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Williamsburg Area Features

Give Me Liberty!

  By: Jacquelyn Eurice

The Duke of Gloucester Street in the Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg stretches from the Capitol building to Merchants Square. Most call it DoG street and now there’s even more reason to do so! While engaging in the politics and daily life of 18th-century Virginia, visitors will also have the opportunity to meet the official mascot of Colonial Williamsburg, Liberty. She is a Briard – a breed that is believed to have strong ties with our founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

History indicates that in 1789, Thomas Jefferson brought a pregnant French shepherding dog (a Chien Bergere de Brie) to America at the conclusion of his time in France as a diplomatic commissioner and minister. The dog had two pups while in transit across the Atlantic. Following Jefferson’s return, the Marquis de Lafayette presented him with two more of these dogs, which Jefferson then bred at Monticello. The Briard is believed by many to be the very same breed with an evolved name. In fact, unlike many other dog breeds, the Briard in America has not changed much since Jefferson’s time, making Liberty the perfect colonial mascot.

George Washington may have also owned Briard dogs. Through written correspondence, Jefferson remarked that he intended to give George Washington a pair of puppies that he had bred. Whether he did or not cannot be determined, but we can believe that some of Washington’s dogs may have been the offspring of Jefferson’s Briards.

Nowadays, Liberty can be seen throughout the Historic Area greeting guests of Colonial Williamsburg and introducing herself to anyone who would like to meet her. She is a large dog with a thick double coat so it’s important that she doesn’t overheat. That is why she is often seen in air-conditioned locations including the Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitor Center and the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. In cooler weather, Liberty may be outside serving as a companion to the (rare-breed) farm animals that Colonial Williamsburg raises. To increase your chances of meeting Liberty, use the Colonial Williamsburg Explorer app where updates of her whereabouts are recorded under the “Meet” tab.

In addition to the adorable mascot, Colonial Williamsburg hosts dog-related events that benefit a local shelter. Dogs of DoG Street began in 2015 and continued in 2016 adding a Halloween twist with costume parades, a silent auction and chef-inspired dog treats. Plus, participants were asked to bring food or supplies to help the Heritage Humane Society. Dates for 2017 have not yet been confirmed.

To help you remember the mascot after your visit, Liberty has her own product line. Bring home a new dog leash or bowl for your fur-baby or a plush Liberty toy for your child. For more updates on Liberty, download the Colonial Williamsburg Explorer app or visit www.ColonialWilliamsburg.com.

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