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The Newfoundland Named Seaman and the Lewis and Clark Expedition

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Tags: Newfoundland, Dogs in History, Orgins

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Being well known for their swimming ability and rescuing instinct, Newfoundlands have a distinction in history that separates them from other breeds. The breed's loyal and easy temperament plus its physical prowess lead one of its own to famously become a part of the pioneering efforts taken by William Cark and Meriwether Lewis. Lewis and Clark's journey to the western portion of America was conducted in the early 1800s and they were accompanied by a remarkable Newfoundland dog they had named "Seaman".

Seaman was a dog that we know existed in history because of diaries kept by members of the Lewis and Clark team. It was stated that this Newfoundland was courageous and helpful to the team in many ways during the journey. One story is recounted about the instance where Seaman protected the others on the expedition from a bear. Newfoundlands are usually rescuing drowning victims, but in both instances the Newfoundland is keenly aware of life being at risk and he takes action.

The diaries reveal that Lewis and Clark's team was not just biased in their praise and admiration for Seaman. An Indian that they met on their journey offered to barter in order to gain ownership of Seaman. Lewis refused the deal and spoke for the whole team who by that time felt as if Seaman was their dog and mascot. During the expedition, the team's loyalty to Seaman was tested when he received a beaver bite. Both Clark and Lewis stepped up to the plate and performed surgery on one of Seaman's legs, thus saving his life.

For many years, because of the sometimes illegible writing in the expedition journals, Seaman was referred to "Scannon" by historians and laymen alike. Ink had been smudged in the diary and thus the mistake had been uncovered. But that was years after several Newfoundland owners named their dogs "Scannon". Lewis had named a small stream "Seaman's Creek" and this was recorded in a journal that researchers used to figure out the now famous Newfoundland's name.

Seaman was a black, furry Newfoundland who was on the heavier end of the spectrum as far as the range of Newfoundlands are considered. The expedition could not have been very pleasant for him as he probably overheated once or twice and was probably constantly nagged by mosquitoes and other insects of the sort. But he trudged on because, as some people theorize, if Lewis was going on a journey then Seaman was prepared to follow his master anywhere. Even in the way Seaman passed, as according to legend, he was honorable and courageous.

Legend says that once Lewis died, Seaman was extremely distraught. Seaman, as the story goes, was so taken over with grief that he pined away at Lewis's grave, refusing to eat. Seaman may have died of a broken heart, but he lived with a gusto many humans could stand to emulate.

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The Newfoundland Named Seaman and the Lewis and Clark Expedition
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