The Extinct Fuegian Dog: Everything You Need to Know

The Fuegian dog is a now-extinct breed that roamed the hostile territory of 16th-century Chile. The breed was domesticated from the culpeo (Andean fox) but always true to its wild heritage. 

In this article, we will explore the fascinating history, feisty characteristics, and eventual extinction of the Fuegian dog, providing a comprehensive guide to this intriguing breed. 

A Brief History of the Fuegian Dog Breed

The Fuegian dog breed has a long and unique history, which dates back thousands of years. This breed has been an integral part of the indigenous cultures living on the islands of Tierra del Fuego, which is located at the southernmost tip of South America.

Origins and Ancestry

The Fuegian dog was developed by the Selk’nam and the Yaghan natives through domesticating the so-called culpeo or Andean fox. The breed had two main purposes – helping during hunting and cuddling to provide warmth. 

The Role of Fuegian Dogs in Indigenous Cultures

The Fuegian dog was an integral part of the indigenous cultures living on Tierra del Fuego, and as such, the breed played a significant role in their way of life. 

It was believed that the Fuegian dog was a messenger between the living and the dead and that it had the power to protect them from evil spirits, and it was sometimes used in spiritual ceremonies. 

Breed Extinction

In the early 20th century, the Fuegian dog went extinct. Yaghans native people exterminated the breed because of its untamable and wild character, which started to be a problem. 

Fuegian dogs were becoming stronger and posed a danger to both people and other animals. The Silesian missionary Gusinde Martin in 1919 found and reported that there are no longer Fuegian dogs in Chile and Argentina. 

Physical Characteristics of the Fuegian Dog

Size and Build

Records suggest that the Fuegian dog was between 12 and 30 pounds in weight and stood around 13 to 16 inches tall. Despite the relatively small size, the dog was feisty, strong, and hardy. 

Coat and Colors

The Fuegian dog had a thick and short coat that came in two colors – tawny and white. The coat offered excellent protection against the elements and was harsh to the touch. 

Unique Features

The hallmark of the Fuegian dog was its fox-like appearance. In 1883, the leader of the scientific expedition to Cape Horn, Captain Martial, described the Fuegian “as an ugly fox-like looking dog with a sharp snout and long tawny hair.”

Temperament and Personality Traits

The Fuegian dog was independent and unreliable. Unlike most dogs, it was not very people-oriented and had no protective instincts toward its owner. The breed had a very strong prey drive and did not get along with other animals. 

The unpredictable and untameable personality are among the reasons the breed did not survive. Fuegian dogs could not be trained or socialized and did not like children. 

Health and Lifespan of the Fuegian Dog

We do not know much about the Fuegian dog’s health and average lifespan. However, considering the breed’s wild heritage and strong prey drive, it is safe to assume that breed members rarely reached old age. 


The Fuegian dog is a fascinating and unique breed with an unusual history. Being developed from domesticated foxes, the breed’s hallmark was its fox-like physical appearance. 

Another hallmark of the breed was the wild side and inability to socialize and live in harmony. Today, the breed is extinct, but definitely worth mentioning among dog enthusiasts.  

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