When Thomas Jefferson crossed the Atlantic in November 1789, he brought to Virginia a small band of foreign emigrants. On board the Clermont with Jefferson, his two daughters, and enslaved siblings James Hemings and Sally Hemings, were over sixty European trees and three French dogs.

The day before he left the French port of Le Havre, Jefferson had been "roving thro the neighborhood of this place to try to get a pair of shepherd’s dogs. We walked 10. miles, clambering the cliffs in quest of the shepherds, during the most furious tempest of wind and rain I was ever in." He had stumbled on a suicide in his ramblings, but found no dogs.[1] The next day, however, the mission was accomplished, for Jefferson recorded in his memorandum book the payment of thirty-six livres (the equivalent of six dollars) for "a chienne bergere big with pup."[2]

Bergère, as she was thereafter known, whelped on the transatlantic passage, and she and her two puppies – along with figs, cork oaks, and larch trees – were installed at Monticello early in 1790. There were no flocks of sheep awaiting her supervision – animal husbandry was not on Jefferson's mind at this time. Bergère's employment was secondary to her role as founder of the American branch of her family. The shepherd's dog was on Jefferson's list of Old World animal species worthy of "colonizing" to the United States, along with the skylark, nightingale, and red-legged partridge, the hare and Angora rabbit, and the Angora goat.[3]

But why had he braved the equinoctial gales of the French coast to secure one of a species whose extinction he would enthusiastically endorse? "I participate in all your hostility to dogs," he wrote to Peter Minor in 1811, "and would readily join in any plan for exterminating the whole race."[4]

Whether or not Jefferson ever observed, while in Europe, the impressive sight of a sheepdog pursuing its pastoral occupations, he certainly read praise of its character by his favorite classical and modern authors. Varro devoted a whole chapter of Res Rusticae to this indispensable farmworker, including advice on feeding (barley bread soaked in milk) and flea prevention (infusion of bitter almonds).

The greatest acclaim came from the man Jefferson considered "the best informed Naturalist who has ever written," the Comte de Buffon. "M. de Buffon," stated an American encyclopedia, "has given a genealogical table of all the known dogs, in which he makes the chien de berger, or shepherd's dog, the origin of all, because it is naturally the most sensible." Jefferson may have disagreed with Buffon's theory that climate fashioned every other breed as a degeneration or refinement of the original species. He would nonetheless have read with interest the French naturalist's final assessment of this canine original. After praising its fidelity, Buffon noted that, while other dogs required instruction, the shepherd's dog was born, as it were, "tout élevé."  He concluded: "One is confirmed in the opinion that this dog is the true dog of Nature, the one she has given us for the greatest utility, the one ... finally that must be regarded as the root and model of the entire species."

Other accounts commended the sheepdog's "philosophic" nature and its devotion to its work – "instinctively prone to industry," as one writer noted. The qualities of utility, fidelity, sagacity, philosophy, and industry would have been irresistible to Jefferson, and Bergère seems to have lived up to her publicity. Tales "illustrative of her reasoning powers" survived until the 1850s when Henry Randall heard the following story from one of Jefferson's granddaughters: "Having had assigned to her, among her 'constitutional functions,' the office of gathering up the poultry at nightfall, and seeing them 'folded,' and having observed that it is the nature of the feathered tribe to go to roost on cloudy days earlier than on others, she adapted her government to the character of her subjects and used, in such weather, to drive them up without regard to the hour of sunset."[5] Bergère's offspring were described by Jefferson as "all remarkeably quiet, faithful, and abounding in the good qualities of the old bitch." 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.[6]

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 enslaved blacksmith Isaac Granger Jefferson remembered that Jefferson "had dogs named Ceres, Bull, Armandy, & Claremont; most of em French dogs; he brought em over with him from France. Bull & Ceres were bulldogs; he brought over Buzzy with him too; she pupped at sea: Armandy & Claremont, Stump-tails—both black."[7] 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 Jefferson's son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph. The reference to bulldogs is puzzling, since no other mention of the presence of this breed at Monticello has been found.

In 1791, Thomas Mann Randolph brought a wolf to Monticello to compare lupine and canine behavior. He noted that the wolf dined heartily on persimmons, enjoyed caressing and provoked attention "by the same arts" as a dog, but had "much less command over its tail." It seemed far less rapacious than the wolf of Europe, as it was shy of horses and cows, and showed no interest in calves and hogs, "but was very eager and alert in the pursuit of fowls." Extending his inquiry to an area that had baffled the efforts of Buffon, Randolph planned to mate the wolf with a dog and study the results. The sheepdogs of Monticello were spared such an alliance and the wolf was sent "down the country" for the experiment.[8]

There was still a bounty on wolves in the frontier parts of Virginia, and in the older settlements the dog had stepped into the wolf's role as marauder of livestock. In 1792 Jefferson wrote about the problems of raising sheep: "In the middle and upper parts of Virginia they are subject to the wolf, and in all parts of it to dogs. These are great obstacles to their multiplication."[9] A law for the protection of sheep enacted in the 1750s prohibited slaves from taking their dogs out of their own plantations. Exempt from this interdiction was a slave taking his owner's "hounds, spaniels, pointing or setting dogs, for his ... diversion." And, "whereas dogs frequently ramble from home, and destroy great numbers of sheep, and some persons are so unneighborly as to refuse their being killed," known offenders could be dispatched at the order of the justice of peace.[10]

From 1809, when the Spanish merino began to be imported into the United States and raising sheep became the favorite endeavor of "improving" farmers, dog laws began to spring up all over. Pennsylvanians actually laid a tax on dogs, progressively higher for owners of more than one animal. In 1810 Judge Richard Peters stood before the Philadelphia Agricultural Society and gave an unabridged account of canine killing of sheep. Admitting that "many dogs are faithful and useful animals" and that there "should be no hue and cry, or ill founded prejudices, indiscriminately raised against them," Peters came to his main point: "they are kept in too great numbers, and of breeds, in many instances, worthless; and many, being ill fed and hungry at home, are compelled to prowl for sustenance. It should be made disgraceful and uncivic, in those who keep supernumerary, worthless, or starved dogs."[11]

Word of the Pennsylvania law reached Peter Minor in Albemarle County. His letter proposing regulation of Virginia dogs elicited from Jefferson the philippic of 1811 already partially quoted. It continued: "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. I like well your outlines of a law for this purpose: but should we not add a provision for making the owner of a dog liable for all the mischeif done by him, and requiring that every dog shall wear a collar with the name of the person inscribed who shall be security for his honest demeanor?"[4]

A dog tax was almost enacted in Virginia in 1814 (Jefferson ordered his Poplar Forest overseer to reduce the dog population to two if it passed), but the licensing of dogs was nearly a century away.[13] No dog collars with Jefferson's name on them have survived (only a chain marked "Trench"), but he practiced his own brand of self-regulation. In 1808, by which time sheep grazed in large numbers on the mountain, Jefferson wrote his overseer that "to secure wool enough, the negroes dogs must all be killed. do not spare a single one."[14] Even the vaunted caretakers of sheep could become their destroyers. In 1815 a female shepherd's dog Jefferson had promised to his brother was caught in the act of eating a sheep and summarily "hung." As Jefferson wrote, even sheepdogs, if neglected and poorly fed, will "prowl for themselves" and "their sagacity renders them the most destructive marauders imaginable. you will see your flock of sheep & of hogs disappearing from day to day, without ever being able to detect them in it."[15]

The art of feeding a dog was one which many Americans, it is apparent, did not master. In Richard Peters's opinion, "not only sheep killing, but diseases and madness, in dogs, are frequently effects, either immediate or consequent, of keen and long continued hunger; which stimulates to gorging voraciously on whatever esculent they find."[16] From this latter habit came the medical term, "canine appetite," which Jefferson used in surprising ways in his correspondence. He referred to the Marquis de Lafayette's "canine appetite for popularity and fame" and his own "canine appetite for reading."[17]

Jefferson considered canine madness, or rabies, "the most distressing" of all human diseases. Commending James Mease in 1792 for his Inaugural Dissertation on the Disease Produced by the Bite of a Mad Dog, he suggested that some enterprising soul might "confine in a safe place a number of animals, communicating the disease successively to them, and subjecting them to various treatments till some one should be found the success of which might be relied on. The experimentalist who should be succesful in establishing by multiplied trials a certain method of cure, would merit an altar."[18] Almost a century would pass before Louis Pasteur successfully cured a case of hydrophobia with inoculation.

