Dogs are remarkable animals because they are uniquely sensitive to the cultural attributes of the people with whom they live. Not only are dogs a product of culture, but they also participate in the cultures of humans.

In fact, dogs were the first animals to take up residence with people and the only animals found in human societies all over the world. Because of their ubiquity across cultural boundaries, dogs have been so commonplace that their history seemed to warrant little consideration.

And yet for the past twelve thousand years dogs have played an integral part in human lives. What is most remarkable about dogs is their ability to adapt to the needs of the people with whom they live. Dogs have proved themselves amazingly flexible beings, and this was as true in the Americas as it was elsewhere in the world.

Dogs are so inextricably woven into the fabric of our lives that we rarely think of them as the strange beasts that they truly are - human made tools engineered for herding, guarding, hauling, hunting and of course, companionship.

Arctic people's very existence depended on their specially bred sled dogs.

Almost every culture interacts with dogs. A comparison of the way dogs are named tells a lot about the people who name them.

The dog was the only work animal indigenous Americans had until the horse was introduced. In many native languages the word for horse derives from dog.

Three little arctic girls with three puppies. 

The mystical word for horse in Dakota is schanka-wankan, the holy spirit of the dog. The Dakota Sioux word for horse means great mysterious dog.

The Teton Dakota word for dog means horse of the woman.

The Karankawa Indians of the Texas gulf coast called the dog a word that translates to kiss. Karankawa means dog lovers or dog raisers.

A typical day's work for a dog.  He's pulling a travois. Note that the dog is clothed as decoratively as the man.

To be named after a special dog, or to be asked to name a special dog, was a great honor in the Hidatsa culture.

Dogs were managed by Hidatsa women. Sometimes a man who had earned honor named a special dog. Glorifying violence is apparently not a new thing. Some Hidatsa dog names: first-strike, last-strike, caught-with a-hand, killed-many-enemies, stabbed, shot-with-an-arrow, killed-by-a-club, ran-over-him, brought-an-enemy’s-horse, took-an-enemy’s–horse, brave-man, chased-an-enemy, he wept –being-caught-by-the-hair. They must have had nicknames as it would be difficult to call these pooches from the field.

Pacific Northwest Native American child with puppy.

One tribe called the dog kadosch which means son-in-law.

Until the mid 1800s, when Anglo sailors arrived on the Mortlock Islands, people had never seen such an unusual animal. Their word for dog translates to comehere. Apparently that's what they thought the sailors called them. (In sign language it's the same. Dog is indicated by snapping your fingers then slapping your right flat hand against your leg, as in "come here.")

Note the dog sitting next to women on far left.

A son-in-law

Hidatsa Chief, Long Time Dog

Responses to "History and vintage photos of Native American dogs "

  1. Unknown says:

    Wow,I love these pictures,esp the first one, because this looks like my best dog,Rusty.

  2. Anonymous says:

    That was a nice history, thank you for sharing...

  3. Unknown says:

    Very nice pictures...especially like the 2nd one...

  4. Anonymous says:


  5. Anonymous says:


  6. Unknown says:

    Very interesting article. I did not know much of this. I do know of their being the first dog introduced to the Palaces in Austria and Hungary. They guarded the children in the palaces and accompanied knights on their quests to guard their camps. The Kuvasz (many spelling variations) is also known as the dog of the horse.

  7. Anonymous says:

    i am interested in how to acquire a print of the gentleman seated with his dog. It is the very first photograph in the series on this represents to me the perfect union of human being and canine... if anyone has any source to obtain a print ...please respond..thank you...

Write a comment