When it comes to adopting mammal symbols, Massachusetts’ citizens don’t know when to quit.
One of Massachusetts’ most spectacular symbols is the right whale. People were hunting right whales and fishing for cod long before the United States was born. The right whale swims slowly, close to the surface, close to shore, and floats when killed because of its thick blubber. It was therefore considered the “right” whale to kill. That’s how it got its name.
Sadly, Yankee whalers operating out of New England ports almost exterminated the right whale. Maybe they succeeded. Even with strict protection, its numbers aren’t increasing. Some scientists think the right whale is doomed to extinction.
The right whale was also adopted as a symbol of Georgia after its calving grounds were discovered off the Georgia coast. It’s a symbol of South Carolina as well. Alaska adopted the closely related bowhead whale.
Massachusetts is also represented by three official domestic mammals—the Morgan horse, Boston terrier, and tabby cat.
Massachusetts shares its state horse with Vermont. The Morgan horse derives from a stallion named Figure who could reportedly outwork and outrun any other horse who challenged him.
Figure was owned by Justin Morgan, a schoolteacher from West Springfield, Massachusetts. The breed became known as the Justin Morgan horse.
The Boston terrier was the first purebred dog developed in America (1869). It derives from cross breeding an English bulldog and an English terrier.
Critics might label the Boston terrier among the most useless of state dogs. It certainly isn’t a breed many people would choose to herd cattle or retrieve waterfowl.
However, Boston terriers were commonly used as pit-fighting dogs in the past. Ironically, the breed remains popular because it’s friendly and easy to train. It also has a reputation as a rat hunter.
Like Maryland’s calico cat, the tabby cat isn’t a breed. Rather the term refers to the cat’s color, marked by distinctive stripes.
Massachusetts also has an official groundhog, Ms. G.
Ms. G is charged with educating elementary school children on the importance of meteorology. But will she be allowed to talk about climate change?
“Groundhog,” by the way, is another name for the woodchuck, which is a type of marmot. Marmots, in turn, are members of the squirrel family.
There was apparently an attempt to designate the elephant Massachusetts’ official mammal in 2009. The world’s first celebrity elephant was Jumbo. He is commemorated by a statue in Medford, Massachusetts. His ashes are also kept there.
State Mammals Home