Jefferson's own dogs, fortunately, remained for the most part both rational and useful. In 1809 a third family of French shepherd's dogs arrived at Monticello. By this time valuable flocks of sheep grazed in the fields of farmers throughout the country. Their canine attendants were suddenly in great demand. Jefferson urged Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours to bring back "a couple of pair of true-bred Shepherd's dogs. You will add a valuable possession to a country now beginning to pay great attention to the raising sheep."[19] Isaac A. Coles, Jefferson's former secretary, was commissioned to procure in France some dogs for Monticello. The selection was made by the Marquis de Lafayette from the neighborhood of his estate La Grange, where, as Coles reported, "the breed was said to be most pure."[20]

This pair of dogs crossed the Atlantic on the Mentor and arrived at Monticello in September by batteau from Richmond. Jefferson immediately began to get applications for their offspring. A female – reared on a diet of cornbread – was sent to Joseph Dougherty, Jefferson's former coachman at the President's House. William Thornton, who confessed himself "very sheepishly inclined,"[21] was to have a male. Unfortunately, it did not survive being tied up "in the broiling sun one broiling day" at Monticello. Thornton thanked Jefferson for the intended gift and philosophically observed that "fate seems to have destined his Services to some celestial Shepherd." He also remarked on its extraordinary size – two and a half feet high (the chien de berger illustrated by Buffon was only two and a half feet long).[22]

The female sent by Lafayette in 1809 was a fully educated working dog. She was immediately put to work in the Monticello fields, which had no interior fences – only rows of peach trees planted in the 1790s. In 1810 Jefferson wrote that he had "a person now to follow my sheep, & with the aid of the bitch I recieved from France, perfectly trained, they have the benefit of fine pastures in which they could not run but for the facility she gives of keeping them from the grain in the same fields."[23]

Word of the Monticello shepherd's dogs spread to the west. Judge Harry Innes asked for a pair to populate the state of Kentucky.[24] In his reply Jefferson evaluated the breed: "their extraordinary sagacity renders them extremely valuable, capable of being taught almost any duty that may be required of them, and the most anxious in the performance of that duty, the most watchful & faithful of all servants." Listing the labors of his own dogs, he raises yet another image of scurrying poultry on the mountaintop. His dogs, he wrote, "learn readily to go for the cows of an evening, or for the sheep, to drive up the chickens, ducks, turkies every one into their own house, to keep forbidden animals from the yard, all of themselves and at the proper hour, and are the most watchful house-dogs in the world."[25]

By "housedog" Jefferson did not apparently mean a pet with access to the family living quarters. One of Bergères' puppies did, in fact, gain entrance to Monticello in 1795, when Martha Jefferson Randolph and Thomas Mann Randolph left their children with Jefferson while they visited a distant plantation. The grandfather, recurring to Greek, wrote the parents that he was alarmed by two-year-old Thomas Jefferson Randolph's "kuno-phobia." He decided "to take a puppy into the house to cure him by forcing a familiarity to the form and safety of the animal."[26]

If not quite pets, then, the sheepdogs from France were still part of daily life at Monticello. In 1790 Jefferson had written from Philadelphia to his daughter that "there is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me, nor any thing that moves, from yourself down to Bergère or Grizzle."[27] Martha, in her turn, provided her father with news of Bergère's annual litters in the same breath with accounts of the growth of the Monticello chestnuts and sugar maple trees and the latest accomplishments of her children.[28] For more than thirty years the immigrants from France were "carefully multiplied" by distribution to brothers, sons-in-law, grandchildren, neighbors, and friends, as Jefferson sought to spread throughout America "the most careful intelligent dogs in the world."[29]


Primary Source References

1789 October 7. (Jefferson to William Short). "I was yesterday roving thro the neighborhood of this place to try to get a pair of shepherd's dogs. We walked 10. miles, clambering the cliffs in quest of the shepherds, during the most furious tempest of wind and rain I was ever in. The journey was fruitless."[30]

1789 October 7. "Pd. for a chienne bergere big with pup 36 [livres]."[2]

1789 November 21. (Jefferson to Nathaniel Cutting). "Our plants, chienne bergere and her little ones merveille."[32]

1789 November 21. (Jefferson to William Short). "My plants and shepherd dogs are well."[33]

1789 December 12. (Delamotte to Jefferson). "By means of Some friends in lower Normandy I procured Some Shepherd’s Dogs and had Sent me a Bitch and four Puppies."[34]

