From the Editor: Taxonomy
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The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog, is published four times a year. It is available at no cost online at: http://thefanhitch.org.
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Zoologist and curator of the Primitive and Aboriginal Dog Society, International (PADS) Dr. Vladimir Beregovoy is spot-on when he states that primitive and aboriginal dogs, “...are a unique piece of nature, time bound and place bound, most similar to zoological subspecies...” Despite being acknowledged as domesticates having a relationship with humans, they “...have evolved by natural selection under conditions of free life... Primitive aboriginal dogs are the oldest and the only natural breeds of dogs in existence...They are a natural phenomenon...associated with untamed nature.” However because they are a domesticated species and because of their association with people, “they are considered artifacts and therefore not assigned scientific names.”
An Interagency Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Data Specialist I spoke to last year essentially agrees with Dr. Beregovoy’s last comment. According to this ITIS person, “The Inuit sled dog ... isn't considered a valid subspecies [and therefore cannot be identified as Canis familiaris borealis] because it isn't found in the wild. As a general rule, if the domesticated or selective bred taxon cannot be found free in the wild then it isn't considered a separate species or subspecies.”
There are those of us who stand firm with Dr. Beregovoy (and others) and heartily disagree with the Interagency Taxonomic Information System Data Specialist! Bill Carpenter who has had a long relationship with the Canadian North and has intimate knowledge of its aboriginal dog explains why in this issue of The Fan Hitch.
The assignment to the Inuit Dog (or any other truly primitive and/or aboriginal dog for that matter) its very own taxonomic identity is no small issue. It would represent a major scientific admission of what we primitive and aboriginal dog enthusiasts already know but that ITIS Data Specialists has yet to understand and accept – that these landraces are unique among the world of domestic dogs; that they stand apart by virtue of their historic relationship with ethnic cultures around the world and that they have played vital roles in the survival of the humans who have depended upon them (and vice versa). These dogs may be servants of their humans, but they are also in a sense independent and very much a part of the natural world in which they have evolved. Official, scientific recognition of the Inuit Dog as Canis familiaris borealis is but one step, although a vital one, towards a better understanding and appreciation of this dog by a whole host of interested parties, from aboriginal people to anthropologists to evolutionary biologists. It’s time for the ITIS to acknowledge and then recognize the unique place landrace dogs occupy. They are neither wild canid nor cultured breed. They are the living bridge between the two and deserve to be identified by their own unique taxonomic names.
Wishing you smooth ice and narrow leads,