"one of the first things they wrote home was that Danes are such pigs: they keep dogs in their houses"
Dogs chilling in Ilulissat
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumDogs chilling in Ilulissat - Credit: Gosia Rokicka

All dogs in Greenland are working sledge dogs. They live outdoors all year round, gathered in packs belonging to particular hunters and staked out on long chains so they can roam a little but won't stray. Puppies up to 4 months are allowed to roam free around villages, so they can get to know the surrounding world.

The sledge dogs are happiest in winter months as their exceptionally thick fur allows them to enjoy the weather, and they are eager to work. In summer, they rarely move as it is simply too hot for them. Most dogs have wooden kennels provided, but they sleep outside in rain and snow, using the kennels for shelter only when the sun gets too strong. When they work, they are fed before their owners. When they don't, they receive a portion of dried fish every two or three days.

Greenland puppies
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumGreenland puppies - Credit: Stephane Vitry

Such treatment of dogs may seem strange to European and American visitors, but the truth is Greenland dogs are probably the happiest canines in the world. Although some hunters have replaced their sledges with snowmobiles, many still keep dogs as companions for hunting and hiking.

It is forbidden to import any other dogs to Greenland, to avoid dilution of the bloodline.