Longhouse - Cooking Area

Woolly Dogs

Woolly dogs are an enigma in the current history of the Coast Salish peoples, including the Stó:lō of the Fraser Valley. There are no known woolly dogs in existence today, but not too long ago, they played a huge part in both the economy of the Salish peoples and their weaving practices. Many early written accounts speak of a medium-sized dog, which is always described differently at different times of the year. Sometimes the dog is described as short-haired or even shaved, while at other times during the year the dog is described as being long-haired. These descriptions often come with a mention of the dogs being kept around the villages or on special islands, where they were fed and generally cared for.

These woolly dogs were kept so they could be sheared once a year-much in the same way that sheep are sheared, for the resulting wool. There are known examples of woolly dog hair blankets that have been collected by early explorers on the Northwest Coast. Unfortunately, these dogs disappeared with the introduction of readily available yarn, made from sheep and already spun, that was brought by early explorers. The only reasonable explanation for this is that the hair from the woolly dog was not as important as the wool from mountain goats in the production of ceremonial blankets. It is also possible that the care required to maintain the dogs was too labour-intensive, when compared with the readily made wool that could be obtained through trade with early newcomers. Being that mountain goats naturally shed and do not require feeding or tending of any kind, their wool continued to be used, as it was a less labour-intensive resource.

Two girls with woolly dog

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(121.5 KB)Two girls with woolly dog
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