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Breed Spotlight: Salish Wool Dog

We haven't wrote a post about an extinct dog, but this one is just too cool to pass up! Suggested to be the only known prehistoric North American dog developed by true animal husbandry  , these dogs were bred, cared for, and prized for a very specific purpose: their fur. The facts about this dog and the Salish people who bred it are controversial, but it still makes an interesting read.

The Salish Wool Dog, as the name suggests, had fur that was similar to sheep's wool (according to written accounts and tribal lore) and was sheered to make the famous white Salish blankets. This comes into question in modern times though, as dogs fur typically wouldn't hold together like wool to be spun, and no dog hair was found on over 100 authentic Salish items that were woven.

However, there is ample evidence that these dogs were used in a unique way by the people of the Pacific Northwest. A molecular study of some textiles revealed that part of them do, in fact, contain the fur of an unusual canine. There are also written accounts from European explorers, most notably Captain Vancouver  , that speak about the dogs and their unique wool like fur.

To keep the breed pure they were kept in fenced off caves or even on the islands found off the coast from northern Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. They were fed primarily salmon, and stayed in packs of roughly 12–20 dogs. Extinction came on the heels of European contact, which raised the demand for wool from sheep, and the diseases the indigenous people contracted that caused the tribes to disband. By 1858 the animal was considered extinct, and in 1940 the last dog to have identifiable wool dog features died.

To get a another idea of what this beloved breed looked like, we can look to Spitz   breeds as they are thought to be the closest comparison.

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