The Fan Hitch PostScript
Number 3, posted
May 2019
In this Post

From the Editor: A Cautionary Tale

Media Review: How to Tame a Fox:
(and Build a Dog)

The Qimuksiq Network’s Iqaluit Meeting

Qimmeerukkaluarpat: When the Dogs are Gone

The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum: Dogs at Work in the North

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From the Editor....

A Cautionary Tale  

I can only lead you to the truth. I can't make you believe it.

                                       Raymond Reddington (actor James Spader)
               from The Blacklist TV series

I have, on The Fan Hitch website, referred to Russian evolutionary biologist Dmitry Belyaev’s  (July 1917 to November 1985) ground-breaking research. In less than six decades – a blink of the evolutionary eye (compared to the thousands of years current research has estimated to be the time it took to domesticate the dog) – turned wild foxes from Soviet fur farms into huggable domesticates. The purpose of incorporating this landmark research into “Defining the Inuit Dog” section II.D., Nomenclature, Genetic and Identity, is to emphasize what happens when animals are selected for breeding with a focus on features other than that of the animals’ original intent.

OK, I am sure there are those who are dismissive of my view in referring to the findings of the fox domestication project. But now, in this issue of The Fan Hitch PostScript,  you can hear the same tune, different verse as sung by others in How to Tame A Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution.

From this book, co-authored by Lee Alan Dugatkin, a behavioral ecologist, and Lyudmila Trut, the Russian geneticist, ethologist and evolutionist who has been deeply involved since the beginning of this sixty-plus year-old continuing research project begun by Dmitry Belyaev….
“Natural selection had stabilized the hormonal recipe for building a fox and its behavior in the wild. Now the selection for tameness [alone], that he [Dmitry] and Lyudmila were imposing was destabilizing that formula.”  (page 60)

“…when you radically change selection pressures by choosing the tamest animals you shake up everything, and a whole suite of changes [in physiology, behavior et cetera] follow.”  (page 74)
So when I hear feckless notions such as…
"Nowadays not so much people need a [Canadian Eskimo/Inuit] dog to pull a sled, so probably taking them to shows or exhibitions, or, in general, spread the word about them, might save them in the future…"
…I just want to scream!

It is my passionate hope that someday, just as the fox domestication project uncovered the details defining the transition from wild to domestic, that the scientific community will discover the divergence at which point an aboriginal landrace becomes a cultured breed, which is what happened to the Inuit Dog progenitors when they were converted into the man-made Alaskan Malamute breed back in 1935.

In a January 31, 2001 New York Times interview, Bill Carpenter (who, with the late John McGrath, conceived Eskimo Dog Recovery Project in the early 1970s in Yellowknife, NWT) said of the Inuit Dog:
"The future of this dog is not with southern dog shows, not with pet owners on leashes. The future of this dog lies in its cultural setting. The future of the dog is in the hands of the northerners."
Currently there are two active projects involved in studying the current and future status of the Inuit Sled Dog in its native northern habitat. One is the Qimuksiq Network Initiative: Balancing Illness and Wellness at the Human-Dog Interface in Northern Canada. The other is QIMMEQ: a research project to study the genetic origins of Greenland Sled Dog and the social culture associated with their centuries of use.

These missions, along with Canada’s and Greenland’s dedicated, hard-working current and future dog teamers are, as Carpenter described, the hope for a successful future for this ancient aboriginal landrace in its cultural setting.

As always, wishing you smooth ice and narrow leads,