Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Monday, August 5, 2019

Fuegian Dogs, some photos

Almost ten years ago (Oct. 2009) I posted about the Fuegian dogs -pictured below, said to descend from foxes. At that time I had only managed to get one photo of them, a stuffed specimen at a museum in Punta Arenas Chile. Today I have found several images of Fuegian dogs, which don't look fox like at all!

The photo from my 2009 post:

I have wondered if they were replaced by European dogs after these were introduced by shepherds, and the Selknam adopted the newcomers to replace their extinct breed.

A paper published a year ago in Science (The evolutionary history of dogs in the Americas, Maire Ni Leathlobhair, Angela R. Perri et al., Science 06 Jul 2018:Vol. 361, Issue 6397, pp. 81-85 DOI: 10.1126/science.aao4776) tells us that the Amerindian dogs were wiped out by disease brought to the New World after European discovery and conquest (post 1492 AD). The paper also came up with an intriguing discovery "The closest detectable extant lineage to precontact American dogs is the canine transmissible venereal tumor, a contagious cancer clone derived from an individual dog that lived up to 8000 years ago", but that will be discussed in a separate post.

Below are some of the photos I came across today in the Internet, they are all Selknam dogs. There were other natives in Tierra del Fuego, and their dogs are not depicted here (the Alakaluf, the Haush, the Yaghans or Yamana).

Selknam dogs with surviving Selknam people ca. 1910. (source)

Selknam woman, child and dog:

Selknam hunting with two dogs, and using bows and arrows.

Salesian father Juan Vila, with an embalmed Fuegian dog. Seems very much like the one in the Punta Arenas museum.

Here the Selknam are called "Ona", another name used until recently to designate these people.

Another dog, during a Selknam ritual.

Two dogs.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 


  1. Very interesting post. It encouraged me to read something about the first contacts that Selknam had had with “civilization”. They were very sporadic until 1880 or so... when their land was occupied (and seriously altered) by new landowners, by adventurers of the worst kind, and also by Salesian missions spreading evangelization and assimilation.
    Apparently, a spanish conqueror, Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, had the first documented interaction with them at 1580. In his chronicles, he clearly writes that an officer of his troop, general Flores de Valdez, saw that in one of the various confrontations he had with selknams, these last carried with them big dogs, which were even bigger (as he ensures) than the dogs used for fighting or for battle in Ireland…So, definitely they have them at this time
    Were those mysterious dogs described by Gamboa pre-Columbian ones, like the one in your first photo…???...or (but seems to me less probable), wildly evoluted descendents from the first ones introduced in America by Colon and subsequent conquerors since 1493, which were also big and strong breeds.
    Respect to the other dogs, I totally agree with your appreciation... they don´t look at all as descendent from fox, and most probably were recently introduced by the new occupants of these lands, and then Selknam adopted them during the last (and most infortunate) period of their existence…that is to say, during the process of their “assimilation” to ”civilization”.



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