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The Salish Wool Dog is an extinct breed of white, long-haired, Spitz-type dog that was developed and bred by the native peoples of what is now Washington State and British Columbia.

The Salish Wool Dog is the only known prehistoric North American dog developed by true animal husbandry. The small long-haired wool dog and the coyote-like village dog were deliberately maintained as separate populations. The dogs were kept in packs of about 12 to 20 animals, and fed primarily raw and cooked salmon. To keep the breed true to type and the preferred white color, Salish Wool Dogs were confined on islands and in gated caves.

The fur of the Salish Wool Dog was prized for making the famous and rare "Salish" blankets, as the Salish tribe did not have sheep and wild mountain goat wool was difficult to gather. The dogs were sheared like sheep in May or June. The sheared fur was so thick that Captain Vancouver could pick up a corner and the whole fleece would hold together. Ceremonial blankets were prized items in the pre-contact potlatch distribution economic system, almost as valuable as slaves. The dog hair was frequently mixed with mountain goat wool, feathers, and plant fibers to change the yarn quality and to extend the supply of fiber.

The extinction of the Salish Wool Dog began with European contact. A combination of 1) the availability of Hudson Bay blankets and later sheep, and 2) decimation of the indigenous population by European diseases causing the breakup of the native culture, caused the Salish Wool Dog to interbreed with other dogs and lose its unique identity. By 1858, the Salish Wool Dog was considered extinct as a distinct breed. The last identifiable wool dog died in 1940.

Osteometry of the Salish Wool Dog


  1. ^ Crockford, S.J. (1997). "Osteometry of Makah and Coast Salish dogs". Burnaby Canada: Archaeology Press 22, Simon Fraser University.  

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