George Washington helped found the United States of America, but did you know that he also founded his own breed of dogs? Thanks to Washington’s efforts, the American Foxhound is still a popular breed to this day.
Hunting Dogs in the Late 1700s
In the time when George Washington was alive, almost every animal served a purpose. Dogs were typically used for hunting because their strong noses could pick up faint scents.
The dogs that George Washington kept were descended from a group of English Foxhounds owned by a colonist named Robert Brooke. English Foxhounds are characterized by their wide skulls, long muzzles, and muscular statures.
As the name implies, Washington largely used these dogs for fox hunting. Foxes were mostly hunted for sport, but the practice also helped protect chickens and other small forms of livestock. Foxes are quick and smart, so only the smartest and fastest dogs could ensure a successful hunt.
A Gift from the Marquis de Lafayette
Washington was good friends with a French nobleman known as the Marquis de Lafayette. The two fought together in the Revolutionary War, and they remained in contact long after the war was over.
When the Marquis heard about Washington’s love of hunting dogs, he sent his friend a gift in the form of several French Foxhounds. The French Foxhound has a dappled coloring, similar to the American Bluetick Coonhound. The dogs that the Marquis sent were strong, intelligent, and above all, fast.
Washington was delighted. He’d been trying to breed a faster foxhound for years, and this gift meant that he could finally achieve his goal. He immediately bred the French Foxhounds with his own dogs to create a litter of smart and speedy pups.
The American Foxhound
The breed that is currently known as the American Foxhound is directly descended from George Washington’s breed efforts. American Foxhounds are fast and intelligent, and they have amazing noses that can sniff out foxes from an incredibly long distance.
In the modern day, hunting isn’t nearly as important of an activity as it used to be. Today’s American Foxhound is actually known for its musical and distinctive howl. Washington was a big fan of his dogs’ “songs.” In fact, many of them featured names related to singing or music.
George Washington’s Favorite Dogs
Washington didn’t just keep hunting dogs at his Mount Vernon estate. He also had Dalmations, Greyhounds, Newfoundlands, terriers, and almost any type of dog that you can think of.
Washington is said to have visited the kennels at least once a day to see the dogs. Each of them had a name; the records show pups named Venus, Trulove, Taster, Music, Droner, and Madame Moose. Although his relationship with his dogs probably wasn’t like the relationship between dogs and their owners today, it’s still clear that Washington felt a great deal of affection for these animals.
In addition to dogs, Washington also kept a variety of other pets. His estate was home to several songbirds and a small group of deer who lived in a private park. But his dogs were always his favorites, and if the records are to be believed, he loved each of them quite a bit.