"Summary History of the Chinook" was researched and written by Chinook historian Jack Murray of Tullibardine Chinooks.  Jack gave me permission to reprint his Chinook history article below.  Jack's Chinook history article is the most accurate and detail-oriented historical presentation of the Chinook that I know of.  So if you have an interest in Chinook Dog history, Arthur Walden, Julia Lombard, Perry Greene, and sled dogs in general, Jack's history article is a must read!  Intervale Chinooks
History of the Chinook Dog
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Chinook dogs early 1920's.
Summary History of the Chinook
Copyright ©1999-2017   Jack R. Murray

The Beginning

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 for Alaska. Driven by his sense of adventure, he took every job that came his way while there: 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 now had dogsledding 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 Farm and began breeding for dogs that possessed his ideal combination of strength, endurance, speed, and good nature. He put together a team of four half-bred St. Bernards in 1910; they were reportedly the first sled dog team to work in New England since the Deerfield (MA) Massacre of the French and Indian War, in 1703! 
The Life of "Old Chinook" - Foundation Sire of the Breed 

On January 17, 1917, a litter of seven puppies was born on Wonalancet Farm to Walden's Greenland Husky, Ningo (a granddaughter of Polaris, Admiral Robert Peary's lead dog from his 1909 Arctic expedition); and sired by Kim, a large mixed breed dog of unknown origin that had been picked up as a stray. In this litter were three large, tawny colored pups that Kate Walden first named Rikki, Tikki, and Tavi; taken from Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book". Walden soon realized the intelligence of these pups, and finding the names Rikki and Tikki unworkable when calling them, renamed them Chinook and Hootchinoo after two outstanding lead dogs he had owned in Alaska. Hootchinoo was the first to prove his competence as a lead dog, and Chinook and Tavi were perfectly happy running in the team behind their brother. It was a full year later before Walden tried Chinook in lead position, and the unassuming Chinook astounded everyone with his intelligence, understanding, and trail sense. Walden was so taken with this dog that Chinook became Walden's most trusted leader, foundation sire of his continued kennel lines, and Walden's constant companion.

With Chinook's children, Walden was finally getting the quality of dogs that he was accustomed to; and in 1920 his new line of "Husky half-breds" (as he called them), made their debut at the Gorham, NH winter carnival, and he started seriously promoting dog sledding for draft, recreation, and sport. Racing in New England began a year later, at the 1921 Gorham carnival; it was a modest race (two teams of three dogs each, over a six mile course) and Walden lost, but interest built rapidly from there. Walden had also been promoting freighting by dogsled to the woodsmen as a faster, more economical way to move supplies to their logging camps, and convinced the Brown Paper Company of Berlin, NH 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; and Walden, with Chinook in lead, won hands down. Competition was keen, however; 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 and trademark coloration.

In 1923, a distemper outbreak in Chinook Kennel took its toll, and Walden lost his entire winning team, except for Chinook himself. Walden took two years off from serious competition to concentrate on breeding another competitive team, but never stopped supporting the sport. In 1924, the New England Sled Dog Club (NESDC) held its organizational meeting in the Waldens' home and elected Arthur Walden its 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, the highest peak in the eastern United States, by dog team. While turned back by a blizzard on the first attempt, Walden and his team, with old Chinook in lead again, successfully made the 8 miles to the 
summit in 8 hours time!
Chinook Becomes World Renowned

