Greenland Dog

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Greenland Dog
Greenland Dog.jpg
Greenland Dog
Other names Kalaallit qimmiat (Qimmeq)
Esquimaux Dog
Country of origin Greenland
Notes The UKC currently recognizes the FCI breed standard for the Greenland Dog.
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

The Greenland Dog (Danish: Grønlandshunden, also known as Greenland Husky) is a large breed of husky-type dog kept as a sled dog and for hunting polar bear and seal. This is an ancient breed, thought to be directly descended from dogs brought to Greenland by the first Inuit settlers.


In 1975, a study was made of ancient canid remains dated to the Late Pleistocene and early Holocene that had been uncovered by miners decades earlier around Fairbanks, Alaska. These were identified as Canis lupus and described as "short-faced wolves". The collection was separated into those specimens that looked more wolf-like (i.e. the Beringian wolf), and those that looked more dog-like and in comparison to the skulls of Eskimo dogs from both Greenland and Siberia thought to be their forerunners.[1]

Nearly all dog breed's genetic closeness to the gray wolf is due to admixture.[2] However, several Arctic dog breeds show a genetic closeness with the now-extinct Taymyr wolf of North Asia due to admixture. These breeds are associated with high latitudes - the Siberian husky and Greenland dog that are also associated with arctic human populations, and to a lesser extent the Shar Pei and Finnish spitz. An admixture graph of the Greenland dog indicates a best-fit of 3.5% shared material, however an ancestry proportion ranging between 1.4% and 27.3% is consistent with the data. This indicates admixture between the Taymry wolf population and the ancestral dog population of these 4 high-latitude breeds. This introgression could have provided early dogs living in high latitudes with phenotypic variation beneficial for adaption to a new and challenging environment. It also indicates the ancestry of present-day dog breeds descends from more than one region. [3]

Further information: Origin of the domestic dog



The Greenland Dog is a powerful, heavy-built dog. It has a broad, wedge-shaped head, slightly tilted eyes and small, triangular ears covered with thick fur that prevents frostbite. It has strong, muscular, short-haired legs. The tail is usually rolled along/across its back. When it lies down and curls up to rest, the tail often covers the nose. Its coat is of medium length and consists of two layers. The inner layer consists of short wool-like fur, the outer layer of longer, coarser, water-repellent fur.

A characteristic of most Greenland Dogs is the "úlo", a triangular shaped area on the shoulders. It is named after a common woman’s-knife from Greenland which is of the same shape.

Males are significantly larger than females at between 58 and 68 cm (23–27 in) at the withers; females are between 51 and 61 cm (20–24 in).


Puppies eating muskox scraps. Puppies in Greenland run free until they reach adulthood. They are subsequently chained and trained for work.

In Greenland this breed exists in much the same condition as it had when originally arriving there, and is kept as chiefly as a working dog valued for its strength and speed rather than a malleable temperament.[4] As a result of living in a pack structure, the Greenland dog takes a very firm and confident owner to make a good pet.[4][not in citation given] Once one has won their respect, however, they can be very loyal and protective of their owners, especially if in a pack.


As is common among sled dogs, Greenland Dogs are able to traverse very difficult terrain with ease and with a high tempo. As working dogs they are especially valued for their physical strength and endurance.


Sled dogs from Sisimiut work only during winter, gathering strength during the summer period of inactivity.
Sled dogs in Ilulissat, Greenland.

The Greenland Dog originates from the coastal area of the Arctic regions of Northern Siberia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland.[5] Archaeological evidence has proven the dog first reached Greenland with the Sarqaq people between 4000 and 5000 years ago.[5] Sundry artifacts found within the Inuit people's areas confirm that the Inuit people, along with their sledges and dogs originated from Siberia. Remains have been found in the New Siberian Islands that have been carbon dated to around 7000 BC. This makes the Greenland dog one of the oldest breeds in the world.

The Vikings were the first Europeans to settle in Greenland and subsequently became aware of these dogs. Then others like the early European whalers, explorers and fur traders in Canada and North America trained dog-sledding skills from the natives of the Arctic region, and used with great success the Greenland dog when hunting, exploring and traveling across the Arctic regions.

Greenland dogs belong to the Spitz breeds, a group of dogs characterized by their prick ears, curly tails and thick coats and are among the oldest known dog breeds in the world today. The Greenland dog has been a draught animal in the Arctic regions for centuries and consequently they have developed a powerful body and heavy coats, with a natural capacity for load pulling and endurance in a harsh working environment.

It is thought that the first dogs were brought to Britain around 1750; an Esquimaux bitch was exhibited at one of the earliest dog shows held in Darlington on 29 July 1875, which was reported in the Live Stock Journal and Fanciers Gazette published on the 6th of August 1875. They were recognized by the Kennel Club at its foundation in 1880.[5]

Puppy of Greenland dog

Greenland dogs have been used on many expeditions by explorers, the most famous being Fridtjof Nansen. Nansen recorded in his book På ski over Grønland, Greenland dogs being used as working dogs by the Greenland Native. Nansen was a successful polar explorer and used the dogs on his famous voyage across the arctic ocean in the equally famous ship Fram. Roald Amundsen used the Greenland Dogs as well on his expedition to the Antarctic. Amundsen carefully chose 97 Greenland dogs to accompany him and his team on his expedition to Antarctica and in his subsequent South Pole expedition.[5] Both men started with more dogs than they technically needed to pull as sledge, intending to feed the weakest dogs to the strong ones during the voyage.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stanley J. Olsen (1985). Origins of the Domestic Dog: The Fossil Record - Chapter 2. University of Arizona Press. 
  2. ^ Freedman, A. H.; Gronau, I.; Schweizer, R. M.; Ortega-Del Vecchyo, D.; Han, E.; Silva, P. M.; Galaverni, M.; Fan, Z.; Marx, P.; Lorente-Galdos, B.; Beale, H.; Ramirez, O.; Hormozdiari, F.; Alkan, C.; Vilà, C.; Squire, K.; Geffen, E.; Kusak, J.; Boyko, A. R.; Parker, H. G.; Lee, C.; Tadigotla, V.; Siepel, A.; Bustamante, C. D.; Harkins, T. T.; Nelson, S. F.; Ostrander, E. A.; Marques-Bonet, T.; Wayne, R. K.; Novembre, J. (2014). "Genome Sequencing Highlights the Dynamic Early History of Dogs". PLoS Genetics 10 (1): e1004016. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004016. PMC 3894170. PMID 24453982. 
  3. ^ Skoglund, P.; Ersmark, E.; Palkopoulou, E.; Dalén, L. (2015). "Ancient Wolf Genome Reveals an Early Divergence of Domestic Dog Ancestors and Admixture into High-Latitude Breeds". Current Biology. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.04.019. 
  4. ^ a b National Geographic "Arctic Hunters"
  5. ^ a b c d The Greenland Dog Club of Great Britain

External links[edit]