Tahltan Bear Dog
- Chien d’Ours de Tahltan
STATUS: The status of this breed is a matter of some debate. Officially declared by authorities to be extinct as of 1970, there are some groups who claim that Tahltan Bear Dogs still exist.
Previously recognized by the American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club, with recognition retracted in 1974.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
The Tahltan Bear Dog was one of eleven dog breeds native to Canada. It was bred and employed by the Tahltan First Nation of Northern British Columbia and the Southern Yukon. It’s primary purpose, outside of being a companion to its human family, was to hunt bear. Prior to each hunt, a ceremony was conducted in which these dogs would be bled by being pricked in the hindquarters with the fibula of a fox or wolf.
Because of their compact size, the little dogs were carried in shoulder sacks until quarry was spotted, to avoid wearing them out before the hunt truly started. Once they were released, the dogs would move easily over the top of the deep drifts that would slow a bear. The dogs would then harass the bear by nipping at its hindquarters and yapping continually until the hunters could get close enough for a kill.
They subsisted off of birds, small animals and fish, and flourished in cold environments. Rather than being strictly kept outside, as northern breeds often are, the Tahltan Bear Dog was treated like a valued member of the family. It not only shared the living space of its human family, it also shared meals.
As white settlers moved into the territory occupied by the Tahltan First Nation, they brought a variety of other dog breeds with them. These ultimately interbred with the Tahltan Bear Dog, thus diluting its genetics. This, in addition to the breed being taken out of its native environment, and some naturally occurring breeding difficulties the Tahltan experienced, ultimately led to a designation of extinct.
Though it is considered extinct, it also has the designation of being the world’s rarest dog breed, suggesting that there are still extant specimens. There are no known modern breeds bearing a genetic relationship with the Tahltan Bear Dog.
The Tahltan was known to have a lot of courage for such a small dog. On the hunt, they worked as part of a pack, and were fearless and possessed of remarkable endurance. As a family companion, they were affectionate, highly intelligent, and known to be excellent with children.
- Built similar to a fox.
- Primarily black, dark brown or blue, with sporadic white patches on the chest and paws.
- Large, erect and pointed ears.
- Mid-length pointed muzzle.
- Fur was glossy, medium length, and double-coated, with guard hairs covering a lush undercoat.
- Moderate webbing between the toes.
- Paws were slightly large for the size of the breed.
- Bred to be double-jointed and double-gaited, like all indigenous North American dog breeds.
- Distinctive ¾ length “shaving brush” tail.
- Dogs were athletic and agile.
- Yodeled rather than barked.
- Dogs were bred entirely for their hunting value, so they did not breed true to type.
AVERAGE HEIGHT/ WEIGHT:
Height: 14-17” at the withers