Salish Wool Dog

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The Salish Wool Dog or Comox dog is an extinct breed of white, long-haired, Spitz-type dog that was developed and bred by the Coast Salish peoples of what is now Washington state and British Columbia. The small, long-haired wool dog and the coyote-like village dog were deliberately maintained as separate populations. The dogs were kept in packs of about 12 to 20 animals, and fed primarily raw and cooked salmon. To keep the breed true to type and the preferred white color, Salish Wool Dogs were confined on islands and in gated caves. The fur of the Salish Wool Dog was prized for making the famous and rare "Salish" blankets, as the Salish peoples did not have sheep and wild mountain goat wool was difficult to gather. The dogs were sheared like sheep in May or June. The sheared fur was so thick that Captain George Vancouver could pick up a corner and the whole fleece would hold together. Ceremonial blankets were prized items in the precontact potlatch distribution economic system, almost as valuable as slaves. The dog hair was frequently mixed with mountain goat wool, feathers, and plant fibers to change the yarn quality and to extend the supply of fiber. The National Museum of Natural History received a specimen of the Salish Wool Dog in 1859, which remains in their collection after being rediscovered in 2003.

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