If you haven’t heard of the chinook dog breed, you’re probably not alone. As a previous Guinness World Record holder for the rarest dog breed (1965), you’re not likely to see a chinook at the local dog park. This is unfortunate because these strong yet gentle and affectionate sled dogs — with a fascinating origin story — can make great family pets.
Chinook are large, tawny-colored dogs that love to have a job to do and are easy to train. They’re playful, good with kids and love to do sports like agility, tracking, sledding and carting. The breed was developed in New Hampshire; however, some chinook sled dogs went all the way to Antarctica! The Chinook Club of America has detailed their remarkable history, which we have summarized below.
Arthur Treadwell Walden from Wonalancet, New Hampshire, developed the chinook breed in 1917 by pairing a husky with a mastiff-type farm dog. Three pups were born and one was eventually named “Chinook” after a sled dog Walden had when he was in the Yukon freighting supplies for gold miners. All dogs of the chinook breed are related to “Chinook,” the original cross.
Chinook was one of 16 chinooks who accompanied Walden on Admiral Richard Byrd’s first Antarctic expedition, and Byrd described them as the backbone of the expedition transport. Unfortunately Chinook died while in Antarctica, and after returning from the expeditions, Walden was forced to sell his kennels to another breeder. The chinook breed may be descended from three dogs who were sold by Walden before he went to Antarctica.
By 1965 there were only 125 chinooks remaining, thus the rarest dog breed record, and the numbers kept dwindling. In the 1980s, there was a dedicated effort to preserve the eleven chinook breeding stock left, and since then their numbers have been steadily increasing. When the breed was fully recognized by the AKC in 2013, there were 813 dogs registered — although that’s still not very many! So if you ever meet a chinook, make sure you say hi because they may be the only one you’ll ever see.
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The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.