"History of The Chinook Dog Breed"


History of the Chinook Dog Breed". In 1896, Arthur T. Walden, the 24 year old son of a Boston minister, left Wonalancet, New Hampshire and his job as farm manager of Katherine (Kate) Sleeper's Wonalancet Farm, and headed to the gold fields of Alaska. Driven by his sense of adventure, he took every job that came his way: prospector, logger, stevedore, river pilot; and the job that he was most taken with, "dog punching" hauling freight by dogsled). Walden returned to Wonalancet six years later, and in December of 1902, he and Kate Sleeper married. Walden had dog sledding in his blood, but quality sled dogs were not available in New England, where horses and oxen were the draft animals of choice; so he brought a variety of dogs to Wonalancet and began breeding for dogs that possessed his ideal combination of strength, endurance, speed, and good nature.

He desired a friendly, gentle dog that had tremendous power, endurance and speed. Walden purchased a mastiff-type dog named Kim. He later bred Kim to Ningo, a direct descendent of Admiral Peary's famous Greenland Husky lead dog Polaris. Three tawny colored pups were whelped on January 17, 1917 and named Rikki, Tikki, and Tavi after Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Rikki produce those traits which Walden desired and was later renamed Chinook in honor of a wonderful lead dog Walden had left behind in Alaska. Tikki was later renamed Hootchinoo. The Chinook is one of a few dog breeds created in America. Chinook grew to be a massive 95 to 105-pound animal. Chinook was an outstanding lead dog, and was very popular in New Hampshire where he and his team accomplished many sledding feats. His intelligence was noted by the fact that Walden could give commands to Chinook and the team from afar. Many times Walden demonstrated Chinook’s intelligence by sending Chinook and the team far into the fields and while standing upon his porch gave Chinook commands and they were followed. Walden and Chinook lead the first dog sled team to the summit of Mount Washington. Walden is credited with bringing the sport of sled dog racing into the New Hampshire area and creating the New England Sled Dog Club in 1924, which is still operating today.

"The Beginning"

During the early 1920s Chinook was bred to German and Belgian Shepherd working types and perhaps other husky type dogs. The offspring were then bred back to Chinook to found the breed known today as the Chinook. Chinook was a “sport” of nature and the first of a new breed of dog. A comparison is often quoted between the Chinook breed and Justin Morgans creation of the Morgan horse. Perry Greene called it “An act of God”.

With Chinook's offspring, Walden was finally getting the quality of dogs that he was accustomed to working with. In 1920, his new line of what he called "Husky half-breds" made their debut at the Gorham, New Hampshire Winter Carnival. Walden began to seriously promote dog sledding for draft, recreation, and sport. Racing in New England started a year later when Walden began promoting freighting by dogsled to the woodsmen as a faster, more economical way to move supplies to their logging camps. Walden convinced W. R. Brown's paper company of Berlin, New Hampshire to sponsor the first Eastern International Dog Derby in 1922 in part to encourage more people to breed quality sled dogs in the region. Four teams competed in this 123-mile race, Walden, with Chinook in lead, won easily. Competition was keen and Walden realized that Chinook, weighing just over 100 pounds in fit working condition, was too massive an animal to continue leading winning race teams. He started breeding Chinook with an eye for lighter boned, faster offspring, who still carried Chinook's intelligence, gentle nature and trademark color.