1789 December 15. (Alexander Donald to Jefferson). "I sincerely hope that this letter will find you safe arrived at Monticello. ... Your Puppies are thriving apace. I wish I could with truth say so much of their Mamma. I shall not have much Credit by her, she is regularly fed, and has plenty of water by her."[35]

1790 June 27. (Jefferson to Delamotte). "I am to thank you for the trouble you have taken to procure me the Shepherd's dog and bitch. The bitch I bought the day I left Havre produced two puppies on our passage, which with their mother I carried safely to my own house and left them there alive and well: so that I am tolerably secure of the breed."[36]

1791 May 1. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "I shall be glad to have a pair of puppies of the Shephard's dog selected for the President."[37]

1791 July 7. (Thomas Mann Randolph to Jefferson). "You have not been more fortunate in your attempt to render the Shepherds dog common in America. We have had seven of pure blood, five of which perished by a distemper which has allmost rendered any regulation of the Virginia Assembly with respect to Dogs unnecessary; one by accident and one, fortunately a male, has arrived at considerable size. A Spurious brood of Six has been more fortunate and is not disregarded, as perhaps the animals may have some value with you."[38]

1792 May 27. (Martha Jefferson Randolph to Jefferson). "Bergère has six fine little puppies, all of which I am in hopes of being able to raise. They have been peculiarly unlucky with those in the past I believe. They have had no less than thirteen this spring of which six are dead probably starved to death."[39]

1793 May 16. (Martha Jefferson Randolph to Jefferson). "Bergère has ad[d]ed one to the number of genuine shepherds. The mungrels encrease upon us daily."[40]

1795 January 29. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "Jefferson’s kunophobia appearing to increase so as to become troublesome, and almost a subject of uneasiness, we have determined to take a puppy into the house to cure him by forcing a familiarity to the form and safety of the animal. This is but the 2d. day of the experiment, so that we cannot yet judge of it’s operation."[41]

1795 February 5. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "Jefferson is under daily discipline with our puppy. He mends a little of his fear, but very slowly."[42]

1796 March 13. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "A word on the subject of our breed of Shepherd’s dogs. Every individual of old Grizzle’s breed has proved so mischievous that we have been obliged to kill the whole except Damon who is kept chained; and we remark that not a single instance has been known of any such disposition in Bergère's family. On the contrary they are all remarkeably quiet, faithful, and abounding in the good qualities of the old bitch. This observation renders her breed extremely precious, and it now consists in two bitches and a dog here, and the dog (Sancho) which you have. We are collecting them at the top of the mountain, and I mention all this to you lest you should part with Sancho, in which case if any thing happens to Norman, the breed will be lost. It would therefore be desireable that your dog should return with you and remain with us till the breed is multiplied."[43]

[ca. 1799 December 21]. (Memorandum to Richard Richardson). "Jupiter is to move into the North Square cellar room ... for the safeguard of the house. In the mean time he should sleep in the dining room or the South Square cellar room, and have a dog."[44]

1809 March 2. (Jefferson to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours). "[I]f you return to us, bring a couple of pair of true-bred Shepherd’s dogs. you will add a valuable possession to a country now beginning to pay great attention to the raising sheep."[45]

1809 August 22. (Jefferson to George Jefferson). "The Marquis Fayette has sent me a pair of Shepherd's dogs by a mr Waddell in the Mentor. mr Waddell was to send them on to you. I will thank you for your usual particular attention to them, & to send them up by a careful boatman."[46]

1809 September 1. (George Jefferson to Jefferson). "I some days since sent on your two dogs by Thomas Becks, having paid him 2$ for their feed, & for his trouble in carrying them up—as he said he was short of provisions, & had nothing to spare them. he promised to feed them well, & to take great care of them."[47]

1809 November 16. (William Thornton to Jefferson). "Capt. Coles informed me of the increase of your Shepherds Dogs, and that it was your wish to extend the Breed. I should have expressed a wish to have a pair, but I knew you had many Friends who would perhaps have the same Inclination, & I thought it better to wait. If hereafter you could favour me with the Breed I should be thankful, for I am very sheepishly inclined."[48]

