There’s a new top dawg on DoG Street. Meet Liberty, a shaggy mop of wavy fur, with boundless energy and a friendly disposition.
Colonial Williamsburg’s first mascot, a Briard, was born in April in New Mexico and only recently arrived in the Revolutionary City. The puppy is still learning its way around town and is being trained to become a therapy dog.
Liberty will be known as George Washington’s dog, but will spend most of her time with a costumed handler. The two will walk the streets of the Historic Area and visit with guests in our hotels. Eventually, you’ll be able to track Liberty’s adventures both on our website and through your mobile devices.
Why a Mascot?
“The idea of a mascot came from our witnessing the everyday interactions between our guests—particularly children and people with special needs—and the dogs of DoG Street,” explains our President and CEO Mitchell Reiss. “We saw these not only as moments of affection and warmth, but also as teachable moments that could bring history to life.”
Duke of Gloucester (DoG) Street has been called “America’s Main Street,” and it is famously dog-friendly. It’s also family friendly. Liberty will be one more way to help tell the stories of Williamsburg. As people visit, they can learn about the founders as well as their faithful companions.
Why a Briard?
“We researched dogs that were contemporary to 18th-century Williamsburg and the Briard instantly jumped off the page,” explains Reiss.
History tells us Briards originally descended from the sheepdogs of medieval France. It’s there that the breed acquired its reputation for being intensely loyal and a stout defender of shepherds’ flocks. The dogs had the endurance to work for long stretches of time and the size to successfully ward off threats.
Unlike many breeds that have had dramatic changes in their behavior and appearance in 200-plus years, the Briard has had minimal cross-breeding since it was introduced into the United States in the 18th century. In fact, the dogs today look and act very much like they did then.
George Washington is best known for creating the American foxhound breed, but his menagerie included many other types of dogs. He certainly had herding dogs to protest his flocks of sheep from predators.
In all likelihood though it was probably Thomas Jefferson who first brought the breed from France after serving as ambassador in the 1780s. Before leaving, he purchased a chien bergere de Brie, which many believe to be the shepherd dog that would eventually be known as the Briard. He named that dog Buzzy and she had two pups on board the ship, so he arrived stateside with three.
The Marquis de Lafayette, who of course also spent time in Williamsburg, soon sent him two more of the same type of dog. Jefferson began breeding those dogs and they became known all across Virginia. In 1791, he wrote to his son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph, that he intended to offer President Washington “a pair of puppies of the Shepherd’s dog.”
We’re not sure what came of that plan, but Colonial Williamsburg’s choice of a Briard mascot serves as the symbolic fulfillment of Jefferson’s proposed gift.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Briard in 1928 and it currently ranks as the 126th most popular dog breed in the country. While it seems unusual, it may actually be more familiar than you think. Tramp from My Three Sons and Buck from Married with Children were Briards. My favorite? Sam the Sheepdog from the Looney Tunes cartoons.
A full-grown Briard is pretty big—weighing close to 75 pounds. Expect Liberty to be instantly recognizable on the streets and not just because of size. Other traits of the breed include thick fur that covers the eyes, double dew claws on the hind legs, and a crook at the end of the tail. The dog’s gait can also make it appear as if it’s “gliding” across the ground.
Why the Name “Liberty?”
George Washington’s dogs had names that varied from feminine (Duchess, Countess, and Madame Moose) to mythological (Juno, Jupiter, and Vulcan) to comedic (Tipsy, Tipler and Drunkard). And then there’s the unclassifiable: Sweet Lips. Sadly, the story of that name origin appears lost to history.
We chose the name Liberty because it “seemed like a natural fit,” says Reiss. “It symbolizes both General Washington’s role in securing our liberties and Williamsburg’s unique place in the public imagination as the place where the rights and freedoms we enjoy today were born.”
When Can You Meet Liberty?
As you can see, Liberty is already a celebrity among her peers. While she’s still very young and in the middle of important training, Liberty will be making a special appearance to the public on September 19. We’re inviting you (and your dogs) to join George Washington, Liberty, and all our friends from Heritage Humane Society for a special Dogs of DoG Street event. The fun kicks off at 10 a.m. on the Palace Green with an exciting march down to the Capitol.
Don’t miss our live auction where you can bid on replica collars and leashes similar to the 18th-century inspired accessories Liberty is already sporting. The event is free but we’re asking everyone to bring a donation for the shelter pups. Click on the link to read more about what they need and to see some of Liberty’s friends waiting for adoption.
What do you think of our new mascot? Will we see you on September 19? RSVP in the comments and while you’re at it, upload a picture of your pup to join the Dogs of DoG Street Club!