The project began nearly 20 years ago. I remember the conversation with Alaska’s state archeologist Michael Kuntz who discovered the Mesa site.
When I asked him if the first paleoindians had malamutes 12,000 years ago, and if so, whether or not they physically resembled our modern Alaskan malamutes. This he couldn’t confirm, but he did confirm that the paleoindians definitely had dogs.
So, whatever cold weather or arctic traits that were beneficial for dogs to posses back then, should hold true for today especially since the land and climate in those days were similar to what it is now.
So, this brings us to the question of what are suitable Arctic comparable traits for Alaska’s Arctic? And this is what my quest is about.
First, I want to empathize “Alaska’s Arctic” because it is very unique in comparison to other polar regions of the world.
Arctic Alaska consists mostly of the Brooks mountain range where snow is sometimes three to five feet deep. The Brooks Range is the world’s highest range of mountains within the Arctic circle. It extends 600 miles west to east and reaches heights of 8,500-9,000 feet and widths of 200 miles.
So, obviously the indigenous people and their dogs who lived there had to deal with deep snow. And we know for certainty that most indigenous people resided in the mountains during winter.
So this is the reason why the malamutes are larger framed dogs in comparison to Greenland and Inuit dogs.
Secondly, even though we have AKC standards, I believe, they aren’t descriptive enough. (I have written more about this subject in my latest book).
After all, the authors of the standards did not have any sled dog travel with malamutes in Arctic Alaska.
This is what my quest is about: to discover and document exactly what it takes for dogs to live, thrive and travel in Arctic Alaska.
Let’s go back in time:
With new data and DNA testing, we now have proof that markers from Tibetan wolves are in a few Alaskan malamute bloodlines.
We can safely say now, that Alaskan malamutes accompanied the first paleoindians who crossed the land ridge (beringia) from Asia 12,000 to 14,000 years.
When we look into the eyes of our happy-go-lucky malamutes begging for popcorn, we are looking into the eyes of ancient history.
Not only a dog-breed history but also an ancient peoples’ history. By preserving Alaskan malamutes to be as close to original Arctic compatible dogs, we are actually preserving an ancient peoples’ culture and history as well.
For many decades I’ve studied and documented specific Arctic compatible traits in dogs. These documents will be published in my next book, along with the continuation of my training strategy.
I feel it’s pertinent to preserve the Alaskan malamute breed, thereby we also help preserve the culture of the first paleoindians who’s ancestors are spread all over the country from New Mexico, Arizona to Utqiagvik (Barrow) Alaska.
For those interested I’ve posted the study. It was published in 2015 and was the most extensive study at that time. Two of our malamutes were in the study.