The Fan Hitch Volume 6, Number 2, March 2004

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

Editorial: Kudos and Cat Calls
F.I.D.O.: Barry Salovaara and Tina Portman
Barry of the Midnight Sun
The Fan Hitch Contributor Wins Maxwell Award
Ivakkak: Encouraging Purity in Nunavik ISDs
Games People Play:
Saving the Sled Dog or Saving the Show Dog
Coppinger Comments Prompts ISDI Rebuttal
News Briefs
Media Watch
Behaviour Notebook: Building a Team
IMHO: The Sernix, a Fable

Navigating This Site

Index of articles by subject

Index of back issues by volume number

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Articles to download and print

Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis

Our comprehensive list of resources

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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.

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Charlie Watt runs the 2003 Ivakkak                     Dubois photo

("when the dogs are at their best pace")

by Sue Hamilton

I have seen very little to cheer about in regard to the status of the Inuit Sled Dog in Arctic Canada since May 1, 2000 when the Nunavut Legislative Assembly unanimously passed a motion making the Canadian Inuit Dog (qimmiq) the Official Animal of Nunavut. Having chosen this dog over another enduring symbol of the Canadian North, the polar bear, seemed like a landmark turn of events, a hopeful sign that such recognition actually meant something to the future of the breed. To date, that seems not to have been the case. It is believed that the numbers of pure Inuit Dogs are still in decline, fatal epidemics of preventable diseases such as distemper still sweep through the communities. In the 2003 running of the Nunavut Quest, dogs on the winning teams were described as looking more like Alaskan huskies than "dogs of the ancestors". The dog team situation in Nunavut's capital Iqaluit is still unresolved. And not a peep further has been heard from the Nunavut Legislative Assembly in defense of a breed described by Ken MacRury's in his master's thesis: "Inuit knew that their own well being, if not their very existence, depended on their dogs…The association of the Inuit and their dogs was an enduring and significant aspect of life in the Arctic region for over a thousand years. The one was dependent upon the other for their mutual existence in an extreme environment." (The Inuit Dog: Its Provenance, Environment and History. 1991. Published by ISDI.)

There is, however, some promising news for the future of qimmiq. Ivakkak, the annual dog team race, which takes place in Arctic Quebec’s Nunavik region, was first run in the Spring of 2001. Recognizing that the pure bred Inuit husky dog (as it is described on their website) was at that time nearly extinct from the region, the organizers instituted the race as a means of returning this tradition to Nunavik. The event is officially described as "Celebrating the Inuit culture - Promoting the traditional way of dogsledding and the return of pure bred Inuit Husky dogs to Nunavik".

Hudson Strait Terrain                                               Dubois photo

But it wasn't until this year's event that it became clear to me that Ivakkak's principal sponsor, Makivik (according to their website "Makivik Corporation was created in 1978 pursuant to the signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA). Makivik is the recognized Inuit Party to the Agreement. It is a non-profit organization owned by the Inuit of Nunavik. Its central mandate is the protection of the integrity of the JBNQA, and focuses on the political, social, and economic development of the Nunavik region."), understood that even a traditional dog sled race in and of itself, despite its rigors, was no insurance of the survival of the pure Inuit dog. 

The rules listed on the Ivakkak 2004 website have brought ISDI much optimism. Offered here are three rules (Numbers 3, 4 and 5) of particular interest, although the other rules are very worthy of readers' attention:

3. Only purebred Inuit Husky dogs are to be used by participants (see Annex 1 for a detailed description). Siberian Husky dogs or blue-eyed dogs will not be accepted. Dogs will be checked prior to the start of the race and any dogs that do not fit these requirements may be removed from the race.

4. Dog teams are to be made of no less than 6 and no more than 12 dogs. It is highly suggested not to bring in-heat females, as it causes disturbance with other dogs. It is also recommended not to bring a full team of puppies, as they tire out more easily and are not able to follow the daily pace of the race. Hence, dogs used by participants should be fully-grown as much as possible, or at least a year old.

5. All dogs that are going to be used during the race are to be vaccinated for distemper and rabies; the participant must be able to prove that the dogs have been vaccinated. Pills to treat worms will be provided to the participants prior to the race. It is recommended to treat the dogs beforehand, as the pills may cause the dogs to be weaker for a few days and suffer from dehydration and sometimes diarrhea. These pills are not to be administered to humans. Participants should make sure to store them in a different place than their own medication.

ANNEX 1:  Characteristics of Pure Breed Inuit Husky dogs

Body: Generally robust and muscular, with a slightly long and straight back, a stumpy neck, a strong, deep and broad thorax, and sturdy legs.

Head: Well-proportioned, a bit wide, with a dome-shaped skull and a square pointed muzzle, generally black or dark brown. Often has a mask around the eyes (taqulik).

Ears:  Triangular-shaped, short and held erect and slightly pointed towards the front.

Eyes:  Generally brown, almond-shaped, slightly oblique, not too wide open, with dark eye rims.

Tail:  Bushy tuft of hair curled up just above the small of the back.

Fur:  Thick, straight, long or semi-long, often longer around the neck and chest, forming a lion-like ruff. Colours vary from white, black, grey, brownish yellow, reddish brown or any combination of these.

Weight: Around 25 to 50 kg.

Height: Around 55 to 60 centimetres, sometimes more (from withers down).

It is not easy to evaluate the dogs shown in the photos on the Ivakkak website, but the animals do appear more like the ancestral Inuit Sled Dogs than not. And while absolute purity cannot be determined by these images, at least the commitment toward the return of the pure Inuit Sled Dog has been clearly stated in the race rules.

On behalf of enthusiasts worldwide, the Inuit Sled Dog International recognizes Makivik for these proactive measures in supporting a future for the pure Inuit Sled Dog. We encourage them to continue their efforts, not only through Ivakkak, but also in other facets of Nunavik life , thereby setting an example for others to do the same.

A summary of this year's race was reported in the March 19 issue of Nunatsiaq News and at the Ivakkak 2004 website.

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