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Dog Harness and Blanket

Curated Submission
Fort Liard, Northwest Territories
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
69 x 57
Materials & techniques
Moosehide, canvas, felt, sinew, thread, beads, steel, hair, yarn
Martine Kotchea
Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre 984.087.001
This dog harness and blanket were used on a sled dog in the Dehcho region of the Northwest Territories. The dog blanket is made from a coarse wool cloth with a canvas backing and decorated with yarn pompoms and beaded flowers. The harness straps and collar are made with smoked moosehide; the collar is stuffed with moose or caribou hair to make it solid.
Dog blankets developed as an art form in the 19th century after trade beads became available. These blankets were decorated with beaded or embroidered floral designs in bright colours, accented with silk ribbons, yarn fringes, and bells. They were made by Dene and Metis across the subarctic from the Yukon to Hudson Bay. Chiefs and wealthy men dressed their sled dog teams for special occasions, such as a visit to the trading post or at Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.
Blankets were usually made in sets of four or six to outfit an entire team. In addition the dogs may have worn standing irons on their harnesses, decorated with ribbons, bells, and fox tails. The garments were not usually worn on the trail; drivers stopped to dress their dogs when they came within hearing distance of a settlement. The colours and jingling sounds made for an impressive entrance to a trading post or community. Later in the 20th century, drivers dressed their teams in fancy gear at mushing contests and community events. 
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