Most of us are familiar with the tales associated with Thanksgiving. Historians believe the first Thanksgiving was modeled after a harvest feast in 1621 shared between the pilgrims and the Wampanoag people.
The story of humans has been told and retold, but what of the animals that no doubt accompanied them? It turns out, pets were probably at the first Thanksgiving feast too. Here’s what we know about the dogs that joined the first Thanksgiving Feast
Meet the Plantation Dogs
Journals from the time period indicate that two dogs lived on the plantation where the first Thanksgiving feast was held. A female mastiff and a spaniel were brought over from Europe on the Mayflower. The names of these pets were never mentioned, so we don’t know what they were called, but we do know they were full of mischief.
At one point a journal mentions the dog’s owner, John Goodman, getting lost with the two dogs. With their help, he was able to return safely.
The dogs ended up outliving John Goodman, but the other pilgrims cared for the dogs even after his death.
Meet the Wampanoag Dogs
Native Americans didn’t keep written journals like Europeans, relying on oral history instead. What we know about the dogs from this time period are based on general historical knowledge, and not specific animals during that time.
According to the history surrounding Martha’s Vineyard, an island where Wampanoag people lived, dogs have been living with them for as much as 2,000 years. (Possibly longer, but this is as far back as historical evidence goes.)
Plimoth Patuxet, a museum that focuses on the history of this place and time period, says that the Wampanoag saw all animals as equal. No animal was kept in confinement and could come and go as they pleased.
If a dog came with them to the Thanksgiving feast, we know for certain it came of its own free will.
No other animals besides the two dogs were specifically mentioned in records from the time period. That being said, it’s likely that the original pilgrims did bring with them some animals. There’s a record of a sick Wampanoag person in 1623, which would be difficult to do without a chicken. It’s also possible they brought pigs.
The Wampanoag did not keep farm animals, so it’s not likely that they brought other animals to the feast either.
Were there dogs at the first Thanksgiving feast?
While there’s no direct account of what the dogs were doing at the time the Wampanoag people and the surviving pilgrims came together, the answer is probably. If dogs from the 1600s are anything like the dogs of today, they would have found a way to worm their way into the feast with those soulful eyes for a bite of that Thanksgiving feast.
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