1809 November 23. (Jefferson to William Thornton). "The Marseilles fig, & Shepherd’s dogs shall be attended to in due time. the difficulty will be how to get the latter to you. the first brood has been disposed of. another may be expected by February."[49]

1810 [June] 27. (Jefferson to William Thornton). "I have reserved the pair of dogs for yourself & mr Dougherty, and will send them to mr Madison’s as you desire, when I send for my Merinos. besides their wonderful sagacity & never ceasing attention to what they are taught to do, they appear to have more courage than I had before supposed that race to possess. they make the best farm dogs or house dogs I have ever seen. ... I propose the male of the dogs for yourself, as Dougherty will have more leisure to attend to the raising litters from the female, & may make them an article of profit not unacceptable to him."[50]

1810 May 24. (Jefferson to Joseph Dougherty). "I shall keep my flock under my own eye; I have been obliged to do this for some time with my present race [of Merino sheep], keeping a person constantly following them, attended by the Shepherd’s bitch I recieved from France, perfectly trained to the business. they have now the benefit of as fine pastures as can be, the dog keeping them from injuring the grain in the same inclosures. as Dr Thornton had asked one of those dogs as well as yourself, I have kept a pair of the first litter, & been constantly on the watch for an opportunity of sending them to you; but I have had none, & see no immediate prospect of one. but as they are now of full growth, and it is very embarrasing to have so many, I believe I must give them to some other applicant, & save a pair of the next litter for you. ... both the pair I have kept for you lead very well. ... the female is a very fine animal indeed, full of intelligence and spirit. she could go the first. the dog has got a leg hurt, so that he could not probably go for 3. or 4. weeks. ... P.S. will you propose this to Dr Thornton who will probably join you in an effort to get them."[51]

1810 May 24. (Jefferson to William Thornton). "I have not been unmindful of your request for a shepherd’s dog, & having been also asked for one by Joseph Dougherty, I had reserved a pair of the first1 litter & have been constantly on the watch for some means of conveying them to Washington. but none has occurred, nor have I any prospect of one, and the dogs being now full grown and it being embarrassing to have so many, I must, I fear, give them to another applicant, and leave you to be provided for from the next generation. ... I have a person now to follow my sheep, & with the aid of the bitch I recieved from France, perfectly trained, they have the benefit of fine pastures in which they could not run but for the facility she gives of keeping them from the grain in the same fields."[52]

1810 June 1. (Joseph Dougherty to Jefferson). "Sir, I have made all possible enquiry respecting the post rider you make mention ... but can hear of none .... I can think of no other way of getting the dog you were so good as to give me, but by going for him, and this I would freely do, If my circumstances would admit it. but as I am struggling to pay some money I owe to the bank, and some to Mr du Pont, I cannot feel any inclination to part with money for any other purpose whatever, althoug I consider the dog as a verry valueable present—an would give any thing that I could spare, to get him here, I do not know whether Doctr Thornton will send for the one you offer to him or not, as he appears to make but light of the present, he would much rat[her] you would give him your merino ram &c. &c. &c. The Doctr askd me whether I would have the male or female I answered, that which one mr Jefferson chuse to give me I wold be Satisfied with."[53]

1810 June 8. (William Thornton to Jefferson). "I am much obliged by your kindness in reserving one of the Sheep dogs for me, and if not yet disposed of in consequence of not meeting with a good conveyance hither I must request your further kindness in sending them by the messenger you will despatch for your Merinos to the President’s, whose Manager Mr Gouch will be so good as to take care of them till he come up with the President’s Waggon in the Fall; or Mr Barry, who formerly painted for you will be so obliging as to bring them from the President’s where he is to go in a few Days to paint.—I am now more desirous of having one of them because I have joined Judge Cranch in the Purchase of a Merino Ram .... If you have parted with the young Dog, and if the Bitch is reserved I should prefer her, and if both are already disposed of I shall be obliged for one of the next litter.—If neither are yet disposed of Mr Dougherty & I shall endeavour to extend the Breed as useful Appendages to the breeders of Merinos."[54]

