The Working Dog – Part 2

by Elizabeth Campbell

The working dogs of Red River pulled another type of vehicle in the winter, too – the carriole. The carriole was a miniature version of the vehicle of the same name used with horses, and as such was more decorative in appearance than the usual toboggan-like dog sledge.

Gentleman Travelling in a Dog Carriole by Peter Rindisbacher 1825 - Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. R9266-1052.2 Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana

Gentleman Travelling in a Dog Carriole by Peter Rindisbacher 1825 - Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. R9266-1052.2 Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana

Oddly enough, the few mentions of the dog carriole in the journals indicate that they played a political role at the RRS. The principle settler, a gentleman named Alexander McLean, his wife and family, were being wooed by the NWCo. officials, who believed that if they could coerce the McLeans into abandoning the RRS, the rest of the settlers would surely follow. Mrs. McLean, Miles Macdonell observed, was sometimes taken out in Alexander Macdonell’s (of the NWCo.) dog carriole as part of this campaign.

In an effort “to detach them from the constant intercourse they have with the N. W. Fort,” Miles Macdonell began entertaining the McLeans in earnest, inviting them for meals, tea, entertainments and, yes, making sure that Mrs. McLean was taken out in a carriole by either himself or Archibald McDonald! His efforts were rewarded as the McLean family remained with the RRS until after the Massacre of Seven Oaks, in which Alexander McLean was killed. Mrs. McLean and five of her children returned to Scotland in 1817.

The dog carriole, like the dog sled, remained in use into Hargrave’s time. He mentions that:

Early in 1866 the Bishop of Rupert’s Land [the Right Rev. Dr. Robert Machray] set out on his first visitation. Travelling westwards his Lordship touched at Portage La Prairie, Westbourne, and Fairford, thence by the Pas he reached Cumberland and the Nepowewin, returning home by Touchwood Hills and Qu’Appelle Lake. The journey was performed in a dog carriole, and occupied seven weeks.

(reference: pages 16779, 16784, 16802, 16936, 18252, 18255 of the Selkirk Papers, M186, Manitoba Archives; Hudson’s Bay Company Archives C.1/785; Hargrave, p. 159)

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