The Salish Wooly Dog Became Extinct In 1940, But New Research Suggests The Genetic Remains Of This Canine Can Still Be Found In Some Modern Day Pups

bekario - - illustrative purposes only, not the actual dog

Long ago, the Coast Salish peoples bred a dog with thick fur that they could use to spin into yarn. A few decades after colonizers arrived in the region, the Salish woolly dog became extinct. The only remnants of the canine were believed to be some blankets made out of their fur and a pelt housed in a museum.

But new research has revealed that genetic remains of the Salish woolly dog can still be found in some dogs, sparking hope that the lost species might be able to be revived.

The Coast Salish people inhabited the region spanning from British Columbia to northern Oregon. They raised a breed of dogs that provided them with material for their weaving. The dogs had furry ears that stood upright, a curled tail, and white or light brown hair.

They were kept on small islands to make sure they didn’t mate with any other canine species. Salish women would row to the islets in canoes to tend to the dogs, feeding them a diet primarily of fish. Mussel shell knives were used to shear the dogs’ fur.

In 1792, Captain George Vancouver from the British Royal Navy landed in the area and recorded his observations of the dogs and the Coast Salish people’s practices.

“They were all shorn as close to the skin as sheep are in England; and so compact were their fleeces, that large portions could be lifted up by a corner without causing any separation,” he wrote.

The fur was spun into yarn, and the yarn was then blended with plant fibers and hair from mountain goats. Finally, the material would undergo dyeing and be woven into durable blankets, which were used for ceremonies and as status symbols.

In 1827, the Hudson Bay Company established itself on the border of British Columbia and began to mass produce sheep wool blankets, which could be made much more quickly than traditional dog blankets. By the end of the 19th century, the woolly dogs vanished. The last one was said to have died in 1940.

Researchers from the American Museum of National History and the University of Victoria found that the Salish woolly dog was driven to extinction by colonizers. Colonial governments tried to eliminate many aspects of Salish culture, including sending children to residential schools to erase their knowledge of the language and traditions.

bekario – – illustrative purposes only, not the actual dog

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