Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hare Indian Dogs

Yesterday was Columbus Day, which is a holiday, so I took a holiday from writing in my blog.  And yesterday was also Thanksgiving Day in Canada, which got me started thinking about dogs in Canada.  And I wondered if there were any Canadian dog breeds besides the ones I already know about, which are Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundlands, and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers.  So I asked Mr. Google about this topic, and I found out that there are a bunch of Canadian dog breeds.  But I am only going to tell you about one of them today.

And I have to start out by telling you that, sadly, this breed of dog is EXTINCT now.  But it didn't become extinct the way some animals get to be extinct, by the whole species dying out.  Instead, what happened was that these dogs bred with other types of dogs, and after a while, they weren't a breed of their own anymore.

Great Bear Lake is the most northwest
of the lakes.  The green part is all the land
drained by the MacKenzie River.
So anyway, there were these Indians, and they were called the Hare, and they lived way up in the northwest part of Canada, near the MacKenzie River and the Great Bear Lake, which is the largest lake that is totally in Canada.  And up there in the north, it gets really cold and snowy, so a dog needs to have a very thick coat of hair.  Which is exactly what these Indian dogs had.  In fact, they had a double coat, with long, straight white hair on the bottom, and gray, black, or brown patches on top.  Also they had dark patches around the eyes.

Best of all, they had long hair between their toes, which helped keep their feet warm.  And their feet were wide, which made it easier to walk on snow without sinking in.  The muzzles of the Hare Indian dogs were pointy and narrow, and their tails were really fluffy, and they curled back over the dogs' backs.

The size of the dogs was sort of between the size of a coyote and the size of a fox.  Nobody knows for sure how the breed got started, but it may have been a mix of native dogs with dogs that the Vikings brought when they came to live in the Americas.  The Indians used the dogs for coursing, which means hunting by sight instead of by scent.  And what the Indians hunted was mostly moose and reindeer.  The dogs were too small to actually kill such a big animal, but they could chase it and keep it cornered someplace until their people got there and killed it.

Hare Indian dogs were not used to carry stuff or to pull sleds or anything like that because they were too small.  Mostly, they were only used for hunting.  And they didn't bark, just like wolves or basenjis don't bark.  But they could howl really loud, if they wanted to.  They were very playful, and also they were friendly with strangers.  They liked to rub their backs against people, kind of like cats do.  What they didn't like was being confined.  That made them very unhappy.

Anyway, what eventually happened to the Hare Indian dogs was that when people started hunting with guns, they didn't need the dogs so much to help them hunt.  So the dogs ended up getting bred to other types of dogs in Canada, and after a while, there weren't any dogs left that really looked like the Hare Indian dogs used to look.  So that is why they are now said to be extinct.  Which is a little sad, but at least they didn't get killed off by hunters or by a meteorite, like the dinosaurs. 


  1. Hi Piper, I'm Cosmos Beagle, and my person's !ister has a dog who looks just like the old drawings of the Hare Indian Dog. She is a quiet, soulful watcher of all things, and she has fabulous tufty paws. I've never heard her bark like a beagle! Thank you for the interesting article.

  2. Dear Cosmos Beagle,
    Thank you for writing to tell me about your person's sister's dog. She sounds very nice and very pretty. Beagles have a really special way of barking, and I'll bet you are good at making yourself heard when you want to!
    Your friend, Piper