The Inuit Sled Dog
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THE INUIT SLED DOG
The roots of the Inuit dog, or Qimmiq, date back 4,000 years, possibly more. Along with the Inuit people, this breed survived the harsh conditions of the Arctic.
In more modern times, this incredibly tough dog took explorers to both poles. Yet his very existence was threatened with the arrival of southern technology and other influences. Crossbreeding with Southern breeds endangered the original purity of the Inuit dog. The advent of snowmobiles into Arctic settlements was the final blow.
In recent times, some Inuit hunters and other interested people in both the North and the South have endeavoured to preserve the breed and restore viable numbers of purebred Inuit dogs.
The Inuit Sled Dog International (ISDI) is the network devoted to this task.
THE ISD'S PLACE IN HISTORY AND IN THE MODERN ARCTIC
The Inuit sled dog originated on the Asian continent, possibly in the region of present day Mongolia. The Tunit people, known as the Thule Civilization, accompanied by their dogs crossed the Bering Straits in continuous waves of migration between 900 and 1100 AD. They spread out to the south and east, until they reached Greenland and could go no further, the people not having boats to carry them over the ocean. Until as late as the 1960s, families travelled back and forth between Greenland and Canada by dog team.
As a hunter, the dog sniffed out seal breathing holes and knew how to remain quiet until the seal was gutted and he could have a meal. With his team-mates, he would surround a polar bear and keep it at bay, sometimes getting mauled in the process, until the hunters arrived. No food was safe from the Inuit dogs unless the cache was very well secured, which is still true today.
His eyes are almond-shaped, wide-spaced, small and slanted. It gives him a wild and sly appearance, yet he is neither. The eyes are dark brown to amber in colour. They are *never* blue. He has a straight neck, which is both thick and muscled. His chest is also well-muscled. The shoulders are broad and obliquely set, and seen from front or rear, the dog stands on straight, not unduly-long, legs.
The dog's paws are large and almost round, with thick pads heavily-furred between the toes. A well-developed loin and strong thigh muscles make up the rear of the body. The spine is prominent and can easily be felt even in properly-nourished animals.
The Inuit Sled Dog is a true northern breed, with a close affinity to his ancestor the wolf. He does not bark, but howls plaintively, which can sometimes be very disturbing to neighbors.
The Inuit Sled Dog is a primitive dog, and like the wild canidae (wolf, fox, coyote), has a primitive digestive system. Therefore, he cannot tolerate certain cereal products very well. Corn and rice are of a different family of cereals, and can be fed safely. Commercial food should be based on corn or rice, and ought to contain a minimum of 30% protein and 20% fat. This should be supplemented with pure fat (not tallow or any other liquid fat) to make up 50% of fat in the diet.
THE ISD AS A SLED DOG
Fundamentally, the ISD is a working sled dog. One of his main attributes is his ability to pull one and a half times his own weight over great distances. The ISD is a good companion for owners who can only keep of one or two ISD, providing they are actively involved in skijoring, snowshoeing or hiking with the dog packing. Three or more ISD will easily pull a loaded sled or cart.
With respect to the Inuit Sled Dog, "pet potential" is an oxymoron. Pet qualities were never a consideration in the breeding of these dogs for their ability to work. The breed's more "primitive" behavior, its oral-ness, its highly developed sense of pack hierarchy, its overwhelming desire to work, are all qualities clearly suited to a working environment.
HOW TO LEARN MORE
The Canadian Inuit Dog; Canada's Heritage, authored by Geneviève Montcombroux, is the most complete information available to-date about this breed. Available from the author, Box 206, Inwood, Manitoba R0C 1P0 Canada, $22.50 in Canada, $19.00 US, $24,25 Cdn elsewhere, postpaid.
Also of great interest: Ken MacRury's MA thesis - The Inuit Dog, Its Provenance, Environment and History. Available from http://thefanhitch.org/thesis.html
Visit The Fan Hitch, website and Journal of the Inuit
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