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History of the American Indian Dog

The Native American Dog is thought to be of similar descent as the Dingo. It is believed to be the missing link to the first domesticated dogs in the world dating back over 12,000 years.

Different migrating groups and traders, (Vikings and other earlier visitors) entered North and South America sometimes bringing their dogs. The native Americans bred these Old World aboriginal dogs with the native Coyote to become a distinct breed that is called the Plains, Hair, or Common Native Dog. While these medium sized Common Native Dogs were mainly found within the Plains Indian Groups (in early 1700's an estimated 300,000 just within the plains area). All over the Americas from the far north to the distant south, similar medium sized dogs were being bred for specific reasons and abilities. However, by the late 1800's they were believed to be completely eliminated or assimilated by the onslaught of European immigrant culture.

Today, our breeding program's goals include maintaining the mystical appearance and excellent working temperament of the original "Spiritual Dogs" of the past, and emphasizing their loyal nurturing, and herding instincts that help them (and us) survive this fast moving society . After near extinction I would like to believe the Plains Indian Dogs, and their aboriginal cousins in the Americas and around the globe, still have a place left in this world.

The American Indian Dog makes a good family pet and excels in herding, search and rescue, agility, obedience, fly ball games and sled dog racing, etc., etc. It's the perfect all around native "mutt", without the genetic health problems commonly found in other, so called, pure breeds.

Modern History of the American Indian Dog
By Kim La Flamme 1986

No one will probably ever know exactly what types of Indian Dogs every Nation or Tribe had, unless they were there at the time. With the amount of years that have passed there aren’t any of the older Elders left who lived with The Dogs before white mans dogs began mixing blood with them, but with research and study all the pieces begin to fit back together.

My Great Grandmother was Blackfoot and/or Iroquois, and it is said that when she married my Great Grandfather she brought with her several Dogs, as her dowry. These were probably the old trap-line Dogs, as they migrated down from Canada. These Dogs are the same as the Common or Plains type. My Grandfather still had a few of the off spring of some of these Dogs; I was fascinated with their versatility and loyalty. They were still being used for hunting and herding. My Grandfather said, “They could do the work of a dozen good men.” As a boy I often spoke to Elders about the Dogs and tried to gather as much information as I could on them. They all seemed to differ slightly depending on the area, and what they were used for. From all the research, it appeared that generally the large wolf-types were found just in the far north for pulling large loads, and weren’t needed for their loyalty or other abilities. The medium sized coyote-types were mainly found amongst the Plains groups, but this seems to not always be the case. There were these medium-sized Common or Plains types found with every group from the tip of south America up to Alaska, these were the all around working type dogs. There were also smaller pug nosed dogs found here and there or long haired small sheep looking dogs, used for sheering and weaving their fur, and the hairless in South America used for heeling, but even these smaller types always had prick ears. A lot of trading went on, from the Northern most American continent to South America, even back in The Dog Days, and even more, after The Horse Days. Traded items such as tools, salt, pipestone, blankets, knowledge, culture, pots, people, dogs and later horses were exchanged. This trading of dogs has been proven, as dogs indigenous to one area have been found in another, from one end of the continent to the other. Native Americans were very well versed in selective breeding, as can be seen by the way they bred and trained the (big-dogs) horses, when they arrived. There is also evidence of Dogs used for herding turkeys, deer, buffalo and even fish.

I believe, through all my research, accounts of Spanish priests and soldiers, explorers, trappers and the Elders, that had and or saw these Dogs, that the largest population of these Common Indian Dogs were found in the Plains areas. One early explorer noted that there were over 300,000 of these dogs just amongst the Plains Indian groups. In my opinion, breeding all the various tribal dogs together is doing the same thing that was done hundreds and thousands of years ago, which makes the Plains Indian Dog the melting pot of all the working type Dogs from the north, south, east, and west. These dogs were in turn traded back to the same Plains Indians. The earliest accounts and observations of Indian Dogs say, they looked like a cross between a fox and a wolf. These early explorers had probably never seen a coyote. They also claimed they saw the Indian Dogs running wild in different areas. I believe these were either coyotes, feral Indian Dogs or both. One account felt that the Indians Dogs were a jackal derivative or cross. The jackal and coyote are very similar looking and probably closely related to both, and with the Dingo also. The Dingo was probably one of the primitive type dogs brought in by different migrating groups. Also the Vikings could have brought in their working herding collie types, way back before the big European onslaught. Because of my interest and knowledge of The Dogs, some of the Elders asked me to be the guardian of The Dogs. They said it must be a responsibility, left to me. My quest had begun!