In 1923, a distemper outbreak in Chinook Kennel took it's toll, and Walden lost his entire 1922 winning team, except for Chinook himself. Walden took two years off from racing to concentrate on breeding another competitive team, but never stopped supporting the sport. In 1924, the New England Sled Dog Club (NESDC) held it's organizational meeting in Arthur Walden’s' home, and elected Arthur Walden it's first president. The NESDC is still actively promoting sled dog racing today. In 1925, Walden returned to racing with a young but promising team of Chinook's sons, and proclaiming his Chinook-shepherd crosses as his ideal for strength and stamina. The popularity of Walden's "Chinook dogs" was growing; and, boosted by his January 1926 win at the Poland Spring, Maine, race, interest was such that Walden was beginning to sell a few matched teams of his dogs to other racers as well. In March of 1926, Walden and his team set out on an adventure that he had been considering for years, but which most people considered impossible: the first ascent of Mount Washington by dog team. While turned back by a blizzard on the first attempt, Walden and his team, with old Chinook in lead again, and accompanied by several newspaper reporters and photographers, successfully made the 8 miles to the summit in 8 hours time! Among the racing community Walden’s dogs' popularity was short lived. After gaining recognition for their part in the 1925 Nome Serum Run, Leonhard Seppala and 40 of his Siberian Huskies left Alaska and embarked on a national tour. Seppala’s tour landed in New England in late 1926 for the winter's race season. In January 1927 while at the Poland Spring, Maine race, Seppala's Siberians proved themselves much faster than anything New England had to offer and they gained instant popularity. Seppala established a breeding kennel in Maine to supply his Siberian Huskies to the racers in New England.

"Byrd Antarctic Expeditions"


Arthur Walden wasn't bothered by the loss but instead went seeking the next adventure. Walden and his wife, Kate Sleeper, brought electricity and telephone service to Wonalancet and the first hydro electric dam to Carroll County. Despite his achievements the bug of exploration was still strong in Walden. When hearing about the imminent Byrd Antarctic Expedition Walden applied though at age 56 was over the maximum age. He was given the duties of lead driver and trainer of all the dogs to be used on the expedition. Walden was also assigned to lead the three men, Vaughan, Crockett and Goodale, who helped with the dog teams. Dogs were obtained and sent to Walden’s home in New Hampshire. During the winter months of late 1927 and early 1928, dogs and drivers were assembled at Walden's Wonalancet Farm, and training began. Winter survival gear was also evaluated there, in the harsh conditions of New Hampshire's White Mountains. Together the drivers worked for one year training dogs and testing tents and supplies. By this time Chinook was nearing his 12th birthday.

"The Great Chinook is Lost"

When the expedition reached the shore of Antarctica, there remained little time to unload the ships and prepare a safe living area for the men for the next year before winter set in. All the dogs were worked beyond capacity. Walden's dog teams broke records during that time for amount of loads carried as well as the weight of each load. Admiral Byrd wrote ‘Walden's team was the backbone of our transport”. When needed, Chinook was put into harness for his help. It was shortly afterwards that Chinook was lost. Many speculated that he left the camp and wandered off knowing he was dying. Another story speculated that he befell a grave accident, fell into a crevasse and died. In any case Walden had lost his best friend. Tragically, Walden had wanted to bury his friend in harness, but Chinook was never found. Chinook’s death was written in newspapers around the world. Upon Walden’s return home, the people of the area wanted to rename the road that connected the town of Tamworth with Wonalancet to Waldens' Road. He asked that instead they honor Chinook by naming it the Chinook Trail, the name which it still bears today.

"Wonalancet, NH ERA"

