Barbekark, the Greenland Dog

by W. H. G. Kingston

The dog is the companion of the savage, as well as the civilised man, in all parts of the world. He accompanies the wretched Fuegan in his hunts, partaking somewhat of the character of his master; and is the friend and assistant of the Esquimaux in the Arctic regions. The Esquimaux dogs, though hardly treated, show great affection for their masters, and frequently exhibit much sagacity.

Captain Hall, the Arctic explorer, had a Greenland dog called Barbekark. One day they were out hunting on the frozen, snow-covered sea, when a herd of deer appeared in sight. Chase was given. One was wounded, but not killed, and off went the herd as fleet as the wind, now turning in one direction, now in another, among the ice-hummocks. The rest of the dogs followed in their tracks. Barbekark, however, was seen to strike away in a direct line over the snow, regardless of the animals’ footsteps. On and on went Barbekark, straight for a spot which brought him close upon the deer. The latter immediately changed their course, and so did Barbekark, hot in pursuit of them. At length the hunters, unable longer to endure the cold, were compelled to return to the ship, believing that the deer had escaped.

At mid-day Barbekark appeared on board, with blood round his mouth and over his body. It was supposed that he had fallen in with the deer, but not that he could possibly have killed one. He, however, showed by his actions that he wished to draw the attention of the crew to the quarter where he had been chasing. He kept whining, going first to one, then to another, now running towards the gangway steps, then back again. At last, one of the men having to visit the wreck of a vessel which lay near, Barbekark followed; but seeing that the man went no further, off went Barbekark to the north-west by himself. On this, some of the crew, convinced that he must have killed a deer, put on their thick coats and followed him. They proceeded nearly three miles, when they found Barbekark and the other Greenland dogs seated upon their haunches round a deer lying dead before them. The throat of the poor animal had been cut with Barbekark’s teeth as effectually as by the knife of a white man or Esquimaux, and a piece of the tongue had been bitten out.

As soon as the sailors appeared, Barbekark jumped from his watchful position, and ran to meet them with manifestations of delight, looking up at them, as much as to say: “I have done the best I could; I have killed the deer, and eaten just one luscious mouthful. And now I give up the animal to you, and merely ask for myself and companions, who have been faithfully guarding the prize, such portion as you yourselves may disdain.” Several crows were pecking away at the carcass, but Barbekark and they were always on good terms. Sometimes, indeed, he allowed them to rest upon his back; and consequently he did not drive them away.

On another occasion a party of the explorers were out with a sleigh and dogs, and among them was Barbekark. They were caught in a fearful gale, the snow beating in their faces. Esquimaux dogs are often unmanageable when an attempt is made to force them in the teeth of a storm; and so it now proved. The leader lost his way and confused the rest. The men as well as the dogs were becoming blinded. The leading dog directed the team towards some islands; but on approaching them it was seen that Barbekark was struggling to make a different route. Happily, he was allowed to have his own way, and in a short time he led the party direct to the ship.