I started with 2 dogs, brother and sister, these were Plains, Common and/or Hare Indian Dogs. I looked around for more Dogs, believing at the time, there must be lots more. I wrote to every reservation or Native American organization from Canada to Mexico. I gathered all the articles, books and information I could find. I heard from a Mohegan family who had 4 of their Dogs, 2 were fixed and old, 1 adult female and 1 puppy. They wouldn’t sell them, but offered to let me breed from them, this was impossible, as I was only 14 at the time. I contacted these same people years later, but all their dogs had died. They had sent me pictures and they looked just like my dogs and were a silver-sable color, I later found some more of these same types and believe them to be of the Hare Indian Dog type. I also heard from an Elder from a Southern Reservation who raised sheep in Arizona and he had an Indian Dog, which had been crossed with the Old Spanish or Bask sheep dogs. These reminded me of the Indian Dogs and old Viking types, and he said they were very similar. He also knew of feral Indian Dogs living in the Canyon De Chili area. The ranchers there were killing them, for they were getting their livestock. They called them Black Devil Dogs. With the help of a friend and teacher we went searching for these Dogs. We contacted the local SPCA, who knew of these dogs. They had one earlier, but they had put it down, but told us where to find them, and they would call me if or when they found another. We camped out, observing the dogs and eventually trapped 2, a male and female, both black. The male turned out to be un-trainable, so we turned it loose in the Valley where I grew up (I’ve heard rumors of black devil coyotes spotted there since, shhhhh!) The female was bred to my male Indian Dog.

I then found a dog in Canada that was said to be from the Ojibwa, it seemed to be very similar to or a combination of Trap-line Dogs and Village Indian Dog. This female was then bred to my male, and their pups bred to my female. I then found another Village Indian Dog from a sled dog racer, that used them for long distance racing, he said they would work tell they dropped for him, if he wanted them to, and could beat anything around. I bred this one to my Dogs and their respective pups.

I was then drafted into the army and had to leave my Dogs with family and friends. After A.I.T. and with a 2-way radio strapped to my back and a tall antenna with a red flag on it, I received orders to go to Vietnam with my red flag! As I didn’t agree with the Vietnam thing, plus I felt I had work to do. I deserted and was on the run for 2 years. During this time I took some of my Dogs with me. I traveled, pretty much under ground, from Res. To Res. From Canada to Mexico, trying to find out more about The Dogs, fallowing every rumor I heard. I found some more Village and Trap-line Dogs in Canada, and 2 very strange Tahl-Tan Bear Dogs (1 solid black with some white and 1 choc. Red) they looked like some kind of spits-terrier. They were smaller than all the other Northern type Dogs. (Later I saw some New Guinea Singing Dogs that look very similar? These Dogs used to be registered with the CKC, but are believed to be completely extinct now.) I found 3 more of what I have come to call the Southwestern types in Mexico and New Mexico. Also some Catahoola-Curs or Black-mouth Curs in Louisiana in the swamps and back woods (later I found out these where the more Southeastern types, not Catahoola), but the Catahoola do have a small percentage of Old Indian Dog in them, from that same area. I then found what was said to be a Klamath Indian Dog, white with longer hair than most, in Northern Ca. I eventually gave myself up to the army and when I was released from the stockade, I found that some of my Dogs had disappeared, which taught me a very good lesson on the Dogs. Be careful whom you trust with the Dogs! Not everyone thinks of them like I do.