Byrd's expeditionary returned home in mid 1930 to find their families in the middle of the Great Depression, and Walden had returned to hard times as well. Not only was Wonalancet Farm in financial trouble, but Kate Walden, who had always been of frail health, was not well. Walden had brought in Milton and Eva Seeley as kennel managers in 1927 and sold them half interest in his Chinook Kennel before leaving for Antarctica, and the Seeleys had been attempting to care for Kate Walden and keep Wonalancet Farm together in his absence. In settling their accounts upon Walden's return, the Seeleys took complete control of Chinook Kennel, including the dogs and the kennel name, and relocated the operation to a nearby piece of property. While continuing to be active in the sled dog world, the Seeleys put their efforts mainly into breeding Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies, and discontinued the breeding of Chinooks altogether. Julia Lombard, a neighbor of the Walden’s, had been captivated early on by the companionable nature of the "Chinook dogs", and Walden was in the habit of occasionally giving Lombard a few choice puppies to raise for him, presumably so that his breeding program would survive epidemics such as he suffered in 1923. Prior to his departure for Antarctica, Walden had given her three puppies: a son of Chinook who carried 25% German Shepherd blood, and a son and daughter of Chinook who carried 50% Belgian Shepherd blood. With these three offspring of Chinook Arthur T. Walden as her kennel director, financial support from the Hubbard family (who operated a small pet food factory in Gloucester, MA), and later, Ed Moody (a veteran dog driver from Byrd's second expedition) as trainer and driver, Mrs. Julia P. Lombard's Wonalancet - Hubbard Kennel came into being. The bloodlines from these three foundation dogs were crossed, and then selective inbreedings done in the mid 1930s to create dogs consistent with Walden's earlier breeding program and to create what Mrs. Lombard would call her "purebred Chinooks". Lombard promoted her Chinooks as recreational sled dogs, putting as much emphasis on their companionable nature as their working ability. Lombard also worked two Chinook teams that continued to be seen in the local sportsman shows, and on the winter racing circuit as well.

"The Perry Greene ERA"

Julia Lombard (Wonalancet Hubbard Kennels) sold the stock of Chinooks to Perry Greene in October, 1940. Greene bought 20 Chinooks and five sleds for the sum of $500.00 dollars. Greene then moved the Chinooks to Warren, Maine. During February, 1941 Perry and his stepson, Johnny Gephart and seven Chinooks (Walden’s trained team) hauled 800-pounds of equipment via dog sled from Fort Kent to Kittery, Maine. They traveled 502 miles in ninety hours, the longest sled dog trek ever made entirely within the United States at the time. In 1946 construction of a new facility for the Chinooks was undertaken. In January 1947 Perry and Johnny Gephart, completed construction of a log lodge, kennel and store in Waldoboro, Maine. The Chinooks were moved to this location and for the first time were all under one roof. During 1947 Arthur Walden succumbed to injuries sustained while rescuing his wife Kate from a fire in their home. After rescuing his wife Kate Walden succumbed to smoke inhalation in attempt to extinguish the fire. He died as he lived, a hero, a monument to an era gone by. Walden was buried next to the Union Chapel on the Chinook Trail.

Perry Greene and his wife Honey promoted the breed for many years. Unlike Walden the Greene's did not promote the Chinook as a recreational sled dog but as the "ideal companion dog". They created a mystery surrounding the breed and set up many requirements for those wishing to own a Chinook. If a person wanted a Chinook, he had to stay at the kennels for at least 24 hours. If Perrys' house dogs didn't care for the person, he went home empty handed. Should he need to wash his hands after petting the dogs, he didn’t get one either. To ensure that the Green’s were the sole breeders of Chinook, an unaltered female was never allowed to leave the kennel and no one person could own more than two Chinooks at one time.

"The Decline and Rescue of the Chinook"

Perry Greene died in 1963 and his wife Honey tried to continue their breeding program. By 1966 the Chinook population was estimated to be sixty dogs. It was during this time a Chinook named Charger was purchased by the Vetrol Division of Boeing Helicopters. Boeing produced a helicopter named the Chinook. Charger was sent to Vietnam as a mascot for an Army Division. Honey died in 1968 and the Greene’s Grandson Peter Richards took over control of the breed. Due to escalating costs Richards could not keep up the kennels and sold the remaining stock to Peter Orne of Connecticut. Orne established the Chinooks at the Sukeforth Kennel (Sukee) in Warren, Maine. Kathy Adams, a caretaker at Sukee, helped maintain the breed for two years then disbanded the remaining 12 Chinooks to two other families. Neil and Marra Wollpert of Ohio, and Peter Abrahams of California, and Kathy Adams took over the responsibility for continuing the breed. They would later establish the Chinook Owners Association (COA) in 1982.

