The Ancient Wool Dogs of the Pacific Northwest, and Me

Wooly, natural-white wool.


The Wool Dog, of the Pacific Northwest, was considered a myth. Until now. Recent anthropological studies confirm that, over 17,000 years ago, the Salish Sea indigenous people bred a smallish, and possibly whitish, domestic dog in order to use its wooly fur.

The people sheared the special coats of the Wool Dog breed and used the luxurious fur to weave warm, beautiful blankets. The blankets became so cherished, far and wide, they turned into a highly prosperous trade commodity. The Wool Dogs, who made the first North American blanket industry possible, were considered very valuable.

Below, you can see what the Wool Dog may have looked like. From the painting, it seems like they lived comfortably indoors with humans, in contrast to other dogs who performed sentry duty out-of-doors in a harsh, damp climate.

In “A Woman Weaving a Basket,” Paul Kane painted what he imagined a Wool Dog might have looked like.

The heyday of the Wool Dog blanket industry, and its wooly dogs, enjoyed a long run. But the arrival of European textiles in the 19th Century put them out of business. Only a few tatters of Wool Dog blankets remain today, stored at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The Wool Dogs are extinct.

The story of the Wool Dogs is both fascinating and sad. It’s tragic to lose any noble dog breed. It’s fascinating to discover the unique canine history of Wool Dogs.

But the Wool Dogs also stir my personal interest. You see, I think I’ve found my genealogical roots. I’ve been called a “wooly” mop-dog many times, whenever I need a grooming. And, let’s face it, my fur would make great sweaters… maybe for sentry dogs who work in the cold…

Chester: dead ringer for a wooly Wool Dog.

~ Chester reports “The Canine News & Views”

Read more about the wool dogs here: “Study Shows Ancient Americans Bred Dogs for Their Wool.”

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