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

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-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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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.

                                     Photo: Nadine Gerth
                    reproduced with permission of
                        The Company of Biologists

Appendix 1: Partial list of Scientific Publications about the Inuit Dog

The Inuit Dog: Its Provenance, Environment and History
1991 masters thesis of Ian Kenneth MacRury
published by the The Fan Hitch

A bibliography of scientific papers about the Inuit Dog taken from references in Ken MacRury’s masters thesis can be found here.

* * *
Originally appearing in the British Antarctic Survey Bulletins as well as The Polar Record many of these papers, some of which are listed in the MacRury masters thesis, have appeared in The Fan Hitch Journal:

The Physiology Of Sledge Dogs


The Polar Record, 8 (55): 317-321, January 1957

The Breeding and Maintenance of Sledge Dogs: Part I


The Polar Record, Vol. 8, No. 56. (1957)

The Breeding and Maintenance of Sledge Dogs: Part II

by R. J. F. TAYLOR

The Polar Record, Vol. 8, No. 56 (1957)

Further Experiments on the nutrition of sledge dogs

H. T. Wyatt
British Journal of Nutrition (1963) 17,  273

Veterinary Studies on the British Antarctic Survey's Sledge Dogs: I. Survey of Diseases and Accidents

A.R.M. Bellars,
British Antarctic Survey Bulletin, Number 21, 1969

Veterinary Studies on the British Antarctic Survey's Sledge Dogs: II. Occupational Osteoarthritis

A.R.M. Bellars and M. F. Godsal

British Antarctic Survey Bulletin, Number 22, 1969, pp. 15-38
                                                                    * * *

Control of Disease in Dogs in the Canadian North
L. P. E. Choquettet and W. A. Moynihani; Can. Vet. Jour., vol. 5, no. 10, October, 1964

Possible evidence of domestic dog in a Paleoeskimo context

Arnold, C.D.; Arctic, v. 32, no. 3, Sept. 1979, p. 263-265, figure record 2810 (citation only)

The Unique Role of Sled Dogs in Inuit Culture: an Examination of the Relationship Between Inuit and Sled Dogs in the Changing North
Kerrie Ann Shannon, masters thesis submitted to the Department of Anthropology, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Spring 1997

Non-invasive measurement of the cardiovascular effects of chronic hypoxaemia on dogs living at moderately high altitude

T. M. Glaus DipACVIM, DipECVIM-CA, K. Hauser , M. Hässig MPH, C. E. Reusch DipECVIM-CA, and B. Lipp; The Veterinary Record, Vol 152, Issue 26, 800-803 Copyright © 2003 by British Veterinary Association

Hunde im Hochgebirge: Wie bleiben sie gesund?

Tony Glaus, Hunde, 5/2005

Population Genetic Analyses of the Greenland dog and Canadian Inuit Dog
Hanne Friis; Veterinary Master Thesis, Hanne Friis Andersen V8650; May 2005

Impairment of Cellular Immunity in West Greenland Sledge Dogs (Canis familiaris) Dietary Exposed to Polluted Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) Blubber
C. Sonne, R. Dietz, H.J.S. Larsen, K.E. Loft, M. Kirkegaard, R.J. Letcher, S. Shahmiri, P. Moller; Environ. Sci. Technol. 2006, 40, 2056-2062

Avl ved slaedepatruljen SIRIUS 2009

Tobias Daugaard-Petersen, Daniel Haraldsson; Institut for Basal Husdyr- og Veterinarvidnskab Det Biovidenskabelige (LIFE); Kobenhavns Universitet;  September

Muscle plasticity of Inuit sled dogs in Greenland

Nadine Gerth, Steffen Sum, Sue Jackson and J. Matthias Starck; The Journal of Experimental Biology 212, 1131-1139, 2009

Living at the Extremes – Feeding and Fasting, Resting and Exercise in the Arctic

Nadine Gerth Ph.D. thesis; January 2010

Ancient DNA evidence for genetic continuity in arctic dogs

Sarah K. Brown et. al.
Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 40, Issue 2, February 2013, Pages 1279-1288

Pre-Columbian origins for Native  American dog breeds, with only limited replacement by European dogs, confirmed by mtDNA analysis

Barbara van Asch, Peter Savolainen et. al.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 07 September 2013

Antiquity of the Inuit Sled Dog Supported by Recent Ancient DNA Studies
Brown, Sarah K..
The Fan Hitch: Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog V15, N2, March 2013

Using multiple markers to elucidate the ancient, historical and modern Arctic dog breeds

S K Brown, C M Darwent, E J Wictum and B N Sacks. 2015. Heredity 24 June 2015; doi: 10.1038/hdy.2015.49

Ancient Wolf Genome Reveals an Early Divergence of Domestic Dog Ancestors and Admixture into High-Latitude Breeds
Pontus Skoglund, Erik Ersmark, Eleftheria Palkopoulou, Love Dale ́n
Current Biology 25, 1–5, June 1, 2015

The evolutionary history of dogs in the Americas
Máire Ní Leathlobhair,  Angela R. Perri,  Evan K. Irving-Pease, et. al.
Science,  06 Jul 2018: Vol. 361, Issue 6397, pp. 81-85

Cold Case Reopened: Finding Clues to Recurrent Mass Mortalities in Greenland Sled Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris borealis)
Andersen-Ranberg, E.U., Vernersen, E.S., Jensen, J.J. et al.
Nature, July 2019, Volume 42, Issue 7, pp 1411–1413

Specialized sledge dogs accompanied Inuit dispersal across the North American Arctic
Carly Ameen, Tatiana R. Feuerborn, Sarah K. Brown et. al.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 27 November 27, 2019

Genomic Insights into the Population History of Circumpolar Arctic Dogs
Tatiana Richtman Feuerborn, PhD Thesis submitted: 29th February 2020
University Of Copenhagen, Stockholm University

                                 Photo: Carsten Egevang

Arctic-adapted dogs emerged at the Pleistocene–Holocene transition

Mikkel-Holger S. Sinding et. al.,
368, 1495–1499, 26 June 2020

Archives of human-dog relationships: Genetic and stable isotope analysis of Arctic fur clothing

Alison J.T.Harris, Tatiana R.Feuerborn, Mikkel-Holger S.Sinding
Journal of Anthropological Archaeology
; Vol. 59, September 2020

I cani da slitta indigeni dell’Artico: Simbolo dell’identità dei loro popoli e patrimonio dell’umanità (The indigenous sled dogs of the Arctic: a symbol of the identity of their peoples and a heritage of humanity)
Dr. Giulia Morosetti masters thesis, 2020