Table of Contents
Featured Inuit Dog Owner: Ove Nygaard
An Amazing Lead Dog: The Story of Tatra
A Mystic Reunion
Katan, the Greenland Pup
Oregon Dune Musher's Mail Run
High Arctic Mushing: Part II
Bibliography: Inuit Sled Dog Research
Video Review: Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner
Book Review: To a Lonely Land I Know
It's been a decade or so since the Alaskan Malamute Club of America (AMCA) finally succeeded in its relentless pursuit of self-gratification by getting a majority of its members to vote in favor of what was a contentious change to the breed standard - the inclusion of red dogs. The first standard accepted by the American Kennel Club (AKC) back in 1935 specifically said "lips black" and, in fact, in the original line of malamute (pure Kotzebue) from which the standard was almost entirely created, red did not exist (red dogs don't have black lips). But winning ribbons, trophies and championships under "unenlightened" show judges was not enough for the "Red Brigade". While those trappings served to affirm the righteousness of their personal preference, the ultimate validation came with the inclusion of red in the breed standard. It was all so stupid... on both sides of the argument: those in favor of reds and those (among them me in my naive former life) who believed that adding reds to the standard just because they were already winning didn't do anything to improve the quality of the breed in the context of its original function. I now contend that it was already too late for the malamute. Its eulogy should have been delivered back in 1935.
While there were still some malamutes actually working in polar climates (specifically for the military in the Antarctic) in the first part of the 20th century, in my heart of hearts, I feel the malamute as a true freighting breed began to be poisoned as soon as dogs were selected for reproduction based on other than their working/polar traits, and maybe even before that! It is my view that the stock from which the malamute was created was not pure Inuit Dog to begin with. The results of some recent genetic testing and the knowledge that dogs from the south had already been brought to Alaska during the gold rush and were mixing up the local populations, make me think that there was no ancient pure breed from which the malamute sprang that made worthwhile preserving any original genes in the first place.
So, is it pointless to be lamenting this ten-year-old color change today, and here? No, because it serves as an example of what is happening RIGHT NOW with the Inuit Dog, more specifically the Greenland Dog, as it is known in Norway. And these insidious changes may have a significant impact on the size and quality of the ancient and pure gene pool of Inuit Sled Dogs whose numbers are not in such great quantity that anyone who cares can afford to just stand by and silently accept this "pollution". Read what's happening in this issue's F.I.D.O.
Also, in this Fan Hitch is a bibliography of scientific research and other scholarly papers about the Inuit Sled Dog, much of which was performed using the unique population of dogs belonging to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). While there's no denying the price paid in terms of numbers lost to occupational diseases and accidents, these dogs may have had no more hard a life than during their 4,000-year arctic history which honed them into the awesome freighting animals they are. Eye witness accounts confirm that the BAS dogs, beyond all else, loved to pull and their ability to do so under fierce Antarctic conditions was the focus of much important scientific investigation. What is so valuable about the work of the BAS is the body of information collected about the dogs themselves and what it took to breed and maintain a working sled dog in that environment. The true tragedy of this chapter of the ISD is not so much the dogs lost during fifty years of exploration and research, but that the once valuable gene pool is now forever gone.
Breeding for "fancy" or breeding for work - lost sensibilities, lost opportunities. Both underscore why those of us who truly admire the Inuit Sled Dog must be ever mindful of their history and uncertain future and our role in their stewardship.
Wishing you smooth ice and narrow leads,
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Late Breaking News -The Fan Hitch: Lead Dog in its Class
As this issue was about to go press, we learned that on only its second attempt, The Fan Hitch has won The Dog Writers' Association of America's 2001 Best Club Publication in the category of National Club Publication, Newsletter Format. It came out ahead of two other nominees: the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) Newsletter, and Quackers, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club Newsletter. In 2000, The Fan Hitch received its first nomination in this category, which was won by Forward: An Obedience Instructors' Forum. The ISDI did not have a representative on hand at the awards dinner, held Sunday February 10 in New York City, to accept the Certificate of Nomination as well as the Maxwell Medallion, so we will received them by mail.
I would like to thank The Fan Hitch staff and all those who submitted material for contributing to the success of our newsletter. I have to believe, however, that the real winners are our readers and the breed we are working to preserve. Ed.