2017-11-29 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Did you know 12 US states have official state dog breeds? Before you read any further, try to think of the breeds associated with Alaska and Massachusetts because they are the most obvious choices.

Most of the state legislatures chose their official dog because the breed was indigenous or first developed in their state. These include:

*Maryland was the first state to designate a state dog in 1964. The Chessie is an All American breed by way of a maritime catastrophe. In 1807, two unrelated St. Johns Newfoundland pups were rescued when an English sailing vessel shipwrecked off the Maryland coast. A black male was given to the governor while a red female went to a doctor. Both dogs were bred but not to each other. Over the years their pups were crossed with dogs from prestigious, local kennels and eventually the aquatic sporting breed we now know as the Chesapeake Bay Retriever was refined.


The striking Catahoula Leopard Dog is the state breed of Louisiana. The striking Catahoula Leopard Dog is the state breed of Louisiana. *Virginia selected the American Foxhound in 1966. Foxhounds were first imported from Europe around 1650. One hundred years later the American Foxhound strain became a favorite of the upper class including George Washington.

*Massachusetts adopted the Boston Terrier as the breed of the commonwealth in 1979. The Boston Terrier nicknamed the American Gentleman was the first true creation of a purebred dog in the US. Imported about 1870, “Hooper’s Judge,” a cross between a white English Terrier and English Bulldog, is called the ancestor of the breed.

*Alaska selected the Malamute when prompted by school children in 2007. A kindergartener convinced her representative of the idea’s merits, and the law passed in 2010. Early Malamutes followed the people who migrated from Siberia to Alaska 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. The dogs and people became friendly, and together they survived the most difficult weather conditions.

*New Hampshire boasts of the Chinook, a rare sled dog developed in the northwest corner of the state. Arthur T. Walden created the breed as a tawny, tall, powerful sled dog. His foundation dogs were descendants of Admiral Peary’s lead Husky and a Mastiff-type farm dog who produced three pups in 1917. Again schoolchildren were successful in their campaign to get the Chinook accepted as a symbol of their state in 2009.

*North Carolina chose the Plott because it was the only breed indigenous to the state. Plotts were originally bred to hunt wild boar. In 1750 Johannes Plott, a German immigrant, settled in the NC mountains. He brought several of his boar hunting Hounds from Europe. Over generations, Plott and his descendants refined the breed into the muscular, brindle hunting dog of today.

*South Carolina designated the Boykin Spaniel in 1985. In the early 1900s South Carolina hunters were looking for a rugged dog to hunt ducks and wild turkeys in the Wateree River Swamp. Hunters used a small, take-apart boat so they needed a compact dog. A well-known sportsman, L. W. Boykin, experimented with many breeds until years of selective breeding developed this multipurpose retriever.

*Louisiana selected a native breed in 1979. The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog originated in the state as a strong dog able to drive hogs to market. These dogs can weigh up to 95 pounds and often have a striking spotted or patched coat with light green eyes.

*Texas has its own breed. The Texas Blue Lacy was perfected as a stock dog by the Lacy family in Texas in the mid-19th century. Records indicate Greyhound, various scent hounds and coyote were part of its heritage. In 2001, it was recognized in the Texas senate as a “true Texas breed.” In 2005, it was designated the official state dog.

*Wisconsin can thank eighth graders from New London for their state dog. A New London physician, Dr. Fred J. Pfeifer, is credited with developing and standardizing the American Water Spaniel and working to secure United Kennel Club registration for it in 1920. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1940.

*Pennsylvania has a familiar state dog. The Great Dane was chosen in 1965. They were used as hunting and working dogs in frontier PA. A portrait of William Penn and his Great Dane hangs in the Governor’s reception room. The resolution states: “Whereas, the Great Dane came from England just as did William Penn and later was further developed by Germany just as was Pennsylvania by the “Pennsylvania Dutch.”

*Delaware doesn’t have a direct connection to the Golden Retriever, but the state does have persuasive fourth graders who wrote letters to their legislators. The resolution was only for a year and may have expired last August.

Additional bids for state dogs have failed. Washington tried to adopt the Siberian Husky. Surprisingly, the idea of the Cairn Terrier (Toto) as state dog “didn’t get off the ground” in Kansas, the setting for the Wizard of Oz. Other states have been more general and compassionate. New York recognizes all service and working dogs, while Colorado, Illinois, Georgia and Tennessee honor all dogs (and cats) adopted from shelters in the state.

Cats demand to be proclaimed special too. Maryland distinguishes the calico; Massachusetts the tabby and, of course, the Maine Coon Cat reigns in Maine.

Last Hope Adoptable Dogs- 3300 Beltagh Ave., Wantagh, open seven days from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.: Originally a stray at Brookhaven Shelter, “Comet” resembles a purebred Plott but is a bit petite for a male. He is brindle, long-legged and has the trademark Plott ear set. He is a great dog for an athletic person. “Howi,” a small Lab mix, came to Last Hope from a Virginia shelter. He was found as a stray with deep scrapes on his torso. Animal control there believed he may have had a close encounter with a bear. “Howi” is heartworm positive and will begin his treatment soon. Last Hope is looking for a foster or forever home to help Hank convalesce before he is allowed to run and play. Call 631-671-2588.

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