I once had a sled dog team in Northern Minnesota. It was a fairly short lived experience but the strong bond I formed with my dogs brings back powerful memories. We trained together by day exploring the Northern Wilderness, and howled at the moon by night. When the snow begins to fall very year, I miss it.
A couple of winters ago, I attended a sled dog sprint race in the Adirondack mountains of New York. I walked around and checked out all the participants dogs as usually did and I was unimpressed. The sport of sprint racing had evolved way past its roots in indigenous arctic travel and become a thing in itself. Now, as then, it is no longer a sport for rugged huskies, but rather a competition between sleek mongrel hounds running on perfectly groomed trails. They achieve impressive speeds, but the chain between these hounds and their trapline running forebears seems to have been broken forever. These hounds can run 20 mph for 30 minutes straight, but once the race is over they need to hop right into their insulated dog boxes because they shiver in the cold
While pondering these absurdities, I was surprised to stumble upon a pair of what appeared to be wolves: They were tall and muscular like their hound competitors, but had thick, wolf-grey coats, bushy tails, pointed ears and the oblique eyes of the wolf. I was impressed. I inquired about them with the musher. He said they were ‘throw backs.’ He had their mother and father with them on the team as well, but they were hounds. Surprised, I asked him how this could be. He responded that when he had originally got into dogs back in the eighties he started with dogs straight from the Alaska trapline – Native Village dogs, from Iditarod Musher Joe Runyan. Somehow in the course of his breeding program these genes had coalesced and the native village dog had been reconstituted.
A powerful feeling resonated through out my whole body: These dogs represented to me a symbol that has been with me throughout my whole life – that of the atavism.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines atavism as a “recurrence in an organism of a trait or character typical of an ancestral form and usually due to genetic recombination; a recurrence of or reversion to a past style, manner, outlook, approach, or activity; or one that manifests atavism: a throwback”.
Are you Atavistic? Do you display neurological traits of your distant ancestors? Are you one of the 1 in 20 Americans diagnosed with ADHD? If so, you may be interested in Thomm Hartmann’s “Hunter vs. Farmer” hypothesis.
The essence of the Hunter vs. Farmer hypothesis is that behavior associated with ADHD helps people such as hunter-gatherers and pastoral nomads, and others who lead a peripatetic life. Since today’s sedentary city dwellers are recently descended from such people, natural selection may not have had time to purge the genes that cause it.
Let me construct a narrative as to just how might this have …read more