In 1985 Stan Victor and Rick Skoglund whelped the first of three Victors Chinooks litters. They would become the foundation dogs for several kennels including Winterset Chinooks, Northdown Chinooks , Mountain Laurel Chinooks and the modern Perry Greene kennels. By 1985 the Chinook population had risen to approximately 60 dogs.

In 1986 Harry Gray purchased the abandoned Perry Greene Kennels and moved his Northdown Kennel there. Gray made improvements to the property from 1986 to 1993 and bred many Chinooks and Chinook crosses during this time. Harry and Katy Gray created the Chinook Club of America (CCOA) and became the first club to offer pedigrees to Chinooks, keep computerized databases of breedings, and published the first owners directory.

"The Second Rescue"

In 1988 Harry Gray and his Chinooks from Northdown Kennel went to Alaska in what would later become an aborted attempt to train and eventually run in the Iditarod. According to Bob Johnson of Northern Lights Chinooks, Gray ran headlong into one of the worst Alaskan winters in memory. Heavy snow, up to 212-inches, buried Gray and his Chinooks at their training camp. Out of dog food and fearing for the welfare of the Chinooks, Gray placed an emergency phone call to Stan Victor of Victors Chinooks. Victor financed the rescue of Gray and his Chinooks with Bob Johnson coordinating efforts from Talkeetna, Alaska. Bob Johnson found and leased more favorable land for the Chinooks while they recovered from their ordeal. Chinook owners must forever be grateful for Stan Victor and Bob Johnson’s efforts. Almost every modern day purebred foundation sire and dam were rescued by Stan and Bob. These dogs included Toes, Yukon Jack, North Wind Nome, North Wind Kiska, Victor’s Nikiska, Northdown Nugget and Kaltag to mention a few. Without these sires and dams the breed may not have recovered. The Chinooks arrived in Alaska November 28th, 1988 and departed June 30, 1989.

"The Ressurection of the Chinook Breed"

In 1989 the Chinook Owners Association was reinstated. A registry was created to record breedings and litters. In 1990 the First Chinook Round Up took place in Dayton, Ohio. Almost 50 people and 30 Chinooks from across the United States to competed in a fun match and took part in the first formal meeting of the COA. This gather was quite an accomplishment after the Chinook was listed three times in the Guinness Book of World Records as the dog breed with the fewest population. In 1991 The United Kennel Club recognized the Chinook. Chinooks would also be recognized by the American Rare Breed Association. Joyce Maley, T.J. and Grace Anderson, and Rick and Gail Skoglund joined the ranks of breeders who were instrumental in achieving these goals.

In 1992 the Chinooks were invited to have a Specialty in Washington, D.C. at the 2nd Annual Cherry Blossom show held by the American Rare Breed Association. Many Chinooks and their owners participated in what the COA would call their second Round Up. Owners from as far away as Canada and Washington State participated.

1993 Martha Kalina purchased the Northdown Kennel and restored its historical name of Perry Greene Kennel. Martha took responsibility for the care of 26 Chinooks who remained at the former Northdown kennel. An ambitious renovation program began that now includes a small display of Chinook breed history and a dog outfitters store that is open to the public. In 1994 the first Perry Greene litter of Chinooks in over 25 years was whelped. Today, people from all over the country and world come to visit the historic home of the Chinook in Waldoboro, Maine.

In 1995 the World Wide Kennel Club formally recognized the Chinook giving owners more opportunities to show their Chinooks around the country. In 1995, Stan Victor, of Victors Chinooks completed a Chinook rescue and retirement home on 70 acres of land in Bridgewater, New York. This unique facility can house a dozen Chinooks in separate kennels and is set up for the care and comfort of older Chinooks.

