Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson 1743-1826

One of our greatest presidents is on the list of famous pit bull owners. There is one small problem. The pit bull terrier did not exist in Jefferson's lifetime. Therefore, if you believe that Thomas Jefferson owned pit bulls, you also acknowledge that bulldogs ARE pit bulls, something most bulldog and APBT fanciers are loathe to do.

Historical records indicate upon his return from France in 1789, Jefferson brought back French Shepherds and shortly after the turn of the century, General Lafayette gave Jefferson a couple of Briards to protect his sheep. Jefferson later imported Briards. There is also one very odd, very brief reference from a slave who stated that Jefferson owned two bulldogs. (possibly one of these bulldogs?)

Jefferson had little tolerance for dogs that brought harm to his sheep, regardless of whether the harm was done by his own dogs or those belonging to his slaves or his neighbors. Jefferson once ordered a dog hung for killing his sheep and he destroyed many of his own dogs who were described as "mischievous".

He was not so lucky with Grizzle, a second sheepdog sent to Monticello from Normandy in 1790. In 1796 Grizzle's line, which had proved "mischievous," was destroyed - all except Damon, who was kept out of mischief at the end of a chain.

No one has yet solved the mystery of what Bergère, Grizzle and their progeny looked like. Some have suggested they were long-tailed shaggy Briards. This breed, however, bears little resemblance to the chien de berger in Buffon's Histoire naturelle. In the only eyewitness account, which raises more questions than it answers, the slave Isaac remembered that Jefferson "had dogs named Ceres, Bull, Armandy, and Claremont; most of 'em French dogs; he brought 'em over with him from France. Bull and Ceres were bulldogs. He brought over Buzzy with him too; she pupped at sea: Armandy and Claremont, stump tails, both black." Buzzy was obviously Bergère, and Claremont - correctly Clermont - was no doubt one of her pups born on that vessel. Ceres may have been the second of Bergère's pups, named for the ship that had carried Jefferson in the opposite direction in 1784. Armandy was perhaps Norman, one of only three of Bergère's descendants left at Monticello in 1796; a fourth, Sancho, belonged to Thomas Mann Randolph. The reference to bulldogs is puzzling, since no other mention of the presence of this breed at Monticello has been found.

"I participate in all your hostility to dogs, and would readily join in any plan for exterminating the whole race. I consider them as the most afflicting of all the follies for which men tax themselves. but as total extirpation cannot be hoped for, let it be partial."


"To secure wool enough, the negroes dogs must all be killed. Do not spare a single one. ..Let this be carried into execution immediately."

Yep, sounds like Jefferson had experience with bulldogs.

Thomas Jefferson: an intimate history

American Presidents Dogs

Letter: Hostility to Dogs

Lafayette's Dogs

Thomas Jefferson Hated Dogs and Clergymen

American Pit Bull a documentary by Marilyn Braverman

Is an american bulldog a pit bull?


Small Survivors said...


Why does it all end so predictably? Could it be that the GRIPPERS are predictable?

I am very intrigued by the "negros dogs" no possessive apostrophe. may not be the dogs owned by slaves. May be the cuban bloodhounds used to control the slaves.

scurrilous amateur blogger said...

cubans, that's exactly what i thought snack.

Anonymous said...

Well...We now have three Presidents...Jefferson, Roosevelt and the Venezeula overthrow guy.

All three had Bully Disasters!

cinnamon2005 said...

Awesome findings! Was interesting reading.

scurrilous amateur blogger said...

thanks for the reminder vintage. i need to add jefferson to pit nutter blog.

packhorse said...

I have located some telling "gripping dog" scenes from Victorian-era comics. How can I submit them to this site?

scurrilous amateur blogger said...

you can email them to me directly or you can send me your email and i will in turn email you an invitation to blog here and you can post them here yourself.
either way, your input is much appreciated!

Rhea said...

snacksized dog
"I am very intrigued by the "negros dogs" no possessive apostrophe. may not be the dogs owned by slaves."

I think your conclusion is accurate, considering and correct me if I am wrong I believe slaves were not allowed to own any property and animals are property. Kind of like property (slaves) cannot own property (dogs) it may have been exactly your assessment that it was the dogs used to control the slaves not the dogs belonging to slaves.

Anonymous said...

interesting about the bull dog vs pitt argument.

Dog breeds and breeders did exist before the modern breed clubs.

For example, huskies did not become huskies when they were admitted into the AKC, or CKC. They existed almost exactly the same for hundreds if not 1,000 years or more.

Same with any number of older breeds. Rotteweilers are hundreds of years old, they almost went extinct if not for interest in them in WWI. Basically they almost died out before being a "breed", despite being a breed for hundreds of years.