The Chinook dogs' popularity among the racing community was short lived, however. After gaining recognition for their part in the 1925 Nome Serum Run, Leonhard Seppala and 40 of his Siberian Huskies left Alaska on a national tour timed to land him in New England in late 1926 for the winter's race season. At The Poland Spring race of January 1927, Seppala's Siberians proved themselves much faster than anything the New Englanders had to offer and gained instant popularity. Seppala established a breeding kennel in Maine to supply his Siberian Huskies to the racers in New England, and interest in Walden's dogs waned. Walden didn't dwell on the loss; but instead went seeking the next adventure. Hearing that Commander Richard Byrd was planning a two year expedition to Antarctica, Walden volunteered; and even though over the maximum age limit, was selected as lead dog driver and trainer for the expedition. During the winter of 1927/28, dogs and drivers were assembled at the Waldens' Wonalancet Farm, and training began. Winter survival gear was also evaluated there, in the harsh conditions of New Hampshire's White Mountains. When Byrd's expedition departed in the summer of 1928, Chinook, now eleven years old, and fifteen of his sons were included among the nearly 100 dogs selected to provide surface transportation on the Antarctic ice. 

Conditions were severe when they arrived in Antarctica, and there was little time to unload the 500 tons of supplies and build their new "city", Little America, before the four month long "night" set in. Walden, Chinook, and their 13 dog team amazed everyone. Of Walden, Byrd wrote: "Seeing him rush his heavy loads along the trail, outstripping the younger men, it was difficult to believe he was an old man. He was 58 years old, but he had the determination and strength of youth." Of Chinook, Byrd wrote: "...there was no doubting the fact that he was a great dog. ...Walden used him as kind of a "shock troop", throwing him into harness when the going turned very hard. Then the gallant heart of the old dog would rise above the years and pull with the glorious strength of a three-year-old." And of their team, Byrd wrote: "On January 17th (1929) Walden's single team of thirteen dogs moved 3,500 pounds of supplies from ship to base, a distance of 16 miles each trip, in two journeys. Walden's team was the backbone of our transport." The night after this record was set, Chinook woke Walden several times by putting his paw on Walden's shoulder. Each time, Walden gave Chinook a pat on the head and told him to lay back down. The next day, as Walden and his team left Little America, Chinook wandered away and was never found. Walden was devastated by the loss of his companion of so many years, and the disappointment was deepened by the fact that Walden was unable to honor his desire to bury Chinook in harness. Walden was, however, able to find a fitting way to memorialize his old friend. When he returned from Little America to Wonalancet, a new highway was being built on the rough trail that led from Wonalancet to Tamworth, over which Chinook had passed countless times leading his team. The people of the area wanted to name the road Walden's Road, but Walden requested instead that it be named the Chinook Trail; the name which it still bears today.

The Wonalancet - Hubbard Years 

Byrd's expeditioners 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 hired 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 Mrs. 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 Waldens and business partner in their hydroelectric works, had been captivated early on by the companionable nature of the "Chinook dogs", and Walden was in the habit of occasionally giving Lombard a choice puppy to raise for him, presumably so that his breeding program might survive epidemics such as he suffered in 1923. Sometime 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 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". While Mrs. Lombard promoted her Chinooks as recreational sled dogs, putting as much emphasis on their companionable nature as their working ability, she also fielded two Chinook teams that continued to be seen in the local sportsman shows, and on the winter racing circuit as well. 

The Perry Greene Years 

When Mrs. Lombard decided to retire from Chinook breeding, her hand picked successor was Perry Greene, a champion competitive woodchopper and Maine outdoorsman. Greene had competed at some of the same sportsman's shows where the Wonalancet - Hubbard Chinooks were exhibited, and they had all become acquainted; with Greene eventually purchasing a Chinook as a companion. In October of 1940, Greene took possession of the Wonalancet - Hubbard Chinooks, including sleds, harnesses, and dog houses, in a contract that required him to continue Walden's and Lombard's practice of selling only spayed females to maintain exclusivity, and to never crossbreed without the express permission of Julia Lombard. Greene relocated the Chinooks to the Warren, ME, farm of William Fowle, and together they established their Georges River Kennel. Greene immediately started consulting with Arthur Walden in the planning of a record breaking dogsled trip; hoping that the publicity would attract the attention of the expeditioners and the military, who were currently using the Seeleys' Chinook Kennel almost exclusively for training and as a source of sled dogs. In January of 1941, Greene, along with Fowle's grandson Johnny Gephart, left Fort Kent, ME, with seven Chinooks hauling 800 pounds of equipment and headed for Kittery, ME; 502 miles away. In spite of some rough going for lack of snow, they completed the trip in 90 hours running time, and claimed the record at the time for the longest sled dog trek made entirely within the United States. While the trip gained the desired media attention, it failed to generate any serious interest in the Georges River Kennel; and when the U.S. entered World War II, Greene joined the war effort by working in Maine boatyards, where his skills with an axe were of great use, and maintained the kennel of Chinooks for the duration.

