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Blame the Victorians. Throughout the ages, humans have proven themselves constitutionally compelled to tinker with the genetics of other living entities, from corn to canaries. The 19th-century set, though, made this a near obsession, creating an...

Blame the Victorians.

Throughout the ages, humans have proven themselves constitutionally compelled to tinker with the genetics of other living entities, from corn to canaries. The 19th-century set, though, made this a near obsession, creating an explosion of dog and cat breeds, many of their traits teased from the genome for sheer form rather than any actual function.

More than a century later, it has become increasingly un-PC to write about, much less promote, nascent breeds. Rescuers note that creating still more closed gene pools while mixed breeds languish and oftentimes die in shelters presents an ethical dilemma. On the other side of the fence, "breedists" themselves object, because it is their "pure" lines that are being used to create new strains.

One of the few canids that can profess primacy when it comes to dog breeds is the wolf itself. And one of the newest breeds, the Tamaskan, offers the ultimate homage to that wild ancestor: It aims to look like a wolf, without benefit of even a drop of wild blood.

Meaning "mighty wolf" in some American Indian tongue, the Tamaskan has been around for less than two decades and was crafted out of crosses among Siberian huskies, Alaskan malamutes and German shepherds.

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Evidencing that other irresistible human tendency for infighting, the Tamaskan started out as the Northern Inuit (which is not to be confused with the plain ol' Inuit, a working sled dog), only to eventually splinter to become the Utonagan. Then, amid concerns that the Utonagan was not "wolfy"-looking enough, it officially became the Tamaskan in 2002.

"The most appealing thing is that the Tamaskan looks like a wolf, but there's no wolf in it," says Gina D'Andraia of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., who bought one of the puppies, Cody, from the inaugural litter, bred in New York in June 2007.

Tamaskan breeders say their dogs are effusively friendly. "They're very loving and extremely social, and are not bred to be a guard dog," says Kim Monagas, vice president of the National Tamaskan Club of America (tamaskan-dog.us). Compared to the Northern sledding breeds on which it is based, the Tamaskan is far less independent and, Monagas says, "more easily trained."

Female Tamaskans weigh 55 to 90 pounds and are 24 to 26 inches at the shoulder; males are 70 to 110 pounds, and a whopping 25 to 33 inches -- a huge range that borders, at the far end, on super-size-me proportions.

The Tamaskan faithful (Tamaskan DogRegister/ www.tamaskan-dog.com ) are lobbying to have their dogs recognized by the American Kennel Club.

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