The Heart of New England
Chinooks: A Northern New England Breed
by Bob Cottrell

Did you know that a rare and famous dog
breed was established right here
in northern New England?  Who are these dogs and why are they famous?

They are called
Chinooks after the original Great Chinook, the first of his breed.
While they were originally developed as sled dogs, they make great pets and are
wonderful around children.

Chinooks are one of only a few breeds created in America. They were established
in the early 20th century and their blood line can be traced to a single individual.
There are only about 500 Chinooks living today.

The Chinook breed was developed by a rough and ready adventurer named
Arthur Walden. After spending time in the Alaskan Yukon during the Gold Rush
days, Walden returned to Wonalancet, a small village in Tamworth, New
Hampshire. His goal was to create a new sled dog breed with power, endurance,
speed and a friendly nature.

Walden started with a mastiff-type dog named Kim. Kim was bred to Ningo, a
direct descendant of Admiral Peary's famous Greenland Husky lead dog Polaris.
Three pups were born on January 17, 1917 and named Rikki, Tikki and Tavi
(after Rudyard Kipling’s characters in The Jungle Books.)  

Rikki in particular demonstrated the traits Walden desired and was later
renamed Chinook in honor of a favorite lead dog Walden had owned in Alaska.
Chinook means “warm west wind.”

Chinook, the Original: Sled Dog, Good with Kids

Chinook was a "sport," a phenomenon of nature, not resembling either of his
parents. He was known not only as a wonderful sled dog, but also for his gentle
disposition toward children. Walden was an excellent showman and promoter.
Chinook became a favorite character of the media at races, winter carnivals and
exhibitions around New England in the early 1920’s.

Chinook was also an athlete. He lead the winning team in the First International
Dog Derby in Berlin, New Hampshire in 1922 and over the next few years set
records for distance covered, loads carried and running time. Walden founded
the New England Sled Dog Club in 1924, which is still operating today. In 1926,
Chinook and Walden led the first dog sled team to the summit of Mount

Chinook sired many pups who inherited his coloring, size and general
characteristics. The Chinook breed has been maintained through the years by a
small number of dedicated fanciers.

Byrd Antarctic Expedition

By 1927, both Chinook and Walden were not going to let age keep them from
perhaps their greatest adventure. Walden applied for the Byrd Antarctic
Expedition even though at age 56, he was over the maximum age.  He was given
the duties of lead driver and trainer of all the dogs to be used on the expedition.  

During the winter months of late 1927 and early 1928, dogs and drivers were
assembled at Walden's Wonalancet Farm, and training began.  Winter survival
gear was also evaluated there, in the harsh conditions of New Hampshire's White
Mountains.  Together the drivers worked for a full year training dogs and testing
tents and supplies.  Of the 100 dogs trained for the expedition, half of them were
sired by Chinook.

The Great Chinook is Lost

During the expedition in Antarctica, Chinook disappeared on his 12th birthday,
January 17, 1929. Some say that he recognized he was losing his command over
the other dogs and went off to die. Others speculated that he had an accident and
was lost in the snow. Walden had wanted to bury his friend in his harness, but
Chinook’s body was never found. Chinook’s death was written up in
newspapers around the world.  

Upon Walden’s return home, the people of the area wanted to rename the road
that connected the town of Tamworth with Wonalancet to “Waldens” Road in his
honor.  He asked that instead they honor Chinook, and today it still bears the
name Chinook Trail.

Chinooks at the 2006 Winter Carnival and Ice Harvesting

The Remick Museum in Tamworth, NH features an extensive display of Chinook
history and memorabilia at its annual Winter Carnival courtesy of the Tamworth
Historical Society and Perry Greene Kennel Historic Collection of Waldoboro

You can see these wonderful dogs as they return to Tamworth, New Hampshire
for their annual visit to the Remick Museum and Farm’s Winter Carnival and Ice
Click here for more information.

Weather permitting, and if you are a child, they will give you a sled ride across
the snow. Dog sled rides will be offered to children from 10AM – 1PM, weather

Special guest, “Tug,” (Mountain Laurel Tamworth Tugger, a Chinook puppy
who is directly descended from the original Chinook and a new Tamworth
resident) will make his sled-pulling debut during the event.  Tug was born
August 2, 2005 and enjoys frequent visits to the Remick Museum and Farm
where his owners work.

For more information about Chinook dogs see:
Chinook Dog Club of America
Chinook Dog Education Center
Chinook Owners Association
Nerak Kennels
New England Sled Dog Club
Sled Dog Central
Pet Insurance for Chinooks
Information on pet health
Common Pet Health

About the author

Bob Cottrell is the Executive Director of the Remick Country Doctor Museum and Farm in
Tamworth, New Hampshire. He was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida and has
worked in the museum field since 1982. He has worked at the Smithsonian Institution’s
National Museum of American Art in Washington D.C., The Crowley Museum and
Nature Center in Sarasota, Florida, the St. Petersburg Historical Museum also in Florida,
the Conner Prairie Museum in Indiana and at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. He is
married with two young children and a Chinook dog named Tug.

Click here for story about traveling on the Chinook Trail
Chinnook here for more stories...
At the Chinook Kennels...
Chinooks at Remick Museum in Tamworth, NH
Author Bob Cottrell and Tug
The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
©The Heart of New England online magazine
...celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont!
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