Defining the Inuit Dog
Canis familiaris borealis

by Sue Hamilton

© December 2011, The Fan Hitch, all rights reserved
revised: December 2020

I. Introduction
A. The Inuit Dog’s place in the natural world
B. The Inuit Dog is not a wolf!
C. Dangerous confusion

A. The Name Controversy
B. Defining 'Purity'
C. Mistaken Identity: Promoting a breed vs. avoiding
D. The Belyaev Experiment
E. Summary

A.  Ancient history
B. Recent history: The Inuit Dog in service to nations           
1. Exploration 
2. War
3. Sovereignty
C. Population decline
A. In the North
B. Below the tree line

A. Inherited diseases
B. Disease prevention and access to veterinary services

A. Appearance
B. Behavior
C. Performance
D. The big picture

VII. The Inuit Dog in Scientific Research, Films and
        in Print

VIII. Acknowledgements

Appendix 1: Partial list of scientific publications about
                     the Inuit Dog

Appendix 2: Selected (alphabetical) list of other resources
                     with a focus on Inuit Dogs

Appendix 3: A small sampling of other resources of

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Editor's/Publisher's Statement
Editor-in-Chief: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog, is published four times a year. It is available at no cost online at:

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welcomes your letters, stories, comments and suggestions. The editorial staff reserves the right to edit submissions used for publication.

Contents of The Fan Hitch 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

This site is dedicated to the Inuit Dog as well as related Inuit culture and traditions. It is also home to The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog.

They just keep pulling! Spring in North Greenland
Photograph courtesy of Greenland Tourism.

VIII: Acknowledgements

I wish to express my gratitude to all those whose patience and expertise aided me in the preparation of this document. Some of the material included in "Defining the Inuit Dog" is from personal conversations with and the writings (including important contributions to The Fan Hitch publications) of:

Vladimir Beregovoy, PhD.
Vladimir Beregovoy graduated in 1960 as a biologist from Perm State University in Perm, Perm Krai, Russia. He defended his dissertation in 1964 and was awarded a Degree of Candidate of Sciences from the Institute of Biology, Uralian Branch of Academy of Sciences of the USSR, where he worked as a zoologist. He taught at the Kuban State University, Krasnodar. During his work as a zoologist, he traveled to Ural, West Siberia, Volga River region, Kazakhstan and North Caucasus. Beregovoy has published several articles in popular magazines and two books: Primitive Breeds-Perfect Dogs and Hunting Laika Breeds of Russia. He is also the advisor and curator of the Primitive and Aboriginal Dog Society, International (PADS) as well as a member of the editorial board of the PADS Journal.

Johan and Edith Gallant
During travels through southern Africa in their quest for the essence of the dog, the Gallants discovered native African dogs. They realized that all those years as ill-informed bystanders, exhibiting at shows, participating in obedience and working trials and eventually judging, they had looked at these native dogs with contempt. The western worship of "pure" breeds of dogs had veiled their vision of native African dogs. They soon were faced with the fact that these rural dogs represented an ancient landrace, certainly not 'improved' or streamlined into fashionable homogeneity. But their behavior is so intense and uniform, their physical prowess and health condition so remarkable that they inspired the Gallants to begin in-depth research. They named this African dog AfriCanis. Johan was co-founder and chairman of the AfriCanis Society. The Gallants perspective and respect for canine landraces emerged from their apprehension that Canis familiaris, the domestic dog as a whole had been badly misunderstood. Their book, SOS Dog: The Purebred Dog Hobby Re-examined was written to be the dog's mouthpiece. Edith Gallant carries on with the work with the AfriCanis.

Benson Ginsberg, PhD.
Benson Ginsburg, professor emeritus of Psychology (University of Connecticut - UCONN), was among the first to study behavior genetics, a scientific discipline of which he was one of the founding fathers and preeminent leaders. He also established and, for sixteen years prior to his retirement, headed the Biobehavioral Sciences Department at the UCONN Storrs campus. His department reflected an approach to research ranging from the biology of the brain and behavior to anthropology, neurobiology, and psychology.

Dr. Ginsburg's research was devoted to relating behavior to genes and involved studies of the evolution of social behavior using animal models which included dogs and their wild relatives: wolves and coyotes. His early studies of canid socialization and wolf social and reproductive behavior were focused, in part, on the degree to which there was flexibility in social development and specifically whether there was a critical period during development after which wolf pups could not be socialized to humans.

Dr. Ginsburg was the author and co-author of scores books and scientific publications, many of them about canid genetics and behavior.

Ken MacRury

Ken MacRury moved to the Canadian Arctic in 1971. During the two years he lived in Igluliq (1974-1976), he was introduced to "real dog teams and real drivers", traveling and hunting by Inuit Dog team in a traditional manner under the mentoring of a respected Inuk dog man. During that time, Ken introduced Bill Carpenter to people who were able to provide foundation dogs for Carpenter and McGrath’s Eskimo Dog Recovery Project in Yellowknife, NWT. Ken collaborated with the program by exchanging breeding stock. In 1991 he completed his thesis, The Inuit Dog: Its Provenance, Environment and History, in fulfillment of his Master of Philosophy in Polar Studies at Darwin College, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, England. This document remains today the most comprehensive scientific study of the aboriginal dog of the circumpolar north and it is still much sought after as a valuable resource for northern dog enthusiasts, scientists, authors and filmmakers worldwide as well as aboriginal and non-aboriginal government agencies and Inuit cultural organizations. Ken has granted exclusive publication and distribution rights to his thesis to Mark and Sue Hamilton, owners of The Fan Hitch Website and  Publications of the Inuit Sled Dog. His generosity has not only served to support The Fan Hitch's web hosting services, but also has enabled  The Fan Hitch  to donate  copies of the thesis and monetary contributions to entities who further the best interest of Inuit Sled Dogs in the North.

From his time in Igluliq and through the balance of his northern stay in Iqaluit on Baffin Island until his retirement and relocation to Atlantic Canada in 2002, Ken kept, bred, traveled and hunted with Inuit Dogs.

Also I would like to thank all the wonderful folks who, since the birth of The Fan Hitch's publications, have unselfishly granted permission to use their photographs.

Thank you to my husband Mark for his collaboration, suggestions and saint-like patience in formatting and mounting text and images to the web and making all those seemingly endless links, re-writes, edits and corrections; and thanks again to Ken MacRury for his critical review of this entire document and helping to polish it; and to Lucille Murphy of MaineMade Dog Sleds for "combing over" every word, space, punctuation mark and sentence in order to identify all the glitches I missed!

Special thanks to Jayko and Philippa Ootoowak for their kindness, patience, generosity and mentoring; to Puggiq, Amaruq and Tiriganiaq, our first three Inuit Dogs, who literally led us down new life trails; and to Tewa and Miranda, two North American grey wolves from Dr. Ginsburg's behavior research program, who spent their retirement years in our kennel teaching us so much about the naturally wild side of canids.

Benson Ginsburg and Miranda in Hamilton’s kennel exercise pen.
                                                                    Photo: Hamilton

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