Side view of a 14 year old dog which was shorn each year for its hair. Source: Ian McTaggart-Cowan fonds, UVIC.
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)
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Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged Coast Salish, dogs, genetics, osteometry, photographs, Straits Salish, wool dogs
Smell a corpse, not smell like one, Arbuthnot.
B.C.’s own Heather Pringle has a new blog these days, and her recent post on the use of forensic dogs to detect archaeological sites and human remains in particular, in Washington State, is worth a read:
According to the staff at the Institute for Canine Forensics, dogs can smell human remains that are buried as much as nine feet below the surface. And they can detect remains as old as 2000 years. ”Human remains have a scent that never, ever goes away, especially a bone, even after it dries out,” one of the institute’s staff members told The Peninsula Daily News.
From PacificID's Dog Burial Field Guide.
Dogs are such an important source of evidence for past human life. Not just as “man’s best friend” and all that but because of the insight they give into domestication, into evolutionary processes, as proxies for stable isotope studies of human diet, and so forth. So, pretty great to see PacificID is putting out a field guide to dog burials and in situ dog remains in archaeology, complete with snazzy laminated ID card. The book itself is also printed on waterproof paper. There are also downloadable diagrams (PDF) for recording dog burials. The author, Dr. Susan Crockford, is an authority on the evolution of dogs and other domestication and evolution issues, and on dog osteology. This looks like excellent value for money.