To celebrate its 13th anniversary this year, the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls, Montana, has gone to the dog – one dog in particular that served as an integral part of the Lewis & Clark expedition more than 200 years ago.
The Center historically interprets the importance and relevance of the expedition that opened up the western portion of the growing Unites States to other exploration and expansion. It is part of the Lewis & Clark National Forest.
Seaman, a Newfoundland dog who accompanied the group, belonged to Meriwether Lewis, who chose the breed because of its calm and docile demeanor as well as its imposing size, according to historic literature. Many of the dog’s exploits were documented in journals of the expedition. Some American Indians thought the expedition was accompanied by a trained bear because of the dog’s size. Seaman was also an accomplished hunter for the expedition, killing squirrels along the trip, and once bringing down an antelope in the Missouri River.
The life-sized statue was donated by a patron of the Center, and is one of the last sculptures done by renowned wildlife artist and sculptor Joe Halko. The statue was displayed in the front of the center for the celebration and unveiling, but will be on permanent display on a lower level, overlooking the Missouri River.
Newfoundlands have a natural instinct for water and are known worldwide as water rescue dogs. Accounts of people saved by newfies are legendary among the breed’s enthusiasts and with animal historians. Among the more famous of these was Rigel, a Newfoundland who belonged to an officer aboard the Titanic when she sank. The officer went down with the ship, but Rigel swam in the frigid waters for 3 hours next to a lifeboat filled with weary survivors. His resounding barks warned the approaching ship Carpathia of the presence of survivors. He was subsequently adopted by a crewmember aboard the Carpathia.
All along the route that the Lewis & Clark expedition travelled, visitors to many information and interpretive sites can find different statues of Seaman the Newfoundland on display.