With the close of World War II, Greene married William Fowle's daughter Margery (Honey) Gephart (Johnny's mother), and started construction of a new home and kennel in nearby Waldoboro. In 1947 the "log lodge" and kennel that still stand today were completed, and Greene announced that for the first time ever, all the Chinooks would be housed under one roof! In it's heyday, the Perry Greene Kennel included a guest cabin, an outfitters shop, and a stable of horses, on several hundred acres. On a more somber note, 1947 also saw the passing of Arthur Walden, who rescued his wife from their burning home, and then was overcome by smoke when he re-entered to fight the fire. Walden was buried along the Chinook Trail next to the Union Chapel, and his wife Kate, who survived him by several years, is buried there with him. 

Unlike Walden and Lombard, Perry and Honey Greene didn't promote the Chinook as a recreational sled dog, but instead promoted them as the ideal companion animal. Greene himself sledded and occasionally raced with his Chinooks until about 1960, when his advancing age required that he give up the sport; and he and his team were fixtures at local parades and sportsman's shows for many years. But his policies regarding placement of his Chinooks were strict: he preferred homes with well behaved children over retired couples; never placed more than two dogs, and seldom more than one, in a home at the same time; required that prospective owners stay in his guest cottage for 24 hours to assure himself that they showed the dogs the proper respect, and more importantly, to assure that the dogs got along well with them; and never allowed an unaltered female to leave the kennel for a new home. While Greene's Chinooks had gained a national reputation as the perfect companion, Greene never lost sight of their purpose or confidence in their ability; and shortly before his retirement from sledding, set off with his team of Chinooks and several members of his Boy Scout troop to be the first to conquer Mount Katahdin, Maine's highest peak, by dogsled. The attempt took an unexpected turn, however, when a member of another hiking party was seriously injured on the trail, and Greene and his Scouts stopped to stabilize the injured boy and transport him by dogsled back down the mountain to a waiting rescue party. Unfortunately, one of the sled's runners was broken beyond repair in their descent, and they had to return to Waldoboro without achieving their goal. 

The Decline and Rescue of the Purebred Chinook 

Perry Greene died in 1963, and Honey soon re-married to local veterinarian Harold Smead. The Smeads continued to maintain the Perry Greene Kennel and breed Chinooks. In 1967, Honey (Green) Smead passed away. Unable to live on his own, Dr. Smead was declared a ward of the state and institutionalized; and with no one else to care for the dogs, Peter Richards, Perry Greene's grandson, stepped in. In early 1970, he was able to gain ownership of the property and the Chinook breeding stock, and continued his grandfather's policy of exclusivity in breeding and placing Chinook puppies. In 1976, Richards sold his breeding stock to Peter Orne, a Connecticut businessman with roots in midcoast Maine. Orne relocated the dogs to the Sukee Kennel in Warren, ME; but after two years he was faced with a large boarding bill, and without a single litter born during that time to help defray expenses, Orne relinquished ownership of the dogs to Sukee Kennel. In the ensuing years, few litters of puppies were born, and in the early 1980s Sukee's owners were considering disbanding the remaining Chinooks and allowing for the extinction of the breed. In 1982, Kathy Adams (a Sukee employee who had been charged with caring for the Chinooks there), along with Neil and Marra Wollpert (of Ohio) and Peter Abrahams (of California), all devotees to the breed, arranged for the transfer of the remaining 12 Chinooks from Sukee Kennel, and took over responsibility for the survival of the breed. As the number of Chinooks has increased since 1981, new breeders have joined the effort.

