Argentine Polar Dog
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Simba, an Argentine Polar Dog
|Other names||Perro polar argentino|
|Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)|
The Argentine Polar Dog (Spanish: perro polar argentino) was an Argentinian breed of dog that is now extinct. Argentina polar dogs were developed by the Argentine Army for the purpose of equipping their Antarctica bases with sled dogs. The breed was a result of crossbreeding between a Siberian Husky, a Greenland dog, an Alaskan Malamute and a Manchurian Spitz. However, the breed went extinct in 1994 due to it being moved out of Antarctica in compliance with the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (PEPAT).
The need to travel quickly, cheaply, and safely across Antarctica caused a team of more than thirty non-commissioned officers of the Argentine Army, commanded by Hector Martin and Felix Daza Rodriguez, to develop a breed of dogs that were capable of carrying loads through long distances, easy to breed, easy to maintain, and able to fulfill operational functions similar to those of mechanical tracked transports.
At the origin of the Argentine Polar Dog are the main Arctic dog breeds of work, and the formation of its genetic base and the stabilization of its standard took the military thirty-one years of work. Specially trained for the march or "mushing" with sledges, these dogs easily slipped on snowy or icy surfaces indistinctly. With the identification of Argentina as a bi-continental country, the exploration and conquest of Antarctica began in the 1950s and the desire to reach the South Pole came with it. General Hernán Pujato brought the first sled dogs from Alaska and Greenland, thus beginning the crossings.
Characteristics and abilities
The average weight of male Argentine Polar Dogs was 60 kilograms (132 lbs).
The average weight of female Argentine Polar Dogs was 52 kilograms (115 lbs).
Argentine Polar Dogs were shielded against low temperatures by their triple coat, which consisted of a wool layer, a hair proper and an undercoat, as well as a subcutaneous adipose layer 2 cm thick. The dogs had four sharp canine teeth or fangs in their mouths that served to tear, incisors that allowed them to cut, and molars to grind. This allowed the dogs to tear flesh easily.
The sled tractor capacity of Argentine Polar Dogs was twice was much as any dog breed before it. A group of 11 Argentine Polar Dogs could drag a sled loaded with 1.1 tons (2200 lbs or 1,000 kg) at 35 km/h (22 mph) (on flat terrain) and 50 km/h (31 mph) on a 45° downward slope, in both cases without resting for 6 hours in a row.
The normal working temperature of the dogs was -70 °C (-94 °F), and it has been documented that they were visiting and quietly waited outside the Soviet Vostok Station on the day when the historic cold world record was recorded (-89.2 °C, -128.6 °F).
Argentine Polar Dogs filled the vital function of helping soldiers avoid cracks and deadly traps in the ice and detect them when nothing else could. They were also had a good sense of direction and were reliable in rescue operations, even during large storms. The dogs were able to move quickly and easily on unconsolidated roads or layers of thin ice that were unable to support the weight of motorized tractors.
Argentine Polar Dogs could be sacrificed and used as food for men or dogs as a means of survival.
Food and care
Argentine Polar Dogs were fed once a day (twice as often as Siberian Huskies), but were highly valued because their maintenance cost was much less that the cost of fuel for diesel tractors moving the same loads. Argentine Polar Dogs were not given water to drink, as they were able to drink the snow. The food first brought by Hernán Pujato to start the race was pemmican, a tablet prepared with powdered meat, fat, and cereals that provided protein from beef, and calories from fat, and vitamins from a variety of berries. The advantage of using pemmican food concentrate was that it could be stored for long periods of time and did not take up much space. People living at Argentina's Antarctic Bases at the time mixed the food with remains of other meat, allowing the Argentine Polar Dog to grow sturdy and taller than its original breeds.
Towards 1967, Argentine Polar Dogs had adapted to the cold Antarctica temperatures and began to reject the pemmican whose formula had changed. Before the possibility of rejection and the consequent weight loss of the dogs, the dogs began to be fed a more conventional food in its premium version. It was carried in twenty kilogram bags that were stocked in sheds until use. However, leftover human food continued to be mixed in.
Veterinarians and the doctors at the Antarctica bases were responsible for the deliveries or injuries of the dogs. The primary cause of death for Argentine Polar Dogs was fighting, due to their breed's aggressiveness with their peers.
Well-known Argentine Polar Dogs include Poncho and Simba. Poncho was a sled dog who was well known for his ability to warn men of hidden cracks in the ice in front of them. On one occasion, Poncho guided a rescue team to the survivors of an aircraft accident, who were all recovered safely.