1810 June 27. (Jefferson to Joseph Dougherty). "I have informed the Doctr I would do so and that I destined the dog for him, as I thought you would have more leisure to attend to raising genuine litters from the bitch, and might justly make them an article of profit, for those who mean to raise many sheep will be eager to get them. I did not add what however is the truth that the bitch is of much superior character to the dog, of much more sagacity, watchfulness and energy. the bitch I recieved from France was ready trained & is of infinite value in tending the sheep. they are the finest house dogs & farm dogs I have ever seen."[55]

1810 July 13. (Jefferson to James Madison). "I have a pair of Shepherd’s dogs for Dr Thornton. he desired me to send them to mr Gooch’s your overseer who would keep them till mr Barry or your waggon would be going to Washington. but as you will probably have a rider coming weekly to Montpelier, & the dogs lead well both, I should think he might carry them conveniently for a small premium from the doctor. I shall send them when I send for the sheep. they are most valuable dogs. their sagacity is almost human, and qualifies them to be taught any thing you please."[56]

1810 July 26. (Jefferson to James Madison). "[O]ne of the dogs, the male, intended for Washington, died on the very day I wrote to you. the other shall be sent to mr Gooch."[57]

1810 August 3. (Jefferson to Gideon Gooch). "I had a pair of Shepherd's dogs here for Dr Thornton, which he desired me to send to you, and said you would be so good as to take care of them & forward them to Washington either by mr Barry when he returned, or by the President’s waggon. ... the dog has since died. the bitch is now sent. she has been always kept tied, and fed with Indian bread alone. she is young of extraordinary sagacity, has been taught nothing, but is capable of learning any thing."[58]

1810 September 4. (William Thornton to Jefferson). " ... I am exceedingly indebted to you for the very kind present you made me of the Sheep dog, as much so indeed as if he had arrived safely in this city, but Fate seems to have destined his Services for some celestial Shephard ... I had no Idea till Mr Barry arrived that the Dogs you had raised for Mr. Dougherty and myself were of so large a kind. I think from the Description and the intelligence they possess they must originally have been derived from the Newfoundland Dog. It is I have no doubt of great value."[59]

1810 December 6. (Joseph Dougherty to Jefferson). "I received the bitch which you were so good as to send to me by Mr Madison,s manager some time a,go .... I have had no oppertunity to prove the merits of the bitch since my return from N.Y: will you be so good sir, as to inform me if she has had any practise with any of your dogs that is properly trained."[60]

1810 December 13. (Jefferson to Joseph Dougherty). "[T]he bitch I sent you had never had training of any kind. the value of the breed is in their capability of being taught any thing you please. she appeared to me extremely sagacious. as she is with you, I will avail myself of the first opportunity of sending a dog to Dr Thornton."[61]

1811 March 24. (Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes). "Mar. 26 ... [Francis] carries also some me [...] and a male puppy of the Shepherd’s breed."[62]

1811 September 17. (Peter Minor to Jefferson). "I have taken the liberty of sending You the enclosed 'Projet of a Law to encourage the raising of Sheep' .... The principal features I have taken from the Pennsylvania Dog Law .... Since the introduction of the Merino & other valuable breeds of Sheep, I think it particularly behoves us to guard against their destruction by dogs. But Independent of their propensity to destroy Sheep, why should we not endeavour to diminish a race of Animals, which to make the best of them, are a nuisance, but when considered in a state of madness are certainly as great a curse as can visit us?"[63]

1811 September 24. (Jefferson to Peter Minor). "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. ... should we not add a provision for making the owner of a dog liable for all the mischeif done by him, and requiring that every dog shall wear a collar with the name of the person inscribed who shall be security for his honest demeanor?"[64]

1812 February 8. (Randolph Jefferson to Jefferson). "[I]f your shepards bitch has any more puppys I must Git the favour of you to save me one dog puppy."[65]

1812 May 20. (Marquis de Lafayette to Jefferson). "Have you Ever Received two Shepherd's dogs which I Sent at the time of mr Coles's Return to the U.S. altho', I think, By an other vessel?"[66]

1812 June 27. (William Thornton to Jefferson). "[Your Servant Davy] informed me you have some Pups from your Sheep Dogs—If they are not engaged & should not be wanted by you, I should be much obliged by a pair of them, or if two cannot be spared at present a dog would do."[67]