Chinook Crossbreeding

Since there were so few Chinooks in existence, they were all closely related, and little was known about the health of the breed, the possibility of losing them all to some yet unseen genetic flaw was very real. A few breeders crossbred their Chinooks with dogs of other breeds, or in some cases tracked the offspring of accidental breedings, with the thought that if all of the existing purebred Chinooks were lost in this manner, the breed might be "recreated" by using typey, healthy, crossbred Chinooks. A number of these crossbred bloodlines are still maintained by some breeders today as a "safety net" for the purebred Chinook, which by most estimates still numbers less than 500 animals.
Today and Beyond 

In 1997, a private effort was undertaken to fund a comprehensive breed health survey for the Chinook conducted by Dr. Jerold Bell DVM, a canine genetics counselor and Clinical Assistant Professor of Genetics at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. There was remarkable support for the project, with 49% of the 365 surveys mailed being returned; encompassing 310 dogs. Dr. Bell also arranged as a part of the Tufts Survey for Dr. Gary Johnson, of the University of Missouri, to perform DNA analysis on blood samples taken from 10 Chinooks chosen to represent the breadth of pedigree of the modern gene pool, and report on the degree of genetic diversity existing in the breed. Based on the results of these studies, Dr. Bell concluded that the Chinook breed appears to be vigorous and healthy, has a large enough population to sustain itself, and does not exhibit symptoms of a lack of genetic diversity. The entire text of Dr. Bell's report, including his discussion of the top ten diseases found in the breed, can be read here. Regarding the future of the breed, Dr. Bell noted: "The major genetic disorders; Cryptorchidism, Hot Spots (allergic skin disease), Epilepsy (seizures), Shyness, and Hip Dysplasia are seen in many breeds, but are being seen at higher frequencies in purebred Chinooks. The number and frequency of genetic disorders are not different from other rare breeds, who with breeder education and research, have achieved genetic improvement. With the identification of these disorders as hereditary problems in the breed, owners can concentrate on selecting against them, while working to maintain form and function of the breed. The breed must decide whether it 
wants to develop a conformational standard to create more uniformity in the breed. In doing so, breeders must recognize that dogs with superior conformation, function, and temperament should be selected from all family lines, to not limit existing genetic diversity."

Not only is the breed rescue progressing on the health front; but many Chinooks are taking to the trails again as outdoor winter recreation becomes more popular with Chinook owners. This was the vision that Arthur Walden had for his Chinook dogs when he wrote, in 1927: "People in general have an idea that dog driving is confined to racing, since sport of any kind is first to break into print, but this is not so. The greatest pleasure is the driving. The whole of northern New England lies open to the man who has a team of from two dogs up, at a time when some of its most attractive parts are practically closed for the winter months for all modes of travel except by dog team. The whole mountain section of northern Vermont, and the lake region of Maine are some of the most attractive sections for this health-giving sport of anywhere in America."

Copyright ©1999-2017 Jack R. Murray

Portrait of Arthur Treadwell Walden
Kim, Chinook's sire
Chinook, founding sire of the Chinook Breed
Arthur Walden with his  Chinook. There are several different photos of Chinook standing tall, with his paws up on Walden.
Chinook standing in a stacked position
In training for BAE 1 at Wanalancet Farm in New Hampshire with Walden and Byrd.
Walden, Chinook, and Admiral Byrd, Brooklyn Naval Yard, NY.
Byrd Antarctic Expedition photo
Julia Lombard
Click on a photo for slide shows
Page last updated: 5/24/2020

In January 2013, the Chinook was accepted into the American Kennel Club Working Group.  
Link to some really neat historic sled dog photos
Chinooks, Siberian Huskys and more: as seen on Facebook.
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