The Coast Salish “wool dog” is an interesting example of selective breeding of dogs for a useful trait, in this case, their long, fair hair which could be cut or plucked for weaving. Susan Crockford, in her comprehensive account of Wool Dogs (downloadable!) quotes Captain Vancouver:
The dogs belonging to this tribe of Indians were numerous, and much resembled those of Pomerania, though in general somewhat larger. 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”
While Crockford writes that the wool dog was extinct as a separate breed by 1858 (it’s raison d’etre replaced by Hudson Bay blankets), it is still interesting to see a couple of pictures dating to ca. World War 2 showing two dogs on the Saanich Peninsula with strong echoes of the Spitz-genre wool dog phenotype – indeed, caption above explicitly notes this dog was “shorn each year.” (See also this poster (PDF) summarizing some wool dog research)
The second picture (above) is of interest as it shows a “mongrel pup”, showing the retention of many of the wool dog traits even through at least one mixed breeding event. (Also, archaeology students’ note: the 1935 licence plate provides a terminus post quem).
The antiquity of the practice of selective dog breeding is an interesting and unresolved point. Crockford suggests it may be as long ago as 4,000 years but more cautiously proposes 1400 years as the time period with decent evidence (preponderance of females, mandible morphology, in addition to smaller size). A 2018 genetic study suggests that Native North American dogs were wiped out and virtually completely replaced by dogs of European origin – so even early historical Indigenous dogs were already genetically replaced, and apparently uniquely Americanist breeds such as chihuaha are developed in the historic era (though a recent paper lends strong support to the idea that the Mexican hairless dogs derive from deep time mutations).
(I have to say, there are reasonable questions about the genetic study, partially revealed in the quote from a senior author ““This study demonstrates that the history of humans is mirrored in our domestic animals,” senior author Greger Larson, who studies evolutionary genomics at Oxford University, said in a statement. “Just as indigenous people in the Americas were replaced by European colonists, the same is true for their dogs.” (emphasis added, but you see the problem). And wouldn’t it be interesting if, for example, there was a >13,000 year old dog from Haida Gwaii? Also the “European” dogs doing the replacing are allegedly Siberian Huskies, with one prime mover being the Alaska gold rush, so there is sort of a genetic blitzkrieg implied).
Anyway it seems like dog origins generally are still debated and debatable and while the genetic studies are beyond my pea brain (chip in if I am reading them wrong), looking at cool pictures is definitely within my limits. I’m not sure how widely known these photos are, I don’t think I have seen them reproduced before now. They are from the Ian McTaggart-Cowan Fonds held at the University of Victoria.