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Dogs Are Expensive: Cost-Benefit Perspectives on Canid Ownership at Housepit 54, Bridge River, British Columbia

By Ben Boss Chiewphasa

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The presence of dogs in the Housepit 54 (HP 54) faunal assemblage of the Bridge River site (EeRl4) raises questions regarding their roles within Canadian Plateau prehistory, specifically their contributions to networked household economies. Ethnohistoric sources often cite dogs as “jacks of all trades,” household entities that can act as beasts of burden, hunters, prized companions, or as a husbanded food resource. The 2012-2014 field seasons yielded variation in dog frequencies throughout 10 superimposed floors (IIj-IIa); these fluctuations occurred alongside changing densities of ungulates and salmon remains. The thesis incorporates multivariate analyses to determine how dogs could have allowed HP 54 to access and acquire fauna for household use, assuming that the cost of dog upkeep did not outweigh benefits. Principal components analysis (PCA) results show strong statistical correlations between dog remains and faunal NISP (number of identified specimens) throughout the HP 54 lifespan. Under the framework of central place foraging theory, relative abundance indices were calculated to assess ungulate axial and appendicular element ratios; the goal was two-fold: 1) to indicate the periods which saw HP 54 inhabitants needing to travel greater distances in order to achieve comfortable levels of caloric intake; 2) determine if dogs were more prominent during times of resource stress. Overall, the project found that canids impacted the HP 54 economy predominately during the later stages of HP 54 lifespan up to abandonment. Dogs’ increased worth could have occurred under situational conditions. For example, an increase in greater village-wide inequality and/or an increase in the availability of salmon for feed.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2016
Pages 93
Publisher University of Montana
Department Department of Anthropology
Degree Master of Arts
Language English
University University of Montana
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Canada
  2. Dogs
  3. Ecology
  4. Human behavior
  5. Mammals
  6. open access
  7. Pet ownership
  8. Zooarchaeology
  1. open access