Dog Programmes ♦ Northern LightsBaffin Challenge

The Canadian Inuit Dogs by Matty McNair

" The Eskimo dog is distinguished by having kept one foot firmly in the wild. This explains his captivating personality. Loyal, intelligent, brave, persevering: possessed also of quasi-human peccadilloes like thieving, bullying and malingering, the Eskimo dog is part of the legend and literature of the North." Quote from Scott & Amundsen by Roland Huntford
The Canadian Eskimo Dog (CED) is the reregister name recognized by the Canadian Kennel Association. In Nunavut we refer to this dog as The Canadian Inuit Dog (CID).
The Canadian Inuit Dog is the last indigenous breed of dog in North America !
The history of The Canadian Inuit Dog dates back 4,000 years to when the Inuit migrated from Alaska across the Canadian Arctic. Inuit have used this dog in the winter as sled dog, in summer as a pack animal and a hunting partner year round. With his keen nose he is able to locate seal breathing holes in the sea ice, with his exceptional ability to navigate he is able to bring his Inuit partner home in a white-out blizzard, with his brave heart he is able to hold a polar bear at bay to allow his hunter to more safely move in for the kill and with his loving nature he was accepted as part of the Inuit family.
" In the 1920's it was reported that there were 20,000 Eskimo Dogs in the North. Fifty years later there were less than 200 pure-breds left.” (From the Official Breed Standards for the Canadian Eskimo Dog from the Canadian Kennel Association)

In around 1960 there was a distemper epidemic that swept the north killing thousands of dogs. With out their hunting partner and means of transportation the Inuit, who were living on the land, were moved into communities by the Canadian government. Snowmobiles soon replaced the need for dog teams.

However in the last 10 years, dog teams have seen a small revival in commercial polar bear hunting, tourism and recreation.

The CID belongs to the Spitz Family of dogs, found in the circumpolar arctic. Male dogs are heavy set weighing between 65 to 90 lbs., females are lighter-boned with weights of 45 to 65 lbs. These dogs have: thick erect ears, a bushy tail carried up or curled over their back and a thick coat of long straight guard hair with an under coat of dense under-fur. Their conformation is one of strength, power and endurance balanced with agility, alertness and boldness. Colours may range even in the same litter. Colours including: white, grey, black, red-brown (light buff to a dark red-brown). They may also be grey, black, red-brown with white belly, legs and face markings. Another distinctive marking includes white dogs with just ears or head that is a black, grey or red-brown. In temperament they are they are gentle and affectionate.

If you are interested in Canadian Eskimo puppy, a few experienced dogs to start a team or want a retired NorthWinds sled dog, please let us know.


NorthWinds uses teams of purebred Canadian Eskimo (Inuit) Dogs; the last indigenous breed in
North America. The Inuit used these Arctic dogs for the last 2,000 years. They are the dogs that pulled Peary
to the North Pole and Amundsen to the South Pole. They are strong, independent and very friendly. Our safety
on the trail will depend on these dogs doing their job. When in harness, we will remind you that they are "on
the job." At the end of the day, when they are out of harness, we encourage you to play with them, give them a
thank-you hug for a-great-day or take your favorite dog for a walk.

Dog Sled Travel: There are three ways that we travel with dogs:

1) on the dog sledding programs, we have 2 to 3 participants sitting on the dog sled, jumping off to run the hill.
2) on ski expeditions supported by dog team, the group skis while a dog team transport all equipment and food.
3) on an expedtion we ski beside the back of the sled holding onto the handle bars.

Dog Sledding Programs: The Arctic Odyssey and the South Baffin Challenge are pure dog sledding
adventures. We travel with 2 teams of 6 to 12 dogs per team. Here in the eastern Arctic, as in Greenland, we
ride on the sled, with the dog "driver" sitting at the front to steer and manage the dogs. We added handlebars on
the back of the qomatiq to allow the second participant to assist in steering as well. Over level terrain, you can
sit back and enjoy the scenery, but on uphill grades you can expect to walk.

Ski & Dog Team Expeditions: The North Pole, Ellesmere Winter Ski and Auyuittuq Winter Ski expeditions are
ski trips supported by dog team. On these programs you will be skiing with a daypack while 1 or 2 teams of
dogs pull the group equipment, fuel and food. Our expectation on these dog-supported expeditions is that
participants will assist in the running and caring of the dogs. Often on these expeditions we travel in the style
perfected by the Norwegian explorers, Sverdrup and Amundsen, with the dog driver(s) on skis at the back of the

At NorthWinds we use a traditional Inuit “fan hitch” with each dog on a long trace (as apposed to tandem where
the dogs are hitched two by two). We also use Inuit sleds called qomatiqs. These are 3 to 6 meter sleds with 20
to 30 centimeter high wood runners, lashed with cross boards called napu. These lashed sleds are able to
withstand tremendous abuse through pressure ice with loads of up to 450 kilograms. Onto these sleds we load
all our camping equipment.

On all of our programs we teach you how to "manage" a dog team: to harness the dogs, drive the team, steer the
sled, operate the brakes and at the end of the day to tie-out, feed and care for your furry friends.
Physical Ability: You must be able harness large dogs bounding with exuberance and have the agility to hop
off and on a moving sled. It is important to have the physical ability to jog, for short periods of time, to
generate body heat. If this is not possible, please come in May when conditions are warmer. For the ski
expeditions supported by dog team, you must be able to ski 20 km a day with a daypack over deep snow or
wind carved sastrugi.

Arctic Camping: On Dog Sledding programs: Trail accommodation is in a large double wall group tent (that
we carry on the sled) or in small huts that we heat with stoves to a "relatively" comfortable temperature,
("relatively" means you don't have to eat with mitts on!). On Ski programs you sleep in a 2-person tent and we
carry a large group kitchen tent. The evening agenda includes: hot drinks, followed by hors d'oeuvres, main
course, dessert, more hot drinks, clean up and an evening walk-about to look for Northern Lights, (sorry no
Northern Lights in May & June due to 24 hr. light). When we are ready for bed, we lie out our winter sleeping
mats and unroll our double bag sleeping system with a vapor barrier liner (VBL).

The big question your friends (who think you are crazy) will ask is, "Well, how do you the bathroom
when it's -30?" Wrong answer is, "Don't drink." In this cold and dry environment, it is imperative that you
drink 2+ liters a day. If you get dehydrated, you are more susceptible to frostbite, hypothermia, fatigue, plus
you will get a wicked headache. The correct answer to, "How do you go?" is: "FAST!"

NorthWinds adventures are participatory. We expect you to help load & lash the sleds, harness and drive the
dogs, set up camp and help with camp duties.

Weather: The weather in the Arctic is always unpredictable. Wind chill is a bigger factor than temperature.
Traveling on a windless day at -30° C is not as uncomfortable as traveling at -15° C with a 50-km/h wind.
Luckily, we rarely get high winds and low temperatures at the same time. Generally you can expect:

Camping Food: From years of experience, we have developed an exciting, well-balanced menu to meet the
nutritional needs of traveling in a cold environment. If you are allergic to or dislike any particular foods we
must know 3 weeks ahead so we can adjust the menu accordingly. A typical menu might include: