A Little Bit About Siberian Husky History

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Siberian Husky sled dogs - dog sledding team of Siberian Huskies
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The Siberian Husky is an active, intelligent working dog belonging to the Spitz (Northern Breeds) genetic family of dogs. All Spitz dogs have similar appearance however their size varies greatly. They have double coats and most have a recognizable tail that curves over the back.  Spitz dogs are well suited to live in harsh northern climates and can be classified as sled dogs, hunting dogs, herding dogs, companion dogs and Asian dogs.

Where did Siberian Huskies come from?

So where did Siberian Huskies come from? Well, they originated from a place in Northeast Asia and as you can probably guess by their name, that place was the Siberian Arctic, where dogs have been essential to the survival of humans for almost 10 thousand years. Siberian Huskies were actually bred by the Chukchi people. They were used to pull their sleds, and this allowed them to travel to the best hunting spots (which were often too far to get there and back in one day) in the same day.

How did Siberian Huskies get from Siberia to Alaska and the Canadian Arctic?

Many dogs were imported to Alaska from Eastern Siberia and the surrounding regions during the gold rush to use as sled dogs. In 1908, when polar exploration was becoming popular a Russian fur trader named William Goosak came to Alaska to enter the All Alaska Sweepstakes race, with a team of little Chukchi dogs he had bought at a local fair on the Siberian peninsula. The Chukchi dogs were small in size and big in power and endurance. They had a reputation as excellent sled dogs with incredible endurance skills so he thought they would do well in the 408 mile race. Other dog sledders watched as Goosak and his dog teams excelled in the sledding world. One man, Leonhard Seppala was very impressed with these little Chukchi dogs so he also imported some. Seppala started breeding his dogs and built a formidable team. He competed in races from 1909 to the 1920’s and did exceptionally well, winning multiple championships and building the reputation of the little Chukchi dogs. Impressed with the performance of Goosak’s dogs, another dog sledder named Fox Maule Ramsey decided to purchase 70 of the little Siberian Chukchi dogs from Siberia and bring them to North America by freighter across the Bering Sea. With those dogs, Ramsey entered 3 teams in the 1910 race and placed first, second and fourth. The popularity of the little Chukchi dogs skyrocketed in Alaska.

Team of Siberian Huskies - sled dogs at work
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The Creation of the Modern Siberian Husky

Almost all modern Siberian Huskies descended from a group of Siberian Chukchi sled dog imports. These dogs were owned by Leonhard Seppala. The most notable was Seppala’s lead dog called Togo. In 1925, a small group of dog sledders successfully transported desperately needed diphtheria serum across 965 km of treacherous arctic terrain, from Nenana, Alaska to Nome, Alaska. What was said to be the longest (422km) and most dangerous portion of the journey was carried out by Leonhard Seppala, his team of little Chukchi’s and his now famous incredible lead dog Togo. Exportation from Siberia of more Chukchi dogs continued until it was halted in 1930 by the Russian army.

Antarctica - Siberian Huskies were used extensively as sled dogs during the British Antarctic Survey from 1945 to 1994
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In 1930, the American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the Chukchi sled dogs as “Siberian Huskies”. In 1938, The United Kennel Club (UKC) recognized the breed however they named the dogs “Arctic Huskies”, eventually changing the name to Siberian Husky in 1941. During the British Antarctic Survey (1945-1994) Siberian Huskies were used extensively as sled dogs and enabled the success of the mission.

Siberian Huskies at play
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The modern Siberian Husky dog is friendly and gentle. They are good with children and can make a good family pet if their behavioural needs are properly met. Siberian Huskies are a highly active breed. They will often howl rather than bark. They are known as great escape artists, often digging, chewing or jumping their way out of backyards, especially if they are bored. Siberian Huskies have a high prey drive and this means they are not often good around small animals, especially fast moving ones. Generally, these dogs do not show any aggression towards humans so they do not make very good guard dogs. Their typical life span is 12 to 14 years.

Siberian Husky Puppy
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Today, Siberian Huskies are a popular breed. They are still used frequently for dog sledding but also now kept as family pets. Aside from pulling sleds, Siberian Huskies excel at many dog sports including agility, rally obedience, skijoring, bikejoring and carting. If you decide to own a Siberian Husky, you need to keep the dog active and involved in structured sports and will hopefully live in a cooler climate as they do not do well in hot climates.

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Searching for a suitable breed

As a dog trainer and behaviourist I have the privilege of working with some pretty extraordinary dogs. One repeated issue I find is that people do not put enough time and effort into learning about the breed of dog they bring into their home and this can lead to many issues. I recommend taking the time to research the breeds thoroughly prior to committing to adopting a dog.

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FitBark Dog Activity Monitor

Whether I am helping a client find the right dog for their family, setting up a customized training program or addressing behavioural issues I tend to look at dogs as one of 2 types. They are either a dog that has been bred specifically to do a job such as hunt, guard or herd or they are dogs that are bred mainly as companion dogs. I also must strongly consider individual qualities such as energy level, drive type and drive level when addressing behaviour issues or setting up training programs.

If you are currently considering adding a new dog to your household, I suggest learning more specifics on how breeds are categorized as that should help guide your choices. The Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) is a good place to start when searching for information on individual breeds. The CKC separates dogs into 7 breed categories.

1. The first category is sporting dogs which includes breeds such as Retrievers, Spaniels and Pointers. Dogs in this category were originally bred to find, flush and retrieve game birds and tend to be quite active especially the first 2-3 years.

2. The second category is hounds which include both sight hounds and scent hounds. Some included breeds are Beagles, Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, Whippets, and Irish Wolfhounds. Hounds tend to be harder to train, as they are often more interested in the scent the are following than their owner.

3. Working dogs are energy efficient and include breeds such as Rottweilers, Huskies and Great Pyrenees. They are bred to do a job such as pulling sleds, guarding livestock, guarding for personal use and also often for military use. These dogs are often very serious about their work and do not get distracted easily from their jobs once trained properly.

4. The fourth breed category is terriers. Included in this group are Bull Terriers, Schnauzers, and Fox Terriers. Terriers are quite feisty and always ready to search out and do battle with vermin such as rats, badgers and weasels. Training terriers can be difficult if you don’t keep them active.

5. The Toy breeds include Havanese, Pekingese and Pugs, Griffons and Yorkshire Terriers. Although many are bred as lap dogs there are some in this group that were bred specifically to remove rodents. The Yorkshire Terrier for example is often kept as a highly pampered pooch however the original purpose (mid 19th century) of this breed was to kill rats in the coal mines in England and these traits live on in the dogs still today.

6. Non-sporting dogs include Dalmatians, Shih Tzus and Poodles. These breeds are a mish mash of breeds that just didn’t fit well into any of the other categories so it is difficult to generalize any of the breeds in this group.

7. The Herding category includes some of the most high energy and intelligent breeds. Australian Cattle Dogs, Border Collies, German Shepherds and Belgian Shepherds are included in this group. Although highly trainable and task focused, their extremely high energy can create issues for people that are not prepared to properly engage them in suitable jobs.

DISCLAIMER & PRIVACY: I participate in affiliate marketing programs. If you click on a link from my blog to one of these affiliates for product purchase, your origin here will be tracked only for the purpose of paying me a very small amount (with no effect on pricing for you).

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