Hare Indian dog
Other namesMackenzie River dog
Trap line dog[1]
C. familiaris lagopus (obselete)
Origin Canada
 United States
Dog (domestic dog)

The Hare Indian dog is an extinct breed of dog, formerly found in northern Canada and originally bred by the Hare Indians as a coursing dog. It was built for speed, being much like a coyote, but its usefulness declined as aboriginal hunting methods declined. The breed lost its separate identity through interbreeding with other dogs in the 19th century.


Hare Indian dogs, as illustrated in The Gardens and Menagerie of the Zoological Society, 1830.

The Hare Indian dog was a diminutive, slenderly built breed with a small head[2] and a narrow, pointed and elongated muzzle.[3] Its pointed ears were erect and broad at the base, and closer together than those of the Canadian Eskimo dog.[2] Its legs were slender and rather long. The tail was thick and bushy,[3] and it curled upwards over its right hip,[2] though not to the extent of the Canadian Eskimo dog. The fur was long and straight, the base colour being white with large, irregular grayish black patches intermingled with various brown shades. The outside of the ears was covered with short brown hair which darkened at the base. The fur in the inside of the ears was long and white. The fur of the muzzle was short and white, as with the legs, though it became longer and thicker at the feet.[3] Black patches were present around the eyes. Like the wolves with which it was sympatric, it had long hair between its toes, which projected over the soles, with naked, callous protuberances being present at the root of the toes and soles, even in winter. In size, it was intermediate to the coyote and the American red fox.[2]


The Hare Indian dog was apparently very playful, and readily befriended strangers,[3] though it was not very docile, and disliked confinement of any kind. It apparently expressed affection by rubbing its back against people, similar to a cat.[2] In its native homeland, the breed was not known to bark, though puppies born in Europe learned how to imitate the barking of other dogs.[3] When hurt or afraid, it howled like a wolf, and when curious, it made a sound described as a growl building up to a howl.[2]


Hare Indian dogs, as illustrated in Fauna Boreali-americana, Or, The Zoology of the Northern Parts of British America, 1829.

It is thought by some that the breed originated from crossbreedings between native Tahltan dogs and dogs brought to the North American continent by Viking explorers during the Norse colonization of the Americas, as it bears strong similarities to Icelandic breeds in appearance and behaviour, such as cat-like body rubbing to express affection. The breed seemed to be kept exclusively by the Hare Indians and other neighbouring tribes, such as the Bear, Mountain, Dogrib, Cree, Slavey and Chippewa tribes living in the Northeastern Territories of Canada and the United States around the Great Bear Lake, Southwest to Lake Winnipeg and Lake Superior and West to the Mackenzie River.[1] They were valued by the Indians as coursorial hunters, and they subsisted almost entirely on the produce of each hunt. Although not large enough to pose a danger to the moose and reindeer they hunted, their small size and broad feet allowed them to pursue large ungulates in deep snow, keeping them at bay until the hunters arrived.[3] It was too small to be used as a beast of burden[2]. It was the general belief among the Indians that the dog's origin was connected to the Arctic fox.[4] When first examined by European biologists, the Hare Indian dog was found to be almost identical to the coyote in build (save for the former's smaller skull) and fur length, though the two species were not sympatric.[2] The first Indian Hare dogs to be taken to Europe were a pair presented to the Zoological Society of London, after Sir John Richardson's and John Franklin's Coppermine Expedition of 1819–1822. Though originally spread over most of the northern regions of North America, the breed fell into decline after the introduction of firearms made its hunting abilities redundant. It gradually intermingled with other breeds such as the Newfoundland dog, the Canadian Eskimo dog and mongrels.[3]


  1. ^ a b "Hare Indian dogs". Song Dog Kennels. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Fauna Boreali-americana, Or, The Zoology of the Northern Parts of British America: Containing Descriptions of the Objects of Natural History Collected on the Late Northern Land Expeditions, Under Command of Captain Sir John Franklin, R.N. By John Richardson, William Swainson, William Kirby, published by J. Murray, 1829.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g The Gardens and Menagerie of the Zoological Society, Published, with the Sanction of the Council, Under the Superintendence of the Secretary and Vice-secretary of the Society, by Edward Turner Bennett, Zoological Society of London, William Harvey, Illustrated by John Jackson, William Harvey, G. B., S. S., Thomas Williams, Robert Edward Branston, George Thomas Wright. Published by Printed by C. Whittingham, 1830.
  4. ^ Rural sports by WM. B. Daniel, Vol. 1, 1801.

See also