I bred from the Dogs I had remaining, and one other Dog, a male Dog, belonging to a Lady I saw hitch-hiking in Big Sur Ca. I almost had an accident, as I turned around so fast when I saw this Dog, (the Lady was no Dog either!), I didn’t own this Dog, but she let me breed it with my females. This Dog was a very nice Sioux Indian Dog. Other than 2 more feral Dogs from the Southeast, there were no more Dogs used in the breeding program. There have been lots of leads and people thinking they may have Indian Dogs. After researching 1000s of dogs, feral dogs and crosses of all kinds, especially after the big hybrid craze started, everyone thought they had an Indian Dog. There are still rumors of feral Indian Dogs in the swamps in Florida, and sightings of black Devil Dogs in Canyon De Chili. By this time I’m afraid they may have too much coyote and or Hound blood in them to be worth investigating (now those black coyotes in Leona Valley, I’d love to think they’re still there, living on the wild side).

By breeding in the right way, (breeding backwards, as I call it) mixing all the slightly different types, selectively, together, it is recreating the Common or Plains Indian Dog type. The original Plains and Common Indian Dogs were a combination of all these types combined together, anyway, way back. Plus since there wasn’t enough of any one, of these types to save separately, it makes sense to me, to breed them all together. I also tried and still do, keep the lines as un-related as possible. To have a more or less "outcross" after line breeding for not more than 4 generations. I feel this is very essential for any breed, particularly this one, as they were never, so-called pure breeds hundreds of years ago. The Native Americans that developed and bred them wanted to retain those slight differences, and there is no reason to try to breed little carbon copies now, just to satisfy the big name registries. They don’t care about the breeds; just how popular they can make them, for more money.

At the present time there are a variety of natural sable colors, all matching the old colors, gray, silver, Fawn, black, cream, red, chocolate-red, golden-red, red and tan, tan etc…. However I don’t breed for color, but the natural look, and loyal, trainable character, typical of the original American Indian Dogs.

The studbook numbers 100 (at that time, now closer to 250) and the registry are closed to any outside dogs. However, if a feral or domestic specimen is studied and found to be pure or close enough to the Indian Dog type, it will sure be considered, to be included in the breeding program. The Carolina Dogs are very similar to the Southeastern types that I found years ago, but to me seem to have to much Hound and Mastiff, blood in them brought to that area by the Spanish years ago. I do consider these to be a close cousin to the A.I.Dogs and with good control and selective breeding practices they could be brought even closer to the true Indian Dog type originally found in that area.

I would like to emphasize that I did not introduce any coyote or wolf blood into the Dogs, as I feel very much against the diluting of the original bloodlines. It’s very important to educate people as to what the true original Dogs were and still are – I’m very much against the wolf and coyote hybrid breeders that try to market their hybrids as Indian Dogs, they are not at all the same, just look a-likes. The original Native Dogs where very loyal and trainable and I’d like to keep them that way, not giving people the wrong idea of what a true Indian Dog was and is, and it’s not a hybrid! This is why it is so important to adhere to the very strict rules of the breeding program.

It is not possible for me to prove that any of the Dogs I found for the foundation lines were pure Indian Dogs, although I do know, through my research and the geographical areas they were found, they were and are the closest living relatives to our Native Dogs.

I have spent almost all of my life on this Quest to save these Dogs. I tend to take it very personal when someone tries to pass off a hybrid as an American Indian Dog. Or even worse, a Poodle, just because it is, or was, owned by a Native American, does not make it an Indian Dog! An Indian's Dog, yes, an Indian Dog no! It is very important that the breeding program be strictly adhered to in order that the breed is not lost as it almost was. I hope anyone who wants to share their lives with one of these Dogs realizes the responsibility, for educating people and ensuring that the correct breeding and bloodlines are used, and not trying to change it from it's original standard. And not to let it become just another political game. These Dogs have always been our saviors, teachers, and companions and they have something very important to teach each and every one of us if we are willing to listen and learn. They are the connection with our past. I also want to emphasize that this is NOT the type of breed for just anyone.

Kim La Flamme Founder/ Trustee , American Indian Dog Registry

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food for thought . . . . .
Only after the last tree has been cut down,
Only after the last river has been poisoned,
Only after the last fish has been caught,
Only then will you find money cannot be eaten.
-Cree Prophecy