1812 July 3. (Jefferson to William Thornton). "I had not a male puppy of the Shepherd dog when I sent the cart, or I would have sent one, for I thought of it, & recollected the death of the former one a little before the opportunity when the bitch was sent. I will not be unmindful when an opportunity occurs."[68]

1813 August 9. (Harry Innes to Jefferson). "Since your return from Europe I have heard it repeatedly stated that you had imported the genuine Shepherds dog & occasionally distributed them among your friends. ... If my information is correct & you still possess that species of Dog to spare, will it be possible to obtain a male & female either puppies or others. ... The request of two dogs may appear avaricious—but it is to secure the breed to our country for a common good as the remoteness of our situation from the Seaboard renders the obtaining such animals difficult & uncertain."[69]

1813 September 18. (Jefferson to Harry Innes). "Your information is correct that we possess here the genuine race of Shepherd dogs. I imported them from France about 4. years ago. they were selected for me by the Marquis Fayette, and I have endeavored to secure their preservation by giving them, always in pairs, to those who wished them. I have 4. pair myself at different places, where I suffer no other dog to be; and there are others in the neighborhood. I have no doubt therefore that from some of these we can furnish a pair, or perhaps two, at any time when Judge Todd can send for them; ... they learn readily to go for the cows of an evening, or for the sheep, to drive up the chickens, ducks, turkies every one into their own house, to keep forbidden animals from the yard, all of themselves and at the proper hour, and are the most watchful house-dogs in the world."[70]

1813 November 30. (Jefferson to Marquis de Lafayette). "[T]he Sheperd dogs mentioned in yours of May 20. arrived safely, have been carefully multiplied, and are spreading in this and the neighboring states where the increase of our sheep is greatly attended to."[71]

1814 February 3. (Jefferson to Jeremiah Goodman). "I am told the assembly has laid a tax on all dogs over two at every planta[t]ion. I am not yet sure of the fact, but if it be true, every dog over that number at each plantation must be killed as soon as it is ascertained. you will know from the members when they return home or from the newspapers."[72]

1815 February 13. (Randolph Jefferson to Jefferson). "I have concluded to send over Squire, after the bitch that you was so good to give me, when I was over as I should be extreemly [happy] to get her, if she has not pupt, or if she has and he can make out to bring her and some of the pupies. I can send over for the rest at [Easter] .... if the bitch has no more then too Squire can bring them him self."[73]

1816 February 16. (Jefferson to Randolph Jefferson). "[T]he bitch I had given you was caught in the very act of eating a sheep which she had killed. she was immediately hung, and as we had a fine litter at the same time from another bitch, I preserved one of them for you, which Squire is now gone for and will carry over to you."[74]

1816 May 10. (Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes). "I send you by Francis a female puppy of the Shepherd’s dog breed. the next year I can give you a male. the most careful intelligent dogs in the world. excellent for the house or plantation."[75]

- Lucia C. Stanton, 1989. Originally published as "Mad Dogs and Faithful Servants," in Fall Dinner at Monticello, November 3, 1989, in Memory of Thomas Jefferson, Monticello Keepsakes 46 (Charlottesville: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, 1989).


