Garry was registered with the Kennel Club as an “Esquimaux dog” and was exhibited at the Alexandra Palace Exhibition and the “Birmingham dog show” (Crufts?) in 1876. He was said to be an “Eskimaux [dog] bred in the far north of Lombardy.”
This depiction of him comes from Hugh Dalziel’s British Dogs (c. 1880). Dalziel was of the opinion that he was not a wolf or wolf hybrid. However, I have a certain amount of skepticism about Dalziel’s reasons for assuming that Garry was a pure dog, which I shall get to in good order.
Dalziel reports the description of Garry from his own C.E. Fryer:
Mr. C. E. Fryer, whose notice of Garry we reproduce from The Country, entitled him a “North American wolf dog,” and we find the idea that these dogs, or at least special varieties of them, are produced by a cross with the wolf rather commonly entertained, but there is no better reason for it than his general wolfish appearance. Garry is decidedly typical of the Esquimaux family of dogs, and on the subject of his breeding we have little to add to our sub-note to Mr. Fryer’s letter at the time it first appeared.
Mr. Fryer says: “The accompanying engraving represents one of these curious dogs, which are so much prized by the natives and inhabitants of North America, and so difficult to obtain in this country. The cut is taken from a photograph of a dog lately owned by a member of Oxford University, who gave me the following account of it: Garry, the dog in question, is about eighteen months old, and has been in this country seven months. He was brought from the Saskatchewan Mountains, Manitoba, in the far north-west of Canada.
Fryer’s geography is a bit off. Manitoba is in the middle of Canada, and I have never heard of any “Saskatchewan Mountains” in Saskatchewan or Manitoba.
Dalziel describes Garry’s origin:
The Indians take great pride in rearing a pure white wolf dog, and when they manage to secure one they have a feast in his honour, called the ‘ Feast of the White Dog.’ I refrain from attempting the native names, lest I should display my own ignorance and do some damage to my readers’ jaws. Garry is said to be the produce of an Esquimaux bitch, crossed nine times by a prairie wolf. The Indians chain up the Esquimaux mothers in the neighbourhood of the wolves, to whose kind attentions they leave them. The dog Garry has travelled many thousand miles over the snow, drawing a sleigh, and is quite tame, following his master closely through the streets without chain or muzzle. Sometimes he is treated to this latter sign of ‘civilisation,’ under which he is very patient, though he continually endeavours to free himself from it. His food is plain dog biscuit, which he eats without complaint, though at first he ate raw meat ravenously. His master, however, finding his blood was getting too hot, gradually reduced him to one meal per day of dog biscuits. He is very tractable and docile, and but for his enormous size would not give any idea of ferocity.
This would have made Garry a very high content wolfdog, and judging from this depiction of him, I would have no reason to doubt that he was either a high content wolfdog or even a possible pure wolf.
His behavior appeared to have been quite wolf-like:
His owner tells me he does not bark, but utters a low growl when enraged, and at night howls piteously.
And his teeth sound as if they were those of a wolf, not a domestic dog:
His mouth would easily take in a man’s leg, and his teeth are a caution to dentists. Whether he feels flattered by being told that we are possessors of developed ‘ canine ‘ teeth I can’t say.
Wolves and coyotes have much more robust teeth than domestic dogs do. The big game hunting specialist wolves have particularly large teeth, and if Garry were a wolf or a wolf hybrid, he would have been of this type.
Of course, Hugh Dalziel didn’t think that Garry was any kind of wolf or wolf hybrid:
The mystic story of Garry’s birth and parentage is very charming, but I fear the talismanic number nine would alone be fatal to it, as it is decidedly suspicious; and in these days of Kennel Stud Books we get awfully sceptical of unauthenticated pedigrees, and in such matters positively refuse as evidence the traditions of the Red Man, however pretty and romantic. I saw Garry in the flesh at Birmingham – where, by the way, he took a £5 prize – and I must pronounce him the very finest specimen of an Esquimaux dog I have seen, but I must differ from our esteemed correspondent when he says there is unmistakeable evidence of wolf blood in the dog. Dogs appear to approach nearer to the wolf type the farther they are removed from the higher civilised life of man, and that, I think, is the case with Garry, and, besides that, hybrids do not breed.
