New Hampshire's Dog Has Its Day

A centennial celebration of the Chinook



photo by kathie fife
Chinook team Uma and Eli are prime examples of the state's favorite breed

While some New Hampshirites find winter the time to curl up into a cozy torpor, another hardier group is waking up, energized and ready to play. After all, they were bred for just this climate. We’re talking about the official dog breed of New Hampshire, the Chinook, and this month is a special one, marking 100 years since the breed was first conceived.

To be precise, January 17 marks the 100th birthday of the first Chinook — a new dog breed created by Arthur Walden, in the town of Wonalancet, right in the heart of the White Mountains.

Walden, known as the grandfather of dog sledding, wanted his new breed to combine strength, speed and endurance but also to be an affectionate family dog. His “foundation” dogs for the breed were descendants of Admiral Peary’s Greenland husky lead dog, Polaris, and a mastiff-type farm dog who birthed her litter of three pups on January 17, 1917. The pups were named Riki, Tiki and Tavi, but one of the three looked different from his parents, sporting a lovely tawny color coat. That pup’s name eventually became “Chinook.”

Chinook had just the mix of power and gentleness that Walden had been seeking, and soon became an outstanding sled dog. He even accompanied Admiral Byrd’s South Pole expedition in 1927. Unfortunately, it was in Antarctica that Chinook, nearing his 12th birthday, was lost.

Reports of Chinook’s death made news around the world, and many mourned the loss of one of the greatest lead dogs in history, but his name, now applied to the entire breed, lives on in his descendants. At Walden’s request, the New Hampshire route from Tamworth to Wonalancet now bears the name “Chinook Trail” (Routes 113 and 113A) to honor his famous lead dog, and the breed was selected as the official New Hampshire dog in 2009.

The Chinook Centennial — Chinook’s Birthday Bash is being held January 13-15 in Freedom at Camp Cody. The party is open to Chinook owners and their dogs, and, by the way, the dogs get to enjoy everything for free. “It’s a special opportunity to come together like a huge family reunion filled with fun, sled dog games, ski and bike joring, Chinook Olympic sports, nosework, lively historic presentations in the evenings, and of course, a birthday cake,” says Kim Kramer of the Chinook Owners Association.

The public is welcome to join the dogs and their owners for cake on Saturday from 4 to 5 p.m., but RSVP to Kim Kramer at chinook100@chinook.org so they can plan on enough cake and refreshments for everyone.

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