  1. ^ Jefferson to William Short, October 7, 1789, in PTJ, 15:506. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  2. ^ MB, 1:745. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  3. ^ See Jefferson to James Madison, October 18, 1785, in PTJ, 8:683 (transcription available at Founders Online); Jefferson's Instructions for Procuring Household Goods, April 6, 1790, in PTJ, 16:322 (transcription available at Founders Online); Jefferson to James Monroe, May 26, 1795, in PTJ, 28:362 (transcription available at Founders Online).
  4. ^ Jefferson to Minor, September 24, 1811, in PTJ:RS, 4:170. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  5. ^ Randall, Life2:15.
  6. ^ Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph, March 13, 1796, in PTJ, 29:26. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  7. ^ Isaac Jefferson [Granger], Memoirs of a Monticello Slave, ed. Rayford W. Logan (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1951), 33.
  8. ^ Thomas Mann Randolph to Jefferson, March 14, 1791, in PTJ, 19:555-56. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  9. ^ Notes on Arthur Young’s Letter to George Washington, June 18, 1792, in PTJ, 24:96. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  10. ^ William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large, Vol. VI (Richmond: J. & G. Cochran, 1819), 295.
  11. ^ Richard Peters, "On Sheep-killing Dogs," Memoirs of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture: Containing Communications On Various Subjects In Husbandry & Rural Affairs (Philadelphia: Johnson & Warner), 2:251.
  12. ^ Jefferson to Minor, September 24, 1811, in PTJ:RS, 4:170. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  13. ^ Jefferson to Jeremiah A. Goodman, February 3, 1814, in PTJ:RS, 7:180. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  14. ^ Jefferson to Edmund Bacon, December 26, 1808, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Huntington Library. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  15. ^ Jefferson to Harry Innes, September 18, 1813, in PTJ:RS, 6:511. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  16. ^ Peters, "On Sheep-killing Dogs," 2:249.
  17. ^ Jefferson to James Madison, January 30, 1787, in PTJ, 11:95 (transcription available at Founders Online); Jefferson to John Adams, May 17, 1818, in PTJ:RS, 13:48 (transcription available at Founders Online).
  18. ^ Jefferson to Mease, May 31, 1792, in PTJ, 23:620. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  19. ^ Jefferson to Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours, March 2, 1809, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  20. ^ Coles to Jefferson, July 26, 1809, in PTJ:RS, 1:376. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  21. ^ Thornton to Jefferson, November 16, 1809, in PTJ:RS, 2:3. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  22. ^ Thornton to Jefferson, September 4, 1810, in PTJ:RS, 3:63. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  23. ^ Jefferson to Thornton, May 24, 1810, in PTJ:RS, 2:413. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  24. ^ Innes to Jefferson, August 9, 1813, in PTJ:RS, 6:369-71. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  25. ^ Jefferson to Innes, September 18, 1813, in PTJ:RS, 6:511-12. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  26. ^ Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph, January 29, 1795, in PTJ, 28:251. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  27. ^ Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph, December 23, 1790, in PTJ, 18:350. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  28. ^ See, e.g., Martha Jefferson Randolph to Jefferson, May 27, 1792, in PTJ, 23:547. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  29. ^ Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes, May 10, 1810, in PTJ:RS, 2:378. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  30. ^ PTJ, 15:506. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  31. ^ MB, 1:745. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  32. ^ PTJ, 15:552. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  33. ^ PTJ, 15:553. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  34. ^ PTJ, 16:18. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  35. ^ PTJ, 16:30. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  36. ^ PTJ, 16:576. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  37. ^ PTJ, 20:341. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  38. ^ PTJ, 20:606. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  39. ^ PTJ, 23:547. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  40. ^ PTJ, 26:53-54. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  41. ^ PTJ, 28:251. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  42. ^ PTJ, 28:260. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  43. ^ PTJ, 29:26-27. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  44. ^ PTJ, 31:270-71. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  45. ^ Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  46. ^ PTJ:RS, 1:457. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  47. ^ PTJ:RS, 1:483. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  48. ^ PTJ:RS, 2:3. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  49. ^ PTJ:RS, 2:32. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  50. ^ PTJ:RS, 2:492-93. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  51. ^ PTJ:RS, 2:409. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  52. ^ PTJ:RS, 2:413. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  53. ^ PTJ:RS, 2:431. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  54. ^ PTJ:RS, 2:456. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  55. ^ PTJ:RS, 2:490. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  56. ^ PTJ:RS, 2:511-12. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  57. ^ PTJ:RS, 2:569. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  58. ^ PTJ:RS, 2:666. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  59. ^ PTJ:RS, 3:63. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  60. ^ PTJ:RS, 3:241. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  61. ^ PTJ:RS, 3:252. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  62. ^ PTJ:RS, 3:502-03. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  63. ^ PTJ:RS, 4:161. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  64. ^ PTJ:RS, 4:170. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  65. ^ PTJ:RS, 4:481. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  66. ^ PTJ:RS, 5:69. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  67. ^ PTJ:RS, 5:181. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  68. ^ PTJ:RS, 5:209-10. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  69. ^ PTJ:RS, 6:369-70. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  70. ^ PTJ:RS, 6:511-12. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  71. ^ PTJ:RS, 7:13. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  72. ^ PTJ:RS, 7:179-80. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  73. ^ PTJ:RS, 8:257-58. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  74. ^ PTJ:RS, 8:272. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  75. ^ PTJ:RS, 2:378. Transcription available at Founders Online.