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Out of the Past Comes A New Dawn

By Sheila Atter 

          To discover the origins of the American Indian Dog you must study the legends & history of the Native Americans themselves – a trip back in time before Europeans explored the New World. Long before the introduction of the horse, the dog was there to guard, hunt, herd and carry. Their versatility made them essential to the livelihood & survival of the tribal group. The coyote-like appearance of the American Indian dog is not a coincidence. The Native Americans believed the coyote or ‘Gods dog’ was the first being on earth, & will be the last. Many tribes actively sought to breed their dogs with coyotes to maintain the dog’s survival instincts, pack loyalty & high intelligence. However, the last known introduction of coyote into the Dogs was way before the 1800’s. It should never be confused with the modern hybrids that are created by breeding dogs with wolfs or coyotes. The ancestors of the American Indian Dogs have been traced back before the Ice Age, whilst they were well documented by the Spanish explorers. The largest populations were found among the North American Plains Indians, but the medium – sized Hare & Common Indian dogs were also recorded from the sub-artic, through Canada, different parts of the U.S. and down to the tip of South America. Based on observations made between 1780 & 1830, it was estimated that from the Comanche in the south to the Blackfoot in the north there were at least 200,000 of these dogs, (& that’s not including the Common & Hare Indian dogs & other medium-sized types. Most Indian family groups had around 20 dogs on average. It is believed that the main reason the breeds almost became extinct is that they looked so coyote-like that settlers & soldiers felt as threatened by the dogs as they did by the Indians themselves. Also the Spanish eat the Native dogs when they ran out of meat, this alone could have almost disseminated the dog population itself. Even after the tribal groups themselves were moved to reservations, their dogs continued to be destroyed.  
       The Native Americans bred their dogs carefully. The breeding was the task of the women of the tribes who did not allow the bitch to be bred until her third season. The selected sire was never to closely related. On the third day, after birth, the pups were best pups were selected, & the rest destroyed so that the bitch could devote herself to just one or two. Non-breeding males were castrated. 
        As a boy, Kim La Flamme, part Blackfoot, used to play with these dogs. He wanted to find out more about these dogs, & was amazed to find out they were considered extinct. When he was only 14 years old he started his quest to find more dogs, by writing to every reservation & Native American organization in Canada, U.S. & Mexico. He found a few dogs of the traditional type, as well as other feral types that he believed, because of the area & their characteristics, had a lot of Indian dog blood in them.   As an anti war protester, Kim was on the run for some time. He used his travels to continue to search for The Dogs. Eventually he gave himself up to the authorities. During this time he had lost some of the dogs. Undeterred, he once more started the search for suitable breeding stock. 
        One lucky find was a male that he spotted with a hitchhiker – Kim nearly caused an accident when he turned round on spotting it! The hitchhiker was a Sioux Indian Lady, bred for generations by her family. This dog was mated to his bitches & apart from two more feral dogs, there has been no other more good specimens found for the breeding program Although the registry is closed, it sure would be re-opened if a particularly good specimen were to be found, although Kim believes that many of the dogs, reputations are being damaged by the unscrupulous hybrid breeders that are trying to market there wolf & or coyote hybrids as Indian Dogs. Kim says there was already enough coyote blood in them, to want to bring more wild blood back in? – “There is nothing wrong with hybrids if you know what you’re getting & from a responsible breeder, but it is very irresponsible to sell some unsuspecting person a hybrid, they are nothing like the loyal & trainable personality of the American Indian dogs, just because they may look similar, doesn’t mean they are. The American Indian Dogs where not hybrids. We need to take care of our heritage not put a lot of faults information out there, there’s enough out there already,” Kim says.     Thanks to Sarah Harrison for submitting this article to DOGS MONTHLY.

Kim says:   Thanks to Sarah Harrison for submitting this article to DOGS MONTHLY.


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