In 1996 the Perry Greene Kennel made arrangements with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to have the signs replaced on the Chinook Trail with a likeness of Walden’s Chinook. Today, the trail is marked with the historically correct signs. That year Chinook’s last harness, worn on the Byrd Antarctic Expedition, was discovered. The harness is displayed at the Remick Museum in Tamworth , (during the winter carnival) New Hampshire courtesy of the Perry Greene Historical Collection. A celebration to commemorate Perry Greene Kennel’s 50th anniversary was held on February 7 9th 1997 in Waldoboro, Maine. 24 Chinooks and their owners met for the second annual Chinook Winter Carnival at the historic Tamworth Inn, Tamworth, New Hampshire. Chinooks and their families attended sled dog races, skijored and ran their Chinook sled teams along the historical Wonalancet trails.

In 2002 the Perry Greene Kennel & the Remick museum combined efforts at the Tamworth Winter carnival. A large history of the breed was on display for the winter carnival and Chinook owners and their teams gave sled dog rides to residents of the Tamworth region. It was an instant success and continues annually in February.

"The Chinook Breed Today"

During June 2001 Chinooks Worldwide sponsored a Chinook Summer festival in Wonalancet New Hampshire In cooperation with the Remick Museum, the Tamworth historical society and Arthur Walden’s descendants.

Tours of the Remick museum, the Antler house, Union Chapel, Walden’s gravesite and Wonalancet farm were arranged to the delight of Chinook owners and the public. The goal was to educate the public to the rich history of the region and the Chinook breed. It was the first time that these historic sites were opened to the public since the Walden “era”.

In 2007 there were approximately 500 living purebred Chinooks. The “modern” Chinook has been brought back from the brink of extinction While “diversity” remains in the breed many of today’s Chinooks have regained the size, type and general appearance of Walden’s beloved Chinook breed. Breeders continue to carefully increase their numbers. Many families recreationally sled and skijor with their Chinook companions and a few owners have Chinook sled teams. The greatest value of a Chinook, however, remains their calm, gentle disposition with an inherent fondness for children and loyalty to their human family.

Today the Perry Greene kennel is primarily a boarding kennel. The kennel, store and original home have been restored by Rick Skoglund and Martha Kalina. There is a small display of the history of the Chinook breed in the store. The Perry Greene Kennel and Outfitters has a variety of equipment to out fit dogs such as skijoring equipment, Wenaha dog packs and Maine made dogsleds.

There is a monument on the property in memory of Perry & Honey Greene, behind this monument is a private cemetery where many Chinooks from Walden and Greene’s time are buried. Johnny Gepharts family also brought his ashes to be placed with the Chinooks. To some visitors it brings tears to their eyes and memories of an era gone by, memories of the Chinooks importance during the age of exploration. Memories of “Maine’s own breed of dog”, the Chinook.

Rick operates the Perry Greene Kennel and is a retired firefighter and active member of firefighters local 1579. Martha has served as Executive director of the Humane society of Knox county and President of the Maine Federation of Humane societies. The Perry Greene kennel still breeds Perry Greene’s original Chinook and actively works with their Chinooks by sledding and organizing events such as the Chinook winter carnival in Tamworth New Hampshire.

The Perry Greene Kennel is a licensed state of Maine shelter. We foster Alaskan Malamutes for AMRONE, Beagles for BONES, Leonbergers for Leonberger rescue, Chinooks for Chinook rescue, and Kuvasz’s for Kuvasz rescue.

Finally, the Perry Greene kennel will rescue and re- home Chinooks in need of help. No Chinook need ever be without a home. Chinooks in need of re-homing or temporary housing will be cared for at our facility and given proper medical care. If you have a Chinook or know of a Chinook in need of assistance call (207) 832-5227.

For more about the Chinook visit www.chinook.org, the Chinook Owner Associations website. This history was written by Rick Skoglund and reviewed by Nancy Cowan, noted expert on New England Sled dog history.

Copyright © 2007, All right Reserved.

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