The Fan Hitch PostScript
Number 5, posted
January 2020
In this Post

From the Editor

The Aboriginal Dog as a Domesticate

Neuroanatomy and Behavior Correlations

Specialized Sledge Dogs Accompanied Inuit Dispersal Across the North American Arctic

Cold Case Reopened and Other QIMMEQ News

Langsomt på Svalbard (Slowly on Svalbard)

Frossen Frihe (Frozen Freedom)

Restoring a Historic Nansen Sledge

IMHO: A View from Across the Divide

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              Editor: Sue Hamilton
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Greenland Dogs resting on the ice.                                 Photo: Hamilton

Cold Case Reopened: Finding Clues to Recurrent Mass Mortalities

in Greenland Sled Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris borealis)
other QIMMEQ news

Cold case reopened: finding clues to recurrent mass mortalities in Greenland sled dogs (Canis lupus familiaris borealis) was published in Nature (July 2019, Volume 42, Issue 7, pp 1411–1413 under Polar Biology. As Springer, the publisher, wanted a huge sum to retrieve it in its entirely, and then over $800 for the right to reproduce it in The Fan Hitch PostScript, I decided to write to the lead author, Emilie U. Andersen-Ranberg, DVM, to ask for a copy. It is briefly summarized below:
Disease occurrences, such as canine distemper virus (CDV) in Greenland Dogs, have been recognized and described for a couple of hundred years.
“Historically, CDV was appointed as the main cause…However, reports concerning the symptomatic clinical appearance among the sled dogs describe a set of characteristic symptoms deviating from those typical for CDV in western dog populations.” 
Distemper virus  is known to exist in other arctic species which are hunted as food sources for dogs (and people): polar bear, arctic fox and arctic wolf, seals. Their seasonal migratory patterns are studied to correlate their being hunted with the cycles  of distemper epizootics (disease that is temporarily prevalent and widespread in an animal population) in Greenland Dogs. Additionally, and in these modern times, another cause given for these outbreaks was given as “suboptimal vaccine regimens” .
“…in order to attenuate disease spread, further studies into sled dog health and the epizootiology of recurrent outbreaks are crucial.”
It is important to identify “viral species  and strain identification”  to benefit effective vaccination. Additionally increased veterinary health surveillance, general support for Greenland Dogs is essential for their protection.
Emilie U. Andersen-Ranberg, DVM has published other papers on the Greenland Dog  as well (see these and other papers at the QIMMEQ website here). In addition to a copy of the paper, she included a heads up on other QIMMEQ projects:
  • an upcoming photo and information book about the Greenlandic sleddog edited by the Arctic photographer and biologist Carsten Egevang who has previously published several other beautiful books about Greenland.
  • an international conference in Nuuk in December, gathering most members from Qimmeq incl. Qimmeq Health as well as other stakeholders.
  • an information campaign about parasite control in sleddogs
  • field work sampling in Ilulissat regarding the health and physiology of sleddogs, next month.
  • initiation of a greater scale solution to provide health care assistance in the sleddog area of Greenland
This is all very heartening to know that there is an active effort underway directed at the well-being and traditional future of the aboriginal landrace Greenland Inuit Dog in its native habitat.

As an aside, please take note of how these authors taxonomically identify the Greenland Dog as Canis lupus familiaris borealis. From Darwin’s time until fairly recently, the Inuit Sled Dog (the Canadian Inuit Dog and the Greenland Inuit Dog) was known scientifically as Canis familiaris borealis. Then taxonomists, in identifying domestic dogs in relation to the wolf, Canis lupus, re-named them as a whole Canis lupus familiaris. I bear no strong opinion either way about the domestic dog’s name change. However, it is important to me that scientists identify aboriginal dogs as distinct from cultured dog breeds, recognizing these landraces as unique in the canid world. Sadly, not all scientists are committed to this concept.