The Incredible Athleticism of Inuit Sled Dogs

In a chilly episode of the PBS series Human Footprint, biologist Shane Campbell-Staton examines the amazing athleticism of Inuit sled dogs, their perfect suitability for the frigid environment, and the incredible bond they have with their humans.

In the Arctic, it’s not just about muscle power, but brainpower too. The bond between humans and sled dogs goes beyond physical strength. It’s a testament to our shared intelligence and teamwork throughout history. Keep watching to learn how sled dogs have evolved over millennia to become the ultimate Arctic warriors.

Campbell-Staton also spoke with the residents of the Arctic town on Cornwallis Island to learn more about how they live and what they eat.

For thousands of years, whether it’s across the sea ice… or on land… dogs have been an essential part of any hunting expedition here. So what I was about to eat, is only here because of that human-canine alliance. Frozen musk ox meat from the leg. Meat is very high in our diet. Makes up like 95% of it. Between Devon’s family’s diet, and the diets of his dogs, meat is life. And it takes that partnership to bring it to the table for both species.

Sadly, between 1950 and 1970, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police killed all the sled dogs they could find.

So they relocated families from northern Quebec all the way up here. And they were Inuit. But where they live, there’s trees growing. So coming all the way up here, where there’s barely any vegetation, was really hard for them to live up here. They were promised so much and when they got here, they were living in canvas tents over the winter. Then the RCMP killed all the sled dogs. The RCMP killed hundreds of sled dogs, keeping the newly relocated Inuit from hunting or traveling outside of town.

Luckily, there has been a resurgence of sled dogs, saving them from almost near extinction.

Without dogs, the people’s livelihoods – and their culture itself – began to erode. It’s a very dark history how Resolute became. But in the last about ten years maybe they’ve had like a revival of the sled dogs.

Inuit Sled Dogs

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.