The Siberian Husky Can Be Traced Back Some 2000 Years, Tessa Wakeling looks at the facts.

ArapahoeIt is of great interest to know that the Siberian Husky’s origins can be traced back some 2000 years to the ancient Chukchi people of the Kolyma River Basin in northern Siberia. The Chukchi people were dependent on their dogs for protection, companionship, hunting, trapping and, most of all, for transportation. These dogs were expected to travel fairly quickly for long distances pulling a moderate load in iow temperatures, while not eating their masters out of house and home. The dogs were welcome in the dwellings as playmates for the children and as hot water bottles at night. During the summer they ran loose, hunting and fending for 

themselves. This lifestyle, which continued unchanged for centuries, produced a breed of dog which retained the pack living and hunting attributes of the wolf, whilst being un-aggressive and affectionate towards people.

The breed was developed and encouraged by the Chukchi people, who valued highly Chukchi peopletheir good, fast dogs and often traded amongst each other at the Markovo Fair, held on the Anadyr River. However, such was the isolation and life style of the tribe that it was not until the late 19th Century when fur trading, and then the Gold Rush at the turn of the 20th Century, exerted their influence on the breed that subsequently became known as the ‘Siberian Husky’.

In 1908 it happened that a Russian fur trader, Goosak, returned to Nome with nine Siberian Chukchi dogs to enter the 1909 All Alaska Sweepstakes Race, but it was Fox Maule Ramsay who imported the first selected teams of Siberian Huskies into Alaska in 1909. The second son of the 13th Earl of Dalhousie, he had come from Scotland to supervise the family investments in the gold fields. Fascinated by the excitement of sled dog racing and having seen Goosak’s small Chukchi dogs, he chartered a schooner and went to the Markovo Fair, selecting 70 of the best dogs there. The Siberian Husky had arrived! These 70 dogs chosen by Fox Maule Ramsay formed the foundation stock of what is known today as the Siberian Husky.

Maule RamsayWhen Ramsay left the Klondike he sold his dogs to a young Swede, Leonhard Seppala, who was later acknowledged to be the greatest dog driver of all time. Leonhard Seppala was the first to introduce Siberian Huskies into the United States out of Alaska when he came to New England with his team in the 1920s. His dogs won every race and their beauty, speed and temperament intrigued American racing enthusiasts. Seppala, along with Mrs. Elizabeth Ricker, bephoto.5gan breeding Siberian Huskies. More were obtained from Alaska and thus the breed began.

The first sled dog race probably occurred when two trappers challenged each other’s teams and dashed their dogs over the ice fields, though the records of formal racing date back to 1908 with the first running of the All Alaska Sweepstakes, this being inspired by two children quarrelling over their dogs’ prowess. Their father, Scotty Allan (a Scot heralding from the Spey Valley) decided that a race would settle matters. This spiralled into a 408 mile race from Nome to Candle and back. Enthusiasm for sled dog racing spread rapidly from that time, firstly throughout North America and, whilst few inhabitants of the Far North are dependent upon dogs for basic survival, the same intimate relationship between man and dog still exists and is evidenced through the sport of sled dog racing, which has now emerged into a major worldwide interest with teams working throughout North America, Europe and even as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

One of the proudest chapters in sled dog history was written in 1925 when in January of Baltothat year a case of diphtheria was discovered in Nome, Alaska, but the supply of serum in the city was inadequate to stave off an epidemic. A relay of 22 teams