You may have never heard about the Salish wool dog, but this is not surprising considering that this dog is currently extinct.
To better understand the origins of the Salish wool dog, it helps to firstly learn more about the Coast Salish people and their ancient traditions.
So let's discover more about these Salish people and how they stumbled upon the Salish wool dog.
The Coast Salish People
The Salish were indigenous people who occupied the western North Pacific Ocean areas for thousands of years. The Coast Salish in particular, used to live where now we find Washington state and British Columbia.
This ancient population relied on a diet mostly composed of seasonal fresh fish, plants, and shellfish.
The Salish Wool Dog
Salish wool dogs were white, long-haired dogs resembling dogs of the Spitz-type. As their name implies, these dogs were developed courtesy of the Coast Salish people of Washington and British Columbia.
These people purposely raised these small, long-haired village dogs ensuring they were maintained pure by not allowing them to mate with other dogs. The dogs were also fed a distinctive diet, mostly composed of fresh or dried sockeye and humpbacked salmon.
One distinctive trait of this dog was its pure white, lovely fur which the Salish people used as wool for making warm clothing and blankets.
Salish wool dogs' numbers declined rapidly upon contact with the Europeans becoming almost extinct. The last Salish wool dog was last recorded in 1940.
Admiring the Wool of These Dog's Today
Still as of today, it is possible to admire some ceremonial blankets made from the wool of these dogs preserved in museum collections.
In particular, an ancient pelt obtained from the Salish wool dog was discovered in a drawer at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in 2002 by historian Candace Wellman.
Apparently, this pelt was acquired back in 1859 and forgotten in the museum's drawer. With the help of Elaine Humphrey, Wellman was able to confirm its authenticity.
The Art of Spinning Dog Hair in Wool
Did you know that your dog's hair can be spun into wool? It's called chiengora, that is, wool spun from dog hair.
This name is composed by the word chien (which is the French word for dog) and angora, the downy coat produced by the Angora rabbit. The name was crafted by the American spinner, Annette Klick.
Of course, not all dogs' hairs are created equally and therefore, not all are suitable for this process. The best wool is obtained from Northern breeds blessed with a soft undercoat.