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On July 4th we celebrate all things American — and one of the most American things we can think of are our dogs.
Almost 50 years ago, Maryland became the first state to pick an official dog: its native Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Since then, campaigns to designate certain breeds as state symbols have come from all over — even a kindergarten classroom in Alaska. And not all state dogs are fancy breeds: The state dog of Texas isn't recognized by the AKC, and just this year Colorado's governor signed into law a bill declaring dogs and cats adopted from shelters as that state's official pets.
Browse through our gallery to find out if your state has an official dog. And if it doesn't, tell us in the comments what you think it should be!
Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography
The three-year process to recognize the Alaskan Malamute as the official dog of our 49th state started with a kindergartner who asked why Alaska didn't have a state dog. As a result, teachers and students at Polaris K-12 School in Anchorage banded together and testified on the Malamute's behalf in front of the state House and Senate. That all paid off when the breed became Alaska's official state dog in May 2011.
The hardworking Catahoula Leopard Dog, who originated in northern Louisiana, was bred to drive wild hogs and cattle to market. This versatile working dog is also happy to spend his free time at home as a loving family pet. The website for the Louisiana Department of State even has a page where you can virtually color in your own Catahoula Leopard Dog.
Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
Maryland, which was the first state to designate an official dog, chose the Chesapeake Bay Retriever as its state dog in 1964. The Chessie is a waterfowling canine built to withstand the cold, choppy waters of her namesake, the Chesapeake Bay.
Barbara O'Brien, Animal Photography
This all-American, tuxedo-wearing dog was first known as a Round Head, Bullet Head or Bull Terrier — but in 1889 it officially became the Boston Terrier that we all know and love. Developed in Massachusetts, members of this breed all descend from a dog named Judge. The Boston Terrier is bred to be a best friend, and is happy to do just about anything as long as he's with his human family.
Courtesy of Cheryl Brown
When a New Hampshire musher named Arthur Treadwell Walden bred a mastiff-type farm dog with a Greenland Husky sled dog, he began the lineage for a gentle, friendly working dog. He named one of the pups in that first litter "Chinook," which is Inuit for "warm winter winds." Thanks to their intelligence, Chinooks have the potential to perform well in agility, herding, obedience and rally.
One of America's few homegrown breeds, the Plott Hound hails from the mountains of western North Carolina and is the only coonhound breed not descended from the Foxhound. She's first and foremost a hunting dog, but if those instincts are fulfilled, she’s happy to spend the rest of her time being a protective and affectionate family dog.
On August 17, 1965, the Great Dane became the official state dog of Pennsylvania. According to the official proclamation, "the physical and other attributes of the Great Dane, to wit: size, strength, beauty, intelligence, tolerance, courage, faithfulness, trustworthiness and stability exemplify those of Pennsylvania." You can read the act in its entirety here.
Robin Burkett, Animal Photography
In the early 1900s, a South Carolina hunter named Whit Boykin took in a stray brown dog who turned out to have a great bird sense. Boykin crossed him with spaniels and retrievers to create a hardy retriever of upland game birds and waterfowl. Weighing in at just 25 to 40 pounds, the Boykin Spaniel is called “the little dog that doesn’t rock the boat” by admirers in his home state.
Only one of the 11 state dogs in the U.S. has yet to begin the American Kennel Club's breed recognition process: the Blue Lacy. This is a working dog created by four brothers — George, Ewin, Frank and Harry Lacy — who moved from Kentucky to Texas in in 1858. The resolution signed in 2005 to recognize the Blue Lacy as Texas' state dog reads, "The Blue Lacy is a Texas native, a working dog bred to play an essential role in ranch operations, at a time when ranches themselves became one of the iconic Texas symbols, and a dog that has more than pulled its weight on many a Texas spread."
The active, intelligent American Foxhound has stamina to spare and is capable of running for miles, so if you want to bring one into your family, be prepared to provide him with plenty of daily exercise. A bored Foxhound with energy to burn will create his own entertainment, and you probably won’t like it!
Thanks to Lyle Brumm, a teacher at Washington Junior High School, and hundreds of his students, the American Water Spaniel became the state dog of Wisconsin in 1985 — after years of students petitioning their lawmakers. The curly-coated sporting dog was developed in the mid-nineteenth century in Wisconsin's Wolf and Fox River Valley region.
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