The Fan Hitch Volume 2, Number 4, August 2000

Newsletter of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

From the Editor
Raising Sled Dogs
The Good, the Bad and the ‘Eskimo’ Dog
The Russian Connection
Honoured Symbol Under Fire
Iqaluit Team Owner Speaks Out
The Homecoming
Niels Pedersen, D.V.M:
Challenging Folk Remedies
Janice Howls:
Maintaining the ISD Roots
Book Review: 
Portrait of Antarctica
First Hand Account:
Exploration of Antarctica
Dog Ownership in Modern Society
Baking: Carnivore Brownies
Behaviour Notebook:
 Silent and Induced Heat
ISDI Summit Postponed
Memorable Inuit Dog Encounters

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Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis

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Editor's/Publisher's Statement
              Editor: Sue Hamilton
              Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
The Fan Hitch Website and Publications of the Inuit Sled Dog– the quarterly Journal (retired in 2018) and PostScript – are dedicated to the aboriginal landrace traditional Inuit Sled Dog as well as related Inuit culture and traditions. 

PostScript is published intermittently as material becomes available. Online access is free at:  PostScript welcomes your letters, stories, comments and The editorial staff reserves the right to edit submissions used for publication.

Contents of The Fan Hitch Website and its publications  are protected by international copyright laws. No photo, drawing or text may be reproduced in any form without written consent. Webmasters please note: written consent is necessary before linking this site to yours! Please forward requests to Sue Hamilton, 55 Town Line Rd., Harwinton, Connecticut  06791, USA or

 Dogteam travel in the North Baffin        Hamilton photo

The Inuit Sled Dog: 
Can it Hold On To Its Roots?

by Janice Dougherty

Siberian Husky breeders/mushers Raymond and Lorna Coppinger once wrote  that when a breed is removed from its environment, it begins to lose its identity: "The loss of the "habitat" (the working environment) means extinction."  The mechanism of this loss/modification/distortion/dilution/degeneracy of identity is the selectivity for more convenient behavior and easier management by our  modern Western culture as part of the ongoing domestication process. On the other hand, we have had various steps taken by William Carpenter and associates, the Canadian and Danish governments, some members of Inuit communities, and the members of the Inuit Sled Dog International, to maintain the integrity of the breed variously known as the Eskimo Dog, Greenland Dog,  Canadian Inuit Dog, Inuit Sled Dog.

In order to retain its identity, a population of dogs must have a viably sized breeding population to maintain correct, original, representative variation in its gene pool. Second, that gene pool must continue to be selected for all the same traits that created and established the population in the first place, to keep it "on track". Third, and most difficult, there must be a continuing demand/market/use of, appreciation for the special traits that define this population.  There must be interested and committed persons who honor those traits and recognize their worth, despite some associated inconveniences (like the cost of fencing at Jurassic Park).

Modern culture is in many ways the antithesis of that which is likely to admire and seek to preserve the Inuit Sled Dog. The passive, weak, vegetarian, urban culture that has spilled through suburbia and throughout the countryside has largely lost its ability to appreciate an active, strong, carnivorous, wilderness entity - canine or otherwise.  Current attitudes toward the human/dog relationship have reached an extreme in which both parties are expected to act like "jellyfish". Steven Lindsay's recently published book makes several references to this unnatural approach. I recently received a flyer for an upcoming dog training seminar. One presentation entitled "The Impossible Puppy" was introduced,    "If you have been working with dogs for any length of time, you have met this guy. He's the one who can disrupt an entire training class, turn even the most positive trainer towards violence and leave his well intentioned owners yearning for a cat! Dominant, aggressive, bites, barks, jumps, doesn't listen, stubborn, pulls are just a few of the words used to describe this pup..."  Sounds like a normal, healthy, vigorous dog to me! The point it makes is that our culture thinks these traits are wrong from the get-go, not a mark of energy to be admired, channeled and managed, but poor genetics to be weeded out! Ignorant, incompetent, intolerant, irresponsible people have lawmakers and public officials hacking away at lifestyles that differ from their own, especially when it comes to animal related interests.

Is there a solution? Is there a future for the ISD? Other species have captured the public's attention, acknowledgment and support, but none are without controversy. Sea otters find opposition where they compete with oystermen. Mustangs are still shot. Wolf reintroductions are opposed both openly and covertly. Bear populations are of increasing concern in suburban areas. Deer ravage food crops, gardens, landscaping, cause car accidents and carry disease transmitting ticks. Canada geese are at odds with golfers. For domesticated species, survival has hinged on ACTIVE promotion - not solely of ownership - but public awareness and appreciation of their unique and special status: sheep breeds that are naturally parasite resistant; cattle that do not require intensive management to produce both milk and meat while plowing a field; poultry that are leaner, hardier and more disease resistant (requiring no antibiotics) while they devour ticks and other insect pests. 

Some less common breeds of dogs in the recent past have found support merely because they approached extinction, as in the Chinese Shar Pei.  The Telomian, the New Guinea Singing Dog and the Carolina Dog are not recommended as pets for most people, but are categorized as precious, irreplaceable links to the original dog types that split off from wolf populations of 30 to 100 thousand years ago. The Karelian Bear Dog appeared on commercial TV  and news, in the Smithsonian magazine as well as a segment on Animal Planet, when a bear biologist decided to use them to keep bears away from human habitation (and thereby stay alive). 

We must loudly establish to the world at large the ISD as also worthy of preservation.  Not everyone can be a writer, but everyone pays for dog food, everyone has vet bills (even if it is only once every ten years or so). All the current ISD owners, here in North America and the rest of the world, could be collecting data on their dogs to eventually submit to ISDI for tabulation. Okay, so they're only personal testimonials, and not strictly scientific. It is still useful information. We must speak up for the value of the ISD. Those of us who admire the breed may think the reasons are obvious. But the world we live in is unaware or downright hostile because they have no information to balance the negatives that they are being fed. Public opinion is powerful. The recent advances in genetics, and sports medicine have made people more appreciative of the genetic basis of resistance to environmental stresses, of capacity for athletic performance. I believe this can be used to link the efforts to preserve the ISD with concepts that the public has already come to value, and in doing so, we may be taking an important step to protecting the future of the Inuit Sled Dog.

Coppinger, Raymond and Lorna (1998) "Genetics and the Behavior of Domestic Animals". Temple Grandin, ed. Academic Press, San Diego, CA

Lindsay, Steven R. (2000) "Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training" vol.1. Iowa State University Press, Ames, IA.

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