Qimmiq Dogs

Although the dog is obviously alive and mobile, the Inuit do not consider qimmiq a part of the animal kingdom or the uumajuit. In fact, it is never considered on its own, existing only in association with people, inuit. Nevertheless, it was a crucial part of life. Dog teams pulled immense loads of hunted seals and other game back from trips to the floe edge, and allowed families to take along their possessions and stores of food and fuel (blubber) when they moved from place to place. Unlike the faster snowmobile, dogs did not break down and so hunters were rarely stranded far from camp. The Inuit way of harnessing dogs to a sled, or komatik, allowed them to fan out over the ice. This meant that even when crossing thin ice, there was less danger of breaking through; even if one dog had difficulties, the others could keep on pulling.

Dogs were not only used to pull komatiks. Many Inuit trained their teams to help on polar bear hunts, which were dangerous enterprises for hunters armed only with spears or harpoons. Frozen dog urine was sometimes used medicinally, and dog fur still makes excellent trimming for parka hoods, as it is stiffer than many other types of fur. Finally, in the event of severe starvation, dog teams could be eaten, although this only occurred during times of famine.

For many generations, the Inuit have bred sled dogs to help track prey and pull loads on their travels throughout the North. The Canadian Inuit dog is endemic to Canada; it is a distinct breed known for its ability to pull heavy loads, resist harsh climates, and thrive on a high protein, high fat diet of fish and frozen meat. According to archaeologists, this dog has been present in the Arctic for at least 4000 years – as long as the Inuit themselves – and is one of the world's oldest pure breeds. Sadly, changes in the Arctic during the past century have reduced its numbers to such an extent that the Canadian Inuit dog is now at risk of disappearing. A revival of interest in arctic dogsledding and the efforts of a few concerned breeders may succeed in preserving this breed for the future. In recognition of the distinct nature of the breed, Nunavut Territory has designated the Canadian Inuit dog as its official territorial animal.