History of the Salish Wool Dog

Narrated from: Dog History

The Salish Wool dog was one of only two dog breeds who were native to the United States. They greatly resembled the Spitz with their long white hair. The breed was developed and bred by the natives who once occupied the area now known as British Columbia and Washington State. They are believed to be the only native dog actually developed through a true breeding process.

The petite wool dog with long hair and the village dog resembling a coyote were intentionally kept in separate. The dog packs were made up of anywhere from 12 up to 20 animals and their main diet consisted mainly of raw and cooked salmon. In an effort to preserve the breed and keep it true to its natural characteristics, in addition to preserving the favored white fur color, the Salish Wool Dogs were restricted to islands and kept in gated caverns.

The rare and famous ‘Salish’ blankets made the dog extremely valued for its fur due to the fact that the Salish tribe had no sheep and the wool of the undomesticated mountain goat was hard to collect. Shearing of the dogs occurred in late spring/early summer in May or June. The shorn fleece was thick enough that a person could lift a corner and the entire fleece would cling together, remaining in one piece. In the economic system of that time, ceremonial blankets as possessions were greatly esteemed, having nearly as much value as a slave. It wasn’t uncommon for the blankets to have wool from the mountain goat and feathers and fiber from plants woven in to alter the yarn quality and expand the fiber supply.

Once the European influence arrived the Salish Wool Dog was edged into extinction. This was due in part to the combination of the accessibility of blankets and sheep as well as the destruction of the native population due to the introduction of European diseases. These factors caused the disintegration of the native culture. This led to the Salish Wool Dog interbreeding with other dogs and its unique individuality was lost. The breed was considered extinct by 1858 and the last known existing dog of the breed died in 1940.

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