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Archive for the ‘Mount Vernon Animals’ Category

May 30, 2013

All The President’s Pups: New Dog-Friendly Tour at Washington’s House


George Washington’s Mount Vernon has gone to the dogs with a walking tour focused on man’s best friend! All the President’s Pups will discuss the rich canine history of Mount Vernon — including the fact that Washington is credited by the American Kennel Club as being influential in the development of the American Foxhound. The new class of hounds resulted from breeding the French hounds Washington received as a gift from the Marquis de Lafayette in 1785 with his American hounds. Along with family, visitors, and friends, dogs are included in the annals of Mount Vernon history. The Washington’s enjoyed the company of Countess, Dublin, Jupiter, Lady, Mopsey, Sweetlips, and Venus. According to Mrs. Washington’s grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, a “French hound” named Vulcan, became the most infamous of Washington’s dogs after stealing Martha Washington’s ham, “the pride of every Virginia housewife’s table”, from the kitchen just as the family and guests were to sit down to dinner. While the General and the guests laughed heartily, Mrs. Washington was not amused.

Join us each Saturday morning through June 29th at 10 a.m. to learn more about Vulcan, and the other dogs of Mount Vernon on our new dog-friendly tour. This new 1.25 mile walking tour stops at 5 historic locations around Mount Vernon, including the West Gate, and discusses the numerous breeds of dogs ranging from hounds to terriers, to sporting dogs to working dogs found at Mount Vernon from the 18th century to today. We hope to see you on a Saturday soon — and of course, don’t forget your pup!

Category: Mount Vernon Animals

March 28, 2013

March Madness at Mount Vernon


March Madness at George Washington’s Mount Vernon has nothing to do with basketball, but is just as exciting as March is the month that we welcome the lambs and piglets. It is also the time that our dedicated livestock crew suffers sleep deprivation while they monitor the condition of the expecting mommas-to-be 24/7. This year 26 Hog Island ewes are expecting, as well as two Ossabaw Island sows.

Genesis was the first of the Ossabaw Island sows to give birth, and she had seven piglets on March 24th. We’re still watching with baited breath for Annabeth’s piglets to arrive.

So far this year, 18 of the 26 Hog Island ewes have given birth to 26 lambs! Though our livestock crew does not have a lamb bracket to fill out before the madness of March begins, they do have an annual pool for guesses as to how many they think will be born; this year’s guesses range between 34 and 38. After last year’s epic lamb count (a total of 47 lambs were born) the livestock crew vowed, never again.

Besides enjoying the lambs’ playful antics, we also enjoy the yearly naming of the little ones. Each year, a new theme for the names is chosen and the more unusual markings on the lambs are often reflected their names. Some of our favorite names come from the years that the themes were music related. “Bette Riddler” was named for the marking on her side that resembled a question mark, “Waltzing Matilda” had a boomerang marking on her forehead, and her brothers and sisters were named “Sweet Melissa”, “Bernadette”, and “Jumping Jack Flash”.

The naming theme for 2013 is cities. Our two lambs born on St. Patrick’s Day were given the names Dublin and Galway. Some of the other names you’ll hear around Mount Vernon are Honolulu, Dallas, Brooklyn, Savannah, and Bombay. One of this year’s lambs has markings resembling the letters M.I.T. on his side, so it seemed only appropriate to name him Baaaston.

March Madness at Mount Vernon is an exciting time and there are no losers in this event, just a whole lot of adorable baby lambs and piglets. If you are planning a visit to Mount Vernon this Spring, don’t forget to say hello to the newest members of our family who are on display along the paddock road.

J. Dean Norton and the Amazing Livestock Crew
Department of Horticulture


Category: Mount Vernon Animals, Videos from Around the Estate

November 30, 2012

A Camel for Christmas?


Based on diaries, letters and cash accounts we know that George and Martha Washington played host to numerous guests throughout the year. In addition to human guests, there is also an all too cryptic reference to the brief visit of a particularly interesting animal: “By the man who brot. a Camel from Alexa. for a show….0.18.0″[1] These few words are the only documentation of a visit to Mount Vernon by a very rare exotic animal for 18th century America.

From a variety of sources, we know that George Washington had quite an interest in animals, both domestic and rare, and often paid to see them. Over the years, Washington and various members of his household were able to learn something about the world outside Virginia from the itinerant entertainers who traveled along the eastern seaboard and would have been drawn to large gatherings of people at events such as fairs. Many of these individuals seem to have worked with exotic or specially-trained animals. For example, in some of the earliest references to this sort of thing, Washington recorded paying 10 shillings to see a “Lyoness” in June of 1766 and three years later spent 3 shillings and 1 1/2 pence to see a “Tyger.”

There is nothing in the surviving records to indicate how the camel ended up at Mount Vernon, but we know that in 1787 a camel was brought to the estate for the enjoyment of Washington’s Christmas guests.

In keeping with history, Mount Vernon still brings a camel to the estate during our special Christmas programming for the enjoyment of our guests. You can meet Aladdin on the field in front of the Mansion during Christmas at Mount Vernon, our daytime Christmas program running through January 6. Find out more information about daytime events and Candlelight tours at

Jennifer McCreery

Category: George Washington, Mount Vernon Animals

August 23, 2012

Welcome To Our Newest Addition


This Milking Devon calf was born this past Saturday, August 18 on the Mount Vernon estate. She is our newest addition to the livestock family and is currently being bottle fed 4 times a day. Our livestock managers even come back in at 10 p.m. to give her the last bottle of the night.

Milking Devons, despite their name, are also suited for meat production and to work as draft animals (i.e. oxen). Here at Mount Vernon this breeds does a lot of the farm work on the Pioneer Farm and aids with hauling wheat straw and harrowing the fields.

Cattle were a valuable source of beef and veal and cow’s milk was used to make butter, cream, and cheese. Even the manure was composted and later used to fertilize fields and gardens. So it is not surprising that Washington worked diligently to improve his herd. He experimented with a variety of breeds and imported breeding stock from England. One of his favorite breeds was the Milking Devon, the type of cattle pictured above and is still raised at Mount Vernon today. Washington’s 1799 inventory (the year he died) lists 171 head of cattle.

Jennifer McCreery

Category: George Washington, Mount Vernon Animals

June 5, 2012

VIDEO: Mount Vernon is Abuzz With Bee Hives



It’s always Mount Vernon’s goal to keep the estate as true to original form as possible. That’s why we jumped at the chance to get our own apiary, where several hives of bees will produce honey, just like in George Washington’s day. Visitors need not worry about bee stings, the hives are kept just northwest or our 12 acre field, in an area that is accessible only to staff. Do worry about getting your hands on some honey though. Our first batch will be available perhaps as early as next spring.

Category: Mount Vernon Animals, Videos from Around the Estate


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Portraits in Schools

Kids holding George Washington Portrait

Mount Vernon recently invited K-12 schools nationwide to request framed portraits of George Washington to display in a respectful, prominent place.

The response was overwhelming: thousands of schools submitted letters! Along with the portrait, schools received curriculum materials to help explore our first president’s contributions.

Where has George Washington gone back to school? Click here to see!

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