-year-old John Quincy Adams, of course.
A New Breed
These massive new hounds supposedly arrived ill-tempered and aggressive from their European gifters. With training and time, Washington crossed his own hounds with the Normandy hounds to create a new breed, and one he thought created the perfect balance of abilities for foxhunting. The American Kennel Club recognizes Washington as the father of this new breed – the American Foxhound.
Dennis Flaim makes this connection to President Washington’s work toward building a new nation and a new dog breed:
Purebred dogs invariably reflect the cultures that created them, and Washington’s new version of the classic British foxhound was no different, symbolizing the emergence of a fledgling nation – more independent and less pack-oriented than its English progenitors, and better adapted to large expanses and free-wheeling environs.
Looking for presidential knowledge about cats? Check out our previous blog about Abraham Lincoln and his love for felines!