Actually, there have been wolves that have been imprinted upon people are quite docile animals. There is the story of Wags, Adolph Murie’s pet wolf, who was so gentle that he trusted her to play with his children. And she was not the only one. There are many accounts of socialized wolves that were very gentle with people. Not all imprinted wolves are extremely emotionally reactive and predatory animals. It is true that most imprinted wolves exhibit these behaviors, which is why we are so strongly warned against keeping them. But there have always been very docile wolves.
Dalziel is merely showing his Victorian racial views. The “Red Man” of Canada couldn’t domesticate a wolf. Only Westerners could ever do such a thing.
But he really shows his error in that last line when he says that hybrids between wolves and dogs cannot breed. Of course, wolf and dog hybrids can reproduce. The two animals are now considered to be the same species, and as such, calling them wolf hybrids is no longer valid. The word hybrid denotes the breeding of two distinct species, and that is no longer the case when one discusses the breedings between wolves and dogs. This blog calls wolves “wild Canis lupus” and dogs “domestic Canis lupus.”
Dalziel also though Garry’s proportions all wrong, simply because they are all wrong for a sled dog.
But let’s look at what Garry’s proportions actually say:
Height at shoulder, 2ft. 6in.; length from centre between shoulder blades to centre between ears, 1ft.; from latter point to end of nose, 11in.; length from shoulders to setting on of tail, 2ft. 7in.; length of tail, lft. 4in.; measurement round head just behind ears, 2ft.; just above eyes, lft. 8in.; at point of nose, 10in.; his girth measured fairly tight, not outside the hair, 3ft.; his weight is 8st. 8 lb. His hair is long, straight, and pure white, which is his chief beauty.
Garry stood 30 inches at the shoulder and weighed 120 pounds (that’s how you convert from stones to pounds!)
That would make him a large wolf, not unlike an arctic wolf or perhaps an unusually large “Buffalo wolf” of the Canadian prairies.
No Canadian Eskimo dog (qimmiq) has these proportions. According to the breed standard, they are not to exceed 88 pounds and 28 inches at the shoulder. Qimmiq do look like wolves superfically, but because they have been bred for hauling, they are built very differently– much more bone and much broader chests.
W.D. Drury depicts anther “Esquimaux dog” that was a contemporary of Garry in British Dogs, Their Points, Selection, And Show Preparation (1903). Myouk was derived from dogs brought over by Sir John Franklin, and it is very obvious that he was a genuine article qimmiq:
Drury also takes exception with the notion that Garry could not have been a wolf or wolf hybrid:
Garry…was of a different type from many other Esquimaux that have been exhibited. He was sometimes called a North American Wolfdog, and was said to be a cross between a wolf and an Esquimaux bitch. It is a perfectly well-known fact that the wolf and dog will breed freely together, and the late Mr. Bartlett, of the Zoological Gardens, told the writer that the offspring will continue to breed – a fact that has been doubted by some [like Hugh Dalziel].
In addition to his different proportions from the qimmiq, Garry also appears to have larger feet in proportion to his body size than one typically sees in a dog. Northern wolves have large feet, which they use as snowshoes. They distribute the weight of the wolf out over the snow more evenly, preventing them from breaking through the crust and becoming encumbered. Sled dogs have similar feet, but they are not nearly as well-developed as those of wolves, which also have no sweat glands to produce moisture that will collect snow as the animal traverses snowy ground.
There is also quite a bit of evidence of indigenous people keeping wolves as pets. As a young boy traveling to the Canadian arctic as an assistant to his renowned ornithologist uncle to the artic of Manitoba, Farley Mowat encountered a native trapper with a live wolf pup. He implored his uncle to buy it, but he refused. The trappers wanted the bounty value for the pup– only $5– but his uncle seemed to think that such an animal would only cause trouble. It is possible that Garry or his ancestors had been collected in the same fashion.
Everything about Garry suggests that he was a wolf or high content wolf hybrid that was exhibited as an “Esquimaux dog.” Compare the depiction of Garry with these arctic wolves:
The resemblance is uncanny.
Garry was a show wolf or high content wolfdog.