Like all good stories this one starts with ‘Once Upon a Time a lady had a dream’. The lady in question was Edwina “Eddie” Harrison. Some people will tell you she was a wonderful woman who loved her dogs and cared for them well. Others will tell you she kept her dogs in terrible conditions. Perhaps she was a mixture of both and circumstances and ill health meant that at the end she could no longer care for all her dogs as she once had. The one thing that is clear is, without her input, Northern Inuits would not exist today.
Edwina wanted a dog that would resemble a wolf and have the wolfs traits of family pack hierarchy, loyalty and devotion yet retain the trainability and companionship of the dog. With this in mind, in 1988 she started to experiment with many different breeds of dogs including some dogs imported from overseas. Around 1996 Edwina was reported to the RSPCA for keeping her dogs in poor conditions. Her health was failing, she was very ill and no longer looked after her dogs as she once had. Her dogs were consequently shared out between others who knew her but there were no clear records as to exactly which breeds had been used to create the Wolfie looks that can be seen in the breed today.
Some of the descendants from the original dogs were left and the people who owned them around this time changed the name to Northern Inuit dogs and Mrs. Kelham set up the Northern Inuit Dog Society of Great Britain in 1997 . This continued for a few years but there was disagreement among them as to what the dogs should look like and a few left the Society and renamed their dogs Utonagans meaning ’Spirit of the Wolf’ and created The Utonagan Society. Meanwhile The Northern Inuit Society of Great Britain dropped the ‘of Great Britain’ and became The Northern Inuit Society and remains as such to the present day.
There was still disagreement among those that were left and in 2005 another person left and created The British Inuit Club taking her Northern Inuit dogs with her. There were more splits from around this time and further breed clubs were created in an attempt to breed dogs with a wolf appearance. Those breed clubs remain active to this day.
When the TV series Game of Thrones was first shown, the breed experienced a surge in popularity, as people wanted to find out more about the “Direwolves”. A few of the Northern Inuit puppies that were pulled from the dead “Direwolf” are still alive, but it can be guaranteed that all Northern Inuits are related to those “Direwolves” given the closed stud book operated by the Society and the consequent high level of inbreeding. Since this time, many breeders have become independent in an effort to improve the gene pool and prevent the extinction of the breed that was the original dream of Eddie Harrison.
Today, there are only a few breed clubs who specialise in breeding Northern Inuits, including The Northern Inuit Association, and most of the breeders that are independent of the original society focus on breeding for health, while maintaining the “type” and temperament. The Northern Inuit Association is working together with the other breed clubs to ensure that gene pool of the breed is as diverse as possible.