17th century sled dogs were cannibals, analysis of frozen feces samples reveals

17th century sled dogs were cannibals: analysis of frozen fecal samples reveals puppies ate each other to fuel arduous journeys across the Arctic

  • Researchers analyzed samples of frozen canine feces from Alaska
  • They discovered proteins from salmon and other dogs
  • This suggests dogs must have turned to cannibalism to fuel their travels

Sled dogs have been used in the Arctic for at least 2,000 years, tasked with pulling heavy loads on long journeys across the tundra.

Now, a new analysis reveals that sled dogs in the 17th century turned to cannibalism in order to refuel on their journeys across the Arctic.

Researchers from the University of York analyzed frozen feces, extracting proteins from the samples to learn more about the diet of Arctic sled dogs.

The results suggest that even though the dogs’ diet contained high amounts of salmon, some pooches were forced to turn to cannibalism to stay well fed.

Sled dogs have been used in the Arctic for at least 2,000 years, tasked with pulling heavy loads on gigantic journeys across the tundra (stock image)

In the study, the team is studying frozen canine feces collected from the Nunalleq archaeological site near Quinhagak, Alaska.

This site was known to be occupied between 1300 CE and 1750 CE.

The proteins revealed that the dogs consumed muscle, bone and intestine from a range of salmon species, including chum salmon, often referred to as ‘dog salmon’.

However, a bone fragment in one of the samples was identified as being from a canine.

In the study, the team is studying frozen canine feces collected from the Nunalleq archaeological site near Quinhagak, Alaska.

In the study, the team is studying frozen canine feces collected from the Nunalleq archaeological site near Quinhagak, Alaska.

This suggests that the dogs also ate other dogs – a finding which is supported by previous observations of gnaw marks on discarded bones.

Anne Kathrine Wilborg Runge, who led the study, said: ‘The lives of dogs and their interactions with humans have only recently become a topic of interest to archaeologists.

“This study of their eating habits says more about their relationship with humans.

“In the Arctic, dogs rely exclusively on humans for food during the winter, but deciphering the details of foraging strategies is difficult.

“In places like the Arctic, permafrost has preserved paleofeces. Now they can be used as a unique source of information through which we can learn more about the past.

To retrieve the proteins from the samples, the researchers used paleoproteomics – a technique based on tandem mass spectrometry that allows experts to see which tissues the proteins came from.

To retrieve the proteins from the samples, the researchers used paleoproteomics, a technique based on tandem mass spectrometry that allows experts to see which tissues the proteins came from.

To retrieve the proteins from the samples, the researchers used paleoproteomics – a technique based on tandem mass spectrometry that allows experts to see which tissues the proteins came from.

Follow-up analysis was then performed on bone fragments from the faeces.

Ms Wiborg Runge added: ‘Arctic dogs rely exclusively on humans for food during the long winters, but may have been fed differently or less frequently in the summer, or left to fend for themselves.

“Working sled dogs are a particularly expensive resource, requiring up to 3.2 kg of fish or meat per day and the supply of dogs would therefore have played an important role in the food supply strategies of Arctic cultures. past.”

Dog breeds that make the best sled dogs

The Samoyed, Alaskan Malamute (pictured), Siberian Husky and Chinook are some of the best known sled dog breeds.

The Samoyed, Alaskan Malamute (pictured), Siberian Husky and Chinook are some of the best known sled dog breeds.

The Samoyed, Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, and Chinook are some of the most well-known sled dog breeds, and for good reason.

Sled dogs probably evolved in Mongolia between 35,000 and 30,000 years ago.

Scientists believe humans migrated north of the Arctic Circle with their dogs around 25,000 years ago and started using them to pull sleds around 3,000 years ago.

There are historical references to dogs used by Native American cultures that date back to before the first Europeans landed.

There were two main types of sled dogs: one kept by the coastal cultures and the other by the inhabitants of the interior.

In the mid-1800s, Russian traders followed the Yukon River inland and bought sled dogs from the villages along its banks.

Source: American Kennel Club

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Bette C. Alvarado