Made In The USA – Meet the Chinook

The Chinook is a newly recognized, rare and fascinating breed, bringing the total number of AKC recognized breeds to 177.

The story of this breed is touching and historic and is one of the truly American breeds.*

In 1896 a young man named Arthur Walden left his job on a New Hampshire farm for the trip of a lifetime to Alaska. While there he had many jobs and experiences but the one job that shaped him for the rest of his life was “dog punching.” Dog punching, essentially dog sledding, was the use of dogs to move merchandise across the frozen lands of Alaska. With this experience under his belt, he eventually returned to New Hampshire where he was unable to find the quality of sled dog that he had become use to. But in 1917 a litter was born to his Husky, a granddaughter of Admiral Peary’s lead dog during his 1909 Arctic expedition, and a stud of mixed heritage. Peary, an egotistical and colorful character with a hefty share of character flaws, actually missed the North Pole by a bit.

In this litter, related to Peary’s lead sled dog, were three buff colored puppies that stood out. They were large and intelligent and eventually one, Chinook, became Walden’s prized and beloved lead dog. Walden developed a team of sled dogs and was winning some races, but an outbreak of distemper wiped out his entire team except for Chinook.

At eleven years of age Chinook joined Admiral Byrd’s team set to explore the Antarctica and build a new city, “Little America.” The night after setting a record for hauling 3500 pounds with his team of 13 dogs, Chinook woke Walden several times during the night. Walden patted his head and told him to go back to sleep. As Walden was preparing to leave Little America the next day, Chinook wandered off and was never found.  When a new highway was built in the area, the people wanted to name it after Walden. But Walden asked that it be named after Chinook, and today is still named the Chinook Trail.

Three offspring of Chinook went on to become the foundation for the Chinook bloodline. With the comeback of this breed, they are now being bred, carefully and selectively, both as ideal companions and recreational sled dogs. This history of this breed is directly connected to the great explorers Byrd and Peary , the 1925 Nome Serum Run, and exploration of the Antarctica.

* The Plott Hound, the Boston Terrier, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever,the American Eskimo, the Toy Fox Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Rat Terrier, the American Water Spaniel, the Alaskan Malamute, the Boykin Spaniel, the Redbone Coonhound, the Black Mouth Cur, the American Foxhound, and, oddly, the Australian Shepherd, are the others I can think of. Can you think of any others?

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