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Seaman - Lewis's Newfoundland Dog

Captain Meriwether Lewis purchased the Newfoundland dog for $20.00 in 1803 and named him Seaman.  

For many years the name of the dog was thought to be "Scannon". While deciphering the travel journals of Lewis and Clark a mistake was made because of the blurred ink. It was this error that influenced many Newfoundland dog owner to name their Newfs, Scannon. Then while researching the journals Donald Jackson was doing a study of Lewis and Clark place-names in Montana, he found that Captain Lewis, had named a tributary of the Blackfoot River "Seamanís Creek." After further study he found that the true name of the dog was indeed "Seaman". This discovery didnít happen until 1916 so there are many Newfoundland dogs that were named Scannon in honor of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  PS: Lewis & Clark's Corps of Discovery ate over 200 dogs while traveling the Lewis and Clark Trail?  However, Lewis's Newfoundland dog - SEAMAN was spared.


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Seaman accompanied the expedition and alerted Lewis and Clark of unexpected guests.

 From the Journals of Meriwether Lewis:

April 22, 1805 : " walking on shore this evening I met with a buffaloe calf which attached itself to me and continued to follow close at my heels untill I embarked and left it. It appeared allarmed at my dog which was probably the cause of itís so readily attaching itself to me"
 Map PLUS Lewis and Clark timeline of region (PDF)

May 29, 1805: Some were curious, "last night we were all allarmed by a large buffaloe bull, when he came near the tent, my dog saved us by causing him to change his course"

June 27, 1805 :" a bear came within thirty yards of our camp last night and eat up about thirty weight of buffaloe suit which was hanging on a pole, my dog seems to be in a constant state of alarm with these bears and keeps barking all night"

As the Corps explored the Louisiana Purchase, Lewisí dog was quickly adopted by the crew and became known as "Our Dog"

Statues Featuring "Seaman" the Discovery Dog on the Lewis and Clark Trail

St. Louis, Missouri

St. Charles, Missouri

Jefferson City, Missouri on the Missouri State Capitol Grounds

Case Park -  Kansas City, Missouri

Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, Fort Calhoun, Nebraska

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Sioux City, Iowa

Washburn, North Dakota at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center  

Overlook Park, Great Falls, Montana

Fort Clatsop National Memorial

Seaside, Oregon

History of the Newfoundland Dog

The Newfoundland, a gentle giant among canines, is a striking dog bound to elicit admiring comments wherever he accompanies his owner. A sweet, devoted companion, the Newfoundland  will protect children, haul leaves and firewood, save drowning people, and compete successfully in obedience and tracking trials.

Born as a canine seaman, the Newfoundland was a standard piece of equipment on every fishing boat in Canada's maritime province that gave the breed its name. Fishing has always been Newfoundland's chief industry; the dogs hauled fishing nets out to sea and back to the boat and retrieved objects or people who fell into the sea. Equally at home in water or on land, the Newfoundland was large enough to pull in a drowning man or to break the ice as he dove into the frigid northern ocean. His lung capacity allowed him to swim great distances and fight ocean currents.

  • At the end of a day's fishing, the day's catch was loaded into a cart, and the dog was hitched up to haul the load into town. Other Newfoundlands pulled wagons to deliver milk and mail throughout the island.
  • There are many legends of Newfoundlands saving drowning victims by carrying lifelines to sinking ships. The dogs were kept in the "dog walk" on early sailing ships. If the sea was too choppy when land was sighted, the dog carried a line to land.
  • The origin of this working breed is disputed. Vikings and Basque fishermen visited Newfoundland as early as 1000 AD and wrote accounts of the natives working side by side with these retrieving dogs. The breed as we know it today was developed in England, while the island of Newfoundland nearly legislated the native breed to extinction in 1780.
  • The Newfoundland has a stiff, oily outer coat of moderate length and a fleecy undercoat to adapt to the harsh climate of its home island. The oil repels water. A Newfoundland can swim for hours, yet remain completely dry and warm at the skin. The breed has completely webbed feet and swims with a breast stroke instead of a dog paddle.


Lewis and Clark Trail maps on this web site were provided courtesy of the National Park Service
GPO 1991-557-779

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