It’s that time of year again! The leaves are changing color, the air is getting crisper, and families all over the country are getting ready to feast on turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. Yes, it’s almost time for Thanksgiving!
This holiday has a long and storied history, dating all the way back to 1621 when the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans came together to celebrate a bountiful harvest. While the holiday has changed a lot since then—for instance, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863—one thing remains the same: pets have always been an important part of the festivities. Here’s a look at how our furry friends have played a role in Thanksgiving throughout the years.
Pets in Early Thanksgiving Celebrations
Pets were definitely present at the very first Thanksgiving feast back in 1621. In fact, one of the reasons the Pilgrims decided to settle in Plymouth, Massachusetts was because they had heard reports that there was an abundance of game, including rabbits and wild turkeys. These animals would have been essential to the meal, providing both meat and fur. There were two dogs that were brought over with the pilgrims that were a Mastiff and English Springer Spaniel. The Spaniel was used for hunting and the Mastiff was used as a guard dog.
Though turkeys were on the menu that first Thanksgiving, they were not considered the star of the show. That honor went to another animal that was also hunted for its fur: beavers. In his book Of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford wrote about how excited everyone was when they caught their first beaver, saying “it was as big as a good fat goose.” Beaver skins were so valuable that they were often used as currency, which is why many people believe that early Thanksgiving celebrations revolved around trading beaver pelts.
While we don’t see too many beavers at Thanksgiving these days (except maybe on TV!), turkeys have become synonymous with the holiday. In fact, it’s estimated that Americans will consume more than 50 million turkeys this year!
Hunting for Dinner
Americans have always been good hunters. We have learned from different cultures and perfected the craft. There are five states that have fall turkey seasons where the tradition of hunting Thanksgiving dinner is still prevalent and those states are; Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Virginia, New York and Kansas. There are quiet a few good hunting breeds, but English setters and pointers (especially those who prefer to flush birds and not hold point), Labrador retrievers (a flushing/retrieving breed), hard-running hounds like beagles, Brittanys and even mixed breeds are some of the most decent turkey dogs.
Even though there are some families in the U.S. that still practice the tradition of hunting Thanksgiving feasts with their dogs, in most homes, pets play a much different role in the celebrations. Instead of hunting for the meal, they’re typically treated to their own special feast or given some extra special attention while their humans enjoy their turkey dinner. If you are looking for some great pet-friendly treats to add to your feast, we have 3 great treat recipes for you here!
Some pet parents like to put out a small plate of food for their furry friend while they’re cooking or set up a little dog- or cat-friendly space at the kids’ table so their pet can join in on the fun. Others take advantage of having family in town by going on longer walks or taking their dog to a nearby park. And still others use Turkey Day as an opportunity to snap some cute photos of their dressed-up pet in front of fall foliage or snoozing next to a pumpkin pie. No matter how you choose to include your pet in the festivities this year, one thing is for sure—they’ll be happy just to be included!
Pets have always played an important role in Thanksgiving celebrations—and today is no different! This year, take some time to include your pet in all your holiday activities. Not only will they appreciate it, but you’ll create some cherished memories (and maybe even get a few likes on Instagram!) in the process. Happy Thanksgiving from the Braxton Family!