In 1965, Colonel Jorge Edgar Leal selected Argentine Polar Dogs for his expedition to the South Pole.
Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty
The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, an agreement associated with the Antarctic Treaty of which Argentina is a signatory, explicitly ordered the withdrawal of all Argentine Polar Dogs from the continent of Antarctica, considering them an "exotic species". The deadline set for the evacuation of all Argentine Polar Dogs was April 1, 1994 and Argentina complied with this obligation, moving all Argentine Polar Dogs to South America.
Controversy regarding the Antarctic Treaty
The reasons that the PEPAT invoked to remove Argentine Polar Dogs from Antarctica came from a conclusion of Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, which reported that the dogs allegedly transmitted Canine distemper to seals, preyed on penguins, and they harbored parasites in their fur that were capable of upsetting the ecological balance of Antarctica.
However, it has been proven that canine distemper is a virus, that can not be transmitted between species.The immunization records of the Argentine Antarctic bases where the Argentine Polar Dogs were raised and maintained show that all specimens were vaccinated as required by law, with two doses to the puppy and an annual reinforcement for all adults, including the annual revaccination for pregnant females that prevents infection. Expeditions without a permanent bases were obliged to follow this plan as well. The effectiveness of these vaccinations is demonstrated by the fact that during the period where Argentine Polar Dogs lived in Antarctica (1951-1994), not a single case of canine distemper was registered in the Argentine bases or the bases of any other country, concluding that the diseases was never present on the continent.
Records show that dogs may have once devoured a penguin, but it would have been beneficial in controlling the overpopulation of penguin breeding grounds.
The equilibrium of the Antarctic ecosystem was damaged by the removal of the Argentine Polar Dogs, since they had to be replaced by tractors using fossil fuels. This usage of fossil fuels caused more pollution and waste than the dogs had done.
Evacuation to South America
Argentina did not denounce the PEPAT, but as a signatory, it exercised its right to vote against the removal of the Argentine Polar Dogs. But, they submitted to the will of the majority and decided to remove their dogs in two stages. The fifty-eight ling dogs were divided into two groups, one of 30 dogs and one group of 28 dogs. They were then removed from Argentine Antarctica and the first group was sent to Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego Province, Argentina. The second group was later sent to Mendoza, the capital of Mendoza Province, Argentina.
The first governor of Tierra del Fuego, José Arturo Estabillo, named the Argentine Polar Dog Provincial Natural Monument in 1993 and also established a dog sledding race between the mixed breed descendants of Argentine Polar Dogs and other breeds.
After 43 years of continuously working in Antarctica without any contact with other dogs, the Argentine Polar Dog had lost the natural immunity to common diseases found in dogs. Of the 30 dogs in the first group that moved from Antarctica to Ushuaia, Argentina, and Mendoza, Argentina, 28 died within the first year. Both survivors were males, making it impossible for them to breed and reproduce.
Many of the dogs in the second group that left Antarctica met the same fate, and the few survivors were scattered and given to adoptive families far from each other. These survivors were crossed with other breeds of dogs, and any offspring were no longer pure Argentine Polar Dogs and they eventually disappeared. Today, the Argentine Polar Dog is considered extinct.
- Maida, Juan Carlos - Fòrmica Horacio. El Perro Polar Argentino, su historia. Edición de la Junta de Historiadores del Río de la Plata. Bs. As. 2014.
- "Poncho, the legendary life of an Argentine polar dog" (PDF) (in Spanish). Retrieved October 20, 2018.
- Turner, Josie F. (October 17, 2016). "Argentinian Dog Breeds". Animal Wised. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
- "Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty" (PDF). The Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
- "El Perro Polar Argentino". Adiestrando Canes (in Spanish). Retrieved November 2, 2018.
- Turner, Josie F. (September 2, 2018). "15 Breeds of Dog That No Longer Exist". Animal Wised. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
- Grodsinsky, Sergio (May 31, 2003). "La expulsión de los perros del territorio austral". voraus.com (in Spanish). Archived from the original on April 3, 2008. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
- Santos, Marcelo Dos. "Adiós al amigo". Axxón. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
- Turner, J.; Anderson, P.; Lachlan-Cope, T.; Colwell, S.; Phillips, T.; Kirchgaessner, A. L.; Marshall, G. J.; King, J. C.; Bracegirdle, T.; Vaughan, D. G.; Lagun, V.; Orr, A. (2009). "Record low surface air temperature at Vostok station, Antarctica" (PDF). Journal of Geophysical Research. 114: D24102. Bibcode:2009JGRD..11424102T. doi:10.1029/2009JD012104.