Fuegian dog

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One artist's interpretation of a Fuegian "dog"

The Fuegian dog (Spanish: perro yagán, perro fueguino), also known as the Yaghan dog, is an extinct domesticated canid. It was a domesticated form of the culpeo (Lycalopex culpaeus).[1] The culpeo is similar in build to true foxes (tribe Vulpini) but is actually more closely related to wolves and jackals, being placed in a separate genus within the South American foxes or zorros. The Fuegian dog is not descended from domestic dogs, which were domesticated from an ancestor shared with the gray wolf (Canis lupus), nor from the domesticated silver fox which was domesticated from a melanistic population of the red fox (Vulpes vulpes).

There are very few remaining specimens of the Fuegian "dog". These include one in the Museo Salesiano Maggiorino Borgatello in Chile,[citation needed] and another in the Fagnano Regional Museum in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.[1]


Fuegian "dogs" had erect ears, sharp snout and a thick tail and were tawny-colored or entirely white. Surviving images show them to be a similar size to the wild culpeo, which weighs 5 to 13.5 kg (11 to 30 lb), or roughly the size of a Shetland Sheepdog. Gauchos called these foxes "maned dogs" because of their resemblance to the maned wolf. Lucas Bridges described the animals as like "a stunted cross between an Alsatian police dog and a wolf".[2][full citation needed]

It was described by French navigator Louis-Ferdinand Martial [fr; es], who headed the 1883 scientific expedition to Cape Horn, as “ugly, with long tawny hair and a sharp snout, it looks quite like a fox".[3]


Although the distribution of the Fuegian "dog" corresponded with that of the Yaghan people, individual animals were not loyal to their human owners. Julius Popper pointed out the canid's lack of loyalty: "I never saw them, no matter how large their number, take an aggressive attitude or defend their masters when these were in danger".[4]


Fuegian "dogs" were not used to hunt guanaco. However, they might have been useful for hunting otters.[3] The foxes were also useful to humans in that they would gather around their owners to keep them warm. This was noted by Julius Popper: "The dogs placed themselves in a group around the small Onas, taking the shape of a kind of wrapping .... [M]y opinion is that the Fuegian dogs are only useful to complete the defective garment of the Indian, or better, as the Ona's heating furniture".


In 1919, when Silesian missionary Martin Gusinde visited the Yaghans, he noticed that their "dogs" were gone. They had been exterminated because they "were dangerous to men and cattle”. Their fierce nature was also noted by Thomas Bridges in the 1880s, who wrote that they attacked his mission's goats.[5]

Another artist's interpretation of a Fuegian "dog"


  1. ^ a b Petrigh, Romina S.; Fugassa, Martin H. (December 13, 2013). "Molecular identification of a Fuegian dog belonging to the Fagnano Regional Museum ethnographic collection, Tierra del Fuego" (PDF). Quaternary International. 317: 14–18. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2013.07.030. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 20, 2016. Retrieved September 2, 2020.
  2. ^ Bridges, Lucas (2008), pp. 97
  3. ^ a b Martial, Louis-Ferdinand (2005) [1884–1889]. Mision al Cabo de Hornos, la expedición científica francesa en la Romanche Julio de 1882 a setiembre de 1883 (in Spanish). Ushuaia, Argentina: Zaguier & Urruty Pubs. p. 225.
  4. ^ Popper, Julio [Julius] (1887). "Exploración de la Tierra del Fuego". Expedición Popper: Conferencia dada en en Instituto Geográfico Argentino el 5 de Marzo de 1887. Ecuador: Instituto Geográfico Militar – via Biblioteca Virtual, Museo del Fin del Mundo. Text also available in this collected-writings book:
    Popper, Julio [Julius]. Atlanta – Proyecto para la creación de un pueblo marítimo en Tierra del Fuego y otros escritos (in Spanish). Buenos Aires: Editorial Eudeba.
  5. ^ Orquera, L.; Piana, E. (1999). La vida material y social de los Yámana (in Spanish). Buenos Aires: Editorial Eudeba. pp. 178–180.