The Tahltan Bear Dog was a dog breed associated with the Tahltan people in Northwestern British Columbia. Generally speaking, it is believed to be extinct. However, there are those who claim that their puppies for sale have partial Tahltan Bear Dog heritage.
Humans brought dogs with them to the Americas. As a result, a wide range of peoples had a wide range of dogs in the Americas before the Colombian Exchange, with the Tahltan Bear Dog being an excellent example. Unfortunately, most of the modern dogs that can be found in the Americas are descended either entirely or almost entirely from Eurasian ancestors because of what happened afterwards.
2. Associated with the Tahltan
Unsurprisingly, the Talhtan Bear Dog is associated with the Talhtan. For those who are curious, they are an indigenous people who live in Northwestern British Columbia. In the past, the Talhtan spend the summer in fishing villages. During the winter, they would head to hunting camps where they would both hunt and trap throughout the season. Trade was very important for the Talhtan. To name an example, they would exchange leather, obsidian, and snowshoes for the Tlingit’s copper, shells, and eulachon oil.
3. Owned By Some Neighboring Peoples As Well
Speaking of which, the Tahltan Bear Dog was owned by some of the neighboring peoples as well. This makes sense because the animals were useful, meaning that they would have spread through one way or another. The Tahltan Bear Dog was called the Tahltan Bear Dog because the Tahltan called these animals “our dog.”
4. Said to Have Been Created By Magic
The oral history of the Tahltan people says that the dogs had been with them since time immemorial. As the story goes, they were created by magic for the purpose of protecting the inhabitants of what is now Northwestern British Columbia.
5. Small Dogs
Often-times, when people think of bear-hounds, they think of big, powerful animals meant to take on big, powerful opponents. However, it is interesting to note that the Tahltan Bear Dog was on the smaller side of things. In most cases, these animals measured from 30 to 40.5 cm while weighing 4.5 to 8 kg., meaning that they were comparable to Fox Terriers. Besides these, the Tahltan Bear Dog had a number of other physical characteristics of note. For example, they tended to have black and white coats of dense, medium-length hairs. Similarly, they were well-known for having a short, upright tail that was sometimes compared with a shaving brush.
6. Meant to Take On Bears
Despite their small size, Tahltan Bear Dogs were indeed meant to take on bears. For those who are unfamiliar, this meant both black bears and grizzly bears. Despite the name, black bears aren’t always black-furred. Instead, it is normal for some of the subspecies to have either brown fur or even blond fur. Meanwhile, grizzly bears are a subspecies of the brown bear that live in North America. Both bear species are considered to be formidable animals. However, black bears tend to be considered less so than their grizzly counterparts. This is because black bears tend to avoid humans. Meanwhile, grizzly bears also tend to avoid humans, but their response to danger is to stand their ground. Something that can mean very bad things for humans perceived to be a potential threat. As such, people are supposed to respond in very different ways to black bear attacks and grizzly bear attacks. In the first case, they are supposed to make themselves more trouble than what the black bear will put up with; in the second case, they are supposed to make themselves a non-threat, which can mean playing dead.
7. Brave, Agile, and Tenacious
By this point, chances are good that people can guess that Tahltan Bear Dogs were brave, agile, and tenacious. After all, even black bears are bigger than humans, so imagine the courage needed for a small dog to enter combat with one. Similarly, they needed to be agile because that was the best way for them to survive the experience. As for tenacity, well, suffice to say that most animals have a very natural desire to avoid injuries. Due to that, it is very common for tenacity to be a prized characteristic in hunting dogs, with the Tahltan Bear Dog being no exception to the rule.
8. Meant to Distract the Bear
In any case, Tahltan Bear Dogs were never meant to kill bears on their own. Instead, their owners would carry these dogs in sacks on their backs. Once they had encountered a bear, the Tahltan Bear Dogs would be loosed to distract the animal by making noise as well as sneaking in the occasional bite. This was important because the hunters would have been working with bows as well as other cold weapons, meaning that they needed the distraction to give themselves time to work.
9. Didn’t Do Well Away From Their Native Land
It is said that the Tahltan Bear Dog didn’t do so well away from their native land. Unfortunately, it isn’t clear why this was the case. Some people have suggested that the change in diet and in climate had a negative effect on them. Other people have suggested that their health took a hit because of their exposure to new diseases.
Sadly, the Tahltan Bear Dog is extinct. The story is a common one. Essentially, the introduction of firearms meant that the Tahltan Bear Dog was no longer as important as it had been, with the result that they became less and less common. Like a lot of other dog breeds endangered by similar circumstances, an effort was made to save the Tahltan Bear Dog from extinction. Unfortunately, this effort didn’t work out, with the result that the last registration of a Tahltan Bear Dog with the Canadian Kennel Club happened in 1953.