Dogs of the American Indians

by William Pferd

This book is about the dogs that were kept by Native American tribes. The author estimates that among all the tribes, there were at least seventeen distinctly recognizable breeds or types. Some were widespread, others very unique to a small area or only one tribe. Most of them are now gone- they disappeared when their owners were exterminated, or were killed by conquering peoples who saw them as useless. Remaining extant are Malamutes, Eskimo dogs, and the Xoloitzcuintle (although the author thought this one had disappeared as well). The first third of the book is rather dry reading (at least for me) it’s on archaeological evidence of early dogs, and how very very far back they were already being bred to type. (I’m not sure how much the info presented in that section has changed with newer findings). The rest of the book is much more readable- detailing what was known of the natives’ dogs through early written accounts, paintings, and a few photographs. Most of the dogs’ roles in Native American societies were what you might expect- as hunting partners, to protect and give warnings, or to carry and haul burdens (especially before they had horses). In some tribes they were regularly used as food, in others this was only in times of starvation as a last resort. What was new to me: they were often a valuable source of warmth in cold climates- dogs have an average body temperature higher than humans, so sleeping with them kept people warm. One tribe had a special breed of dog with a very thick coat they kept just to shear the fur, spin it and weave with other fibers to make cloth. Another tribe reportedly had dogs that were trained to dive into the water and herd fish into their owners’ nets. Although they were sometimes treated callously, more often the people treasured their dogs and valued them highly. This book was more interesting than I expected at first, and gave me a new picture of how dogs lived with people in early times.

Rating: 3/5
192 pages, 1987

4 Responses

  1. Personally, I have no doubt that dogs really do deserve to be called “man’s best friends.” This sounds like a good history of that relationship, and it reminds me of a visit I once made to the Museum of Natural History in London where they had “stuffed” specimens of various breeds as they evolved over the decades. Some breeds were hardly recognizable a hundred or so years from where the exhibit began them.

    1. That sounds like a really interesting exhibit, Sam. I’ve seen early photographs of some dogs- american pit bull types, german shepherds, boxers- and they do look so different. They used to breed them selectively for working traits but now that it’s for looks, a lot of their forms have gone to extremes I think.

  2. Interesting about using the dogs for warmth. I love it when my cat sleeps against me at night, a big fuzzy dog would be even nicer.

    1. Yes! My cat definitely likes to sit on my lap or legs more when it’s cold weather, and sometimes in warmer months I actually push him off, it gets too toasty! I never thought of it actually being of survival value for early peoples, though. Makes a lot of sense, you don’t have to tend a fire all night if you have three dogs (literally) at your back.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

DISCLAIMER:

All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL:

Subscribe to my blog:

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

VIEW MY PERSONAL COLLECTION:

TRADE BOOKS WITH ME ON:

ARCHIVES: 

2021
January 2021 (14)February 2021 (13)March 2021 (14)April 2021 (7)May 2021 (10)June 2021 (5)July 2021 (10)August 2021 (27)September 2021 (16)October 2021 (8)
2020
January 2020 (14)February 2020 (6)March 2020 (10)April 2020 (1)May 2020 (10)June 2020 (15)July 2020 (13)August 2020 (26)September 2020 (10)October 2020 (9)November 2020 (16)December 2020 (22)
2019
January 2019 (12)February 2019 (9)March 2019 (5)April 2019 (10)May 2019 (9)June 2019 (6)July 2019 (18)August 2019 (13)September 2019 (13)October 2019 (7)November 2019 (5)December 2019 (18)
2018
January 2018 (17)February 2018 (18)March 2018 (9)April 2018 (9)May 2018 (6)June 2018 (21)July 2018 (12)August 2018 (7)September 2018 (13)October 2018 (15)November 2018 (10)December 2018 (13)
2017
January 2017 (19)February 2017 (12)March 2017 (7)April 2017 (4)May 2017 (5)June 2017 (8)July 2017 (13)August 2017 (17)September 2017 (12)October 2017 (15)November 2017 (14)December 2017 (11)
2016
January 2016 (5)February 2016 (14)March 2016 (5)April 2016 (6)May 2016 (14)June 2016 (12)July 2016 (11)August 2016 (11)September 2016 (11)October 2016 (9)November 2016 (1)December 2016 (3)
2015
January 2015 (9)February 2015 (9)March 2015 (11)April 2015 (10)May 2015 (10)June 2015 (2)July 2015 (12)August 2015 (13)September 2015 (16)October 2015 (13)November 2015 (10)December 2015 (14)
2014
January 2014 (14)February 2014 (11)March 2014 (5)April 2014 (15)May 2014 (12)June 2014 (17)July 2014 (22)August 2014 (19)September 2014 (10)October 2014 (19)November 2014 (14)December 2014 (14)
2013
January 2013 (25)February 2013 (28)March 2013 (18)April 2013 (21)May 2013 (12)June 2013 (7)July 2013 (13)August 2013 (25)September 2013 (24)October 2013 (17)November 2013 (18)December 2013 (20)
2012
January 2012 (21)February 2012 (19)March 2012 (9)April 2012 (23)May 2012 (31)June 2012 (21)July 2012 (19)August 2012 (16)September 2012 (4)October 2012 (2)November 2012 (7)December 2012 (19)
2011
January 2011 (26)February 2011 (22)March 2011 (18)April 2011 (11)May 2011 (6)June 2011 (7)July 2011 (10)August 2011 (9)September 2011 (14)October 2011 (13)November 2011 (15)December 2011 (22)
2010
January 2010 (27)February 2010 (19)March 2010 (20)April 2010 (24)May 2010 (22)June 2010 (24)July 2010 (31)August 2010 (17)September 2010 (18)October 2010 (11)November 2010 (13)December 2010 (19)
2009
January 2009 (23)February 2009 (26)March 2009 (32)April 2009 (22)May 2009 (18)June 2009 (26)July 2009 (34)August 2009 (31)September 2009 (30)October 2009 (23)November 2009 (26)December 2009 (18)
2008
January 2008 (35)February 2008 (26)March 2008 (33)April 2008 (15)May 2008 (29)June 2008 (29)July 2008 (29)August 2008 (34)September 2008 (29)October 2008 (27)November 2008 (27)December 2008 (24)
2007
August 2007 (12)September 2007 (28)October 2007 (27)November 2007 (28)December 2007 (14)
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
2001
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
1976
1975
1974
1973
1972
1971
1970
1969
1968
1967
1966
1965
1964
1963
1962
1961
1960
1959
1958
1957
1956
1955
1954
1953
1952
1951
1950