The Canadian Eskimo Dog has lived in one of the harshest climates on Earth for thousands of years. Brought over by the Thule Inuit, the breed thrived in the Canadian North due to its dense coat and sharp hunting skills. Essential to most aspects of traditional Arctic life, the Canadian Eskimo Dog is an eager hunter, mode of transportation and companion for the Inuit people. They, in return, called their partner and friend, Qimmiq, meaning "dog".
Most happy and satisfied when working, the Canadian Eskimo Dog is one of the strongest pull animals in the world. A hardy sled dog, it can pull up to twice its weight for over 70 km per day. This exceptional strength coupled with the ability to flourish in fantastic surroundings make the Canadian Eskimo Dog one of Canada's great breeds. Northern legends have it pulling large sleds for days on end with little food, finding the way home in blinding snow from memory, and hunting for seal holes in the ice while holding large predators, like polar bears, at a distance.
While this all may seem extraordinary, many of these legends are true. Arctic Explorers, like Sir Robert Peary, used the Canadian Eskimo Dog on their expeditions. Evidence can be found in his personal effects crediting the intelligence and strength of the dog for the group's survival. Peary wrote that "it is an absolute certainty that the North Pole would still be undiscovered but for the Eskimo Dog."
The Canadian Eskimo Dog is a marvel of survival. It uses its keen eyesight, endurance, and great strength to compete in a bleak and harsh environment. The breed has a strong immune system and phenomenal memory. It is easy to train and a loyal companion. Despite its great bravery and strength, the breed tends to be playful and submissive.
For over 2000 years, the Canadian Eskimo Dog was fed a marine based diet, which is very high in long chain Omega-3 fatty acids like DPA and EPA. Studies have demonstrated that long chain Omega-3 fatty acids nourish the cellular membrane. Omega-3, therefore, has the potential to impact neurological functioning, eyesight, and the cardiovascular system. Some of the great strength, endurance, and memory of this dog could be credited to its fish-rich diet, just as many of its skills are a result of its long association with the north. The Canadian Eskimo Dog is a product of its environment and is an amazing example of evolution.
However, as southern technology advanced north, the traditional partnership between the Canadian Eskimo Dog and the Inuit quickly evaporated. Snowmobiles replaced the sled dog in most of the Northern Hemisphere. A working dog, the Canadian Eskimo Dog instantly felt the effects. Without work to perform, many of the sled teams were abandoned or shot. In 1950, there were over 20,000 dogs. This number sharply declined in the next few decades until there were fewer than 200 purebred dogs left.
In the early 1970s, the Canadian Kennel Club in association with the Canadian Government helped fund a project run John McGrath. The Canadian Eskimo Dog Research Foundation (CEDRF) pledged to save this great dog from its looming extinction. In 1986, the project registered its first dogs with the Canadian Kennel Club. However, the numbers of registered Canadian Eskimo Dogs are still very low. Currently, there are less than 400 dogs left in Canada.
What a travesty considering the uniqueness of this breed. Several foundations have been established to help save the breed permanently. With more education and funds, the Canadian Eskimo Dog does not have to be a great working dog of the past. Rather it can be a dog for the future. The Canadian Eskimo Dog is a proud breed with a long heritage as one of five indigenous breeds to Canada. The Canadian government has commemorated the place the breed holds in Canadian history and Arctic exploration with a stamp (1988) and a fifty-cent piece (1997).