Part Two, Wolfdogs and Rez Dogs
Silver, Chato and Pearl were known as wolfdogs in the 70’s, the prideful way to say it was to say, “rez dogs” among ourselves. None of the Wolf Hybridders used the term “Wolfdogs” at that time; they were proud they bred wolf hybrids. However, at some point science declared that wolves and dogs are the same species, so there could not be a hybrid between them.
Now, the hybridders looked around and took over the term wolfdog. The exact term the wolfdoggers used in years past. I don’t know how, but take over they did. Now the wolfdogs with no provable wolf are fake wolfdogs. OK. Got it. At this point, the term “Rez Dog” is the only one left. Oh yes, people did take their Rez Dogs of the wolfy type and start registries with name references back to Native Americans or Indians. There are a few registries for various lines of these dogs around.
But these are not breeds, unless the breeders use AKC breeding practices to reduce variation; they are lines of Rez Dogs that have seen selective breeding enough, but are still part of a general type of dog whose distinguishing coats and markings make them look wolfy. A lot are gray or silver, but tannish dogs, and gingery dogs are often seen. A former leader of the Yaqui tribe, , had a typical rez dog who was large, solid yellowy/ginger with some white on the belly inner legs and feet. She was of excellent type with yellow eyes and big prick ears. She still looked like she had some wolf in her. she also looked like a great big Carolina Dog of perfect type. She kept the coyotes away from their home, yard, and guarded the little dogs, with diligence, but she mostly lay around the house. She didn’t bark much at people or cars, maybe once to let her people know, and approached people who came inside the house fence with her head lowered for a pet or a scratch. There is not a better home dog than that.
On several Indian Nations, the strays are collected and you can rescue them from shelters. The nice wolfy types usually have homes and proud owners who will tell you they are “part wolf”, but you can tell by the fact, that they are lying around untethered and unfenced, and from their submissive, sociability, that they are pure dogs, just as most of their ancestors were. After you have seen the registered, provable wolf wolves, 7/8th’s wolves. 3/4 wolves, 1/2 wolves, even 1/4 wolves locked up, then you see a wolfy looking rez dog lying around the yard, take a wild guess as to which is the better pet.
In some of the 19th century art work of Europeans painting Indians, you will often see dogs. Wolfy looking dogs who lie around the camp with no leashes or fences. They are obviously there by mutual choice of the dogs and the people. The only wolves that would have kept would be the ones who lay about and didn’t get into trouble like biting kids, stealing food, chasing people away from something they had. The breeders usually orchestrated breedings of the best hunters, best behaved and most sociable critters to each other keeping the wolfy type intact. The general pattern all over North America before the Conquest, except, perhaps, occasionally among the Inuit type dogs, was to avoid new wolf or coyote in their lines and most tribes would eat any resultant critter that didn’t behave like a proper dog should.
Wolf/dog breeding since the mid-60’s, has often been to increase the size. In fact. Chato, Pearl et all, were on the large side, well over 60 pounds for males. That is almost double the average pre-Conquest hunting dogs, when 45 pounds was huge. A typical short haired hunting dog of NA was less than 35 pounds for males. They had many coat colors, though the most common were gray or yellow based. Prick ears, almond shaped eyes often gold or yellow, a natural tail with a curve. Locally, the dogs might have a smaller gene pool than average and some recessives will start to appear, like spotted coats or blue eyes. The little Basketmaker dog had a spotted coat which usually indicates some inbreeding took place or was taking place. Other Basketmaker dogs looked like small border collies in color and markings, but usually with prick ears.
I see Rez Dogs at shelters online, almost every time I look. They are often called shepherd crosses, but they aren’t. Even if they are, they have the correct type. They are straight backed with prick ears and a wedge shaped head. The coat and colors can vary. Tail and tail set can vary. Length of coat can vary, but most typical rez dog have a short or medium coat in some shade of yellow/tan or gray. Often yellow/golden shades of eyes- not pure yellow, but yellowy. Even if a dog that looks like this never saw a rez, it is probably of local breeding anyway, and comes from a background of North American or Mexican Dog Breeding. (I want to use “Mexican” for convenience, the correct terminology for pre-conquest Mexico is a complicated thing, so I am referring to the geography, not the political entity). Arizona will see 100 years of separation from Mexico in 2012. A definable percent of the population has roots going back to New Spain before statehood. The famous Arizona Dogs from before statehood still dominate the Chihuahua types in Tucson. And a good mannered, prick eared straight backed, bent tailed dog with a bit of a wolfy look in the eye, is a rez dog, no matter what the genes.