When is a Mack Truck also a Ferrari?

When is a Mack truck also a Ferrari?

In canine terms, when it’s a Chinook.

This unique and rare breed developed in New Hampshire by Arthur Treadwell Walden in the early 1900s is powerful enough to perform labor-intensive tasks in harsh conditions, and fast enough to set records.

How strong? How fast? 

In 1941, Perry Greene and his stepson, Johnny Gephart, along with seven Chinooks, hauled 800 pounds of equipment for 502 miles from Fort Kent to Kittery, Maine in 90 hours. It set a record as the longest sled dog trek in the United States at that time. Greene, described as “the P.T. Barnum of his time” with “a huge presence and a booming voice,” may have started the epic trip as a publicity stunt, but the journey dramatically showcased the hauling abilities and stamina of the breed, and elevated the Chinook to “absolute legend” status.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone who has read the breed standard. The second sentence reads, “Bred to combine the power of freighting breeds with the speed of the lighter racing sled dogs, the Chinook is an athletic, hard bodied dog showing excellent forward reach and rear extension in a seemingly tireless gait.”

We digress for a moment to ask (and answer)  another question:

How rare?

After Arthur Walden’s passed away in 1947, Chinook breed numbers fell to the point of almost extinction. In 1965, the Guinness Book of World Records listed the Chinook as the “Rarest Dog in the World” with only a hundred twenty-five living dogs. By 1981, only 28 Chinooks remained, many of them senior or neutered dogs. Rightfully alarmed, Chinook enthusiasts from around the world determined to preserve the breed. According to the AKC, three breeders divided between themselves eleven breed-able dogs. Through a strategic outcrossing program in the 1990s, new bloodlines were introduced that increased genetic diversity, and when the breed was fully recognized by the AKC in 2013, 813 Chinooks were registered.  Some estimate that the current total worldwide population of Chinooks is round 1,100 to 1,600. Still too low, in our view, but better than it was. 

But we digress from answering the question of why the Chinook is able to be so strong and fast.

In part, the short answer is balance.

A balanced body, deep chest, muscular hindquarters,  and muscles that are both strong and flexible account for both. Slightly longer than tall, the Chinook has a strong, arched and balanced neck, and well-sprung ribs that flatten toward the lower end to allow for their elbows to clear offering efficient movement.

Did we mention muscular hindquarters? (yes, and we repeat it because it’s so important). Thick, sturdy, and well defined thighs, and hocks give the dog tremendous driving power for pulling freight.  Moderate bone density and structure give the dog a sturdy, muscular frame capable of withstanding the rigors of hauling weight, while a level, straight topline and strong back allow the Chinook to transition smoothly between a trot and gallop while pulling without wasted energy. This strong and straight back structure with a slight arch over the loin allows for efficient transfer of thrust from the rear quarters. The body is extremely flexible, but well-muscled and hard.


Photo by ©Engin Korkmaz | Dreamstime

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