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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: https://thefanhitch.org.
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Truth, History and Dogs
by Mark Hamilton
Money, potable water and breathable air are fungible, as are crude oil, pork bellies and facial tissue. On the other hand, truth, history and dogs are not fungible. (Eye rolls…Where is he going with this one? What’s fungible?)
When someone identifies something as being fungible they’re saying that, for their purposes any unit of measure of that item will serve equally as well as any other equal unit of measure of that item. Which is to say: any US Dollar is as good as any other US Dollar, as is true for the Canadian Dollar, Euro and every other currency. The same goes for potable water, breathable air, crude oil, pork bellies and facial tissue. In fact, this is true for most commodity items.
Truth and history are not fungible. They can, falsely, appear to be fungible when viewed through a macro lens, but closer examination always reveals individualized details. Those details are what make up the rich tapestry that separates reality from fiction. Reality is never simple or monolithic. It’s exactly for this reason that human beings and dogs aren’t fungible either. Neither are Inuit Dogs fungible…or their history. Details always make the difference.
There have been a lot of previously unknown details about the Inuit Dog that have been revealed to us in the last several years:
• In 2005 Hanne Friis Andersen’s research – based on mtDNA collected from of blood samples – proved the Canadian Inuit Sled Dog and the Greenland Husky were the same landrace.
• In Sarah Brown’s early 2013 research – a comparison of ancient dog mtDNA to modern – we learned today’s Inuit Dog carries the same unique gene sequence (A31) that her research traced back into antiquity. Interestingly, her research also found that the Alaskan Malamute (a cultured breed whose real history, as such, began with American Kennel Club registration in 1935) typically demonstrated a different sequence (A29) which it shared with the Siberian Husky. Only one of the twenty-six Alaskan Malamutes tested carried the A31 sequence.
• Later in 2013, Peter Savolainen’s research – based on mtDNA collected from hair samples – confirmed that Inuit Dogs (Canadian Inuit Sled Dog, Greenland Husky, Canadian Eskimo Dog) carried the A31 genotype and we learned that the dog was free from contamination by European dogs DNA, at least on its maternal side.
Anderson, Brown and Savolainen’s research enhanced our knowledge of what the Inuit Dog is and how it got to this point. The ISD is an ancient landrace. It is one of just a few dogs that are confirmed to have been part of the New World’s ecology prior to the introduction of European influence and genetic presence. It is special. It is unique. And it remains to this day a landrace true to its function. It has its own unique history.
Lately we learned of an effort to re-write parts of the Alaskan Malamute history provided by the Alaskan Malamute Club of America (AMCA) to the American Kennel Club. Such activity always catches our attention as too often in the past we’ve seen regional Alaskan Malamute clubs as well as many breeders incorporate parts of the Inuit Dog’s history into their telling of the story of the Alaskan Malamute. This is something we find very offensive (yeah, that A31 vs. A29 gene sequence thing). Ultimately the AMCA board, with only one dissenting vote, agreed to leave their published history alone…for now.
To my mind, the national club needs to do more. The Alaskan Malamute has its own history. Recently we heard that the names of dogs that went to Antarctica with one of the Byrd Expeditions, many of which died out on the ice when the expedition had to beat a hasty evacuation, have been found in an old archive, actual government documents listing the names of those dogs. That information should be incorporated into the written history of the Alaskan Malamute and celebrated by the club and its members. I want to commend the discovery of this previously unknown bit of Alaskan Malamute history and encourage those involved in the club’s management to take up more research. Continue that effort to discover and document the rest of what looks to be a pretty rich history for your breed. But please, hands off the Inuit Dog’s history, that’s not fungible.