Chinook History, Personality, Appearance, Health and Pictures

Chinook

This sled dog, created in America, takes its title from the pet name of an exceptional husky owned by the breed’s creator, Arthur Walden. The word "chinook" translates as "warm winds".

History

This is a breed created by one man — the American explorer Arthur Walden. Born in New Hampshire, he left to face the challenges of Alaska in 1869. Once there he became fascinated by the local working dogs and acquired great skill as a sled-driver. In 1898 he acquired a half-breed Mackenzie River Husky called Chinook, a brilliant lead dog that he admired above all others.

When Walden returned home from Alaska, he decided to create his own special breed for dog sledding. It had to be a dog with four qualities: strength, stamina, speed and friendliness. To achieve this, he started by mating a "Greenland Husky" bitch with a "mastiff-type" dog. The Husky in question came from a good line, being a direct descendant of Polaris, the lead dog of Robert Peary, who had been the first man to reach the North Pole in 1907. The ‘mastiff-type’ had a more obscure origin, being described by Walden as ‘a mongrel with perhaps a trace of St Bernard’. In 1917 a litter was born and the best puppy was given the name of Chinook, in memory of Walden’s earlier favourite. This second Chinook, a large golden-coloured animal, proved to be a wonderful lead dog and Walden decided to make him the founding father of this new breed. These dogs were the basis of Walden’s developing breed.

When Chinook was 12 years old, Walden joined the Admiral Byrd Expedition to Antarctica. He was defined lead driver and his dogs proved themselves to be outstanding. But Chinook went missing one day and his body could not be found. When Walden returned to his home in New Hampshire he found himself deeply in debt and was forced to sell his kennels. Later, in the 1930s, the surviving examples of the sled dog he had created were given the breed name of Chinook in his honour.

After this, the stock of Chinooks was sold on several times. Walden died in 1947, saving his wife’s life when their house burned down. New owners of the dogs did little to increase their numbers. By 1966 there were only 60 Chinooks alive in the world. By 1970 this figure has fallen to a mere 12 and the breed seemed destined to disappear. But they were remarkable dogs and aroused sufficient interest to avoid complete extinction. By 1985 the number had risen back to 60, and a special survey in 1986 revealed that there were now 82 of them, of which 45 were suitable for breeding. Enough dedicated enthusiasts were now involved to ensure the future of the breed, even though it still had to be classified as a rare dog. In 1993 a national breed club was founded, called Chinooks Worldwide, and a global registry was started.

Appearance

Because of its mixed ancestry, the Chinook does not look much like the other, more familiar sled dogs. With its drooped ears, its uncurled tail and its solid tawny colouring, it looks superficially more like a golden Labrador than a typical, northern spitz dog. But somewhere inside its brain lurks the intense, ancient desire to run and run over frozen wastes.

The Chinook is an incredibly hardy dog — a willing northern breed that lives from ten to fifteen years. For a breed of this size and bone, its hips are normally well formed and surprisingly free of hip dysplasia. It has a tawny, golden coat, may have drop or erect ears and is a robust and obliging worker.

Temperament

As a companion, it is boisterous when young, but calm and relaxed when older. It shows great patience with children and is non-aggressive. Like all sled dogs, the world over, it "lives to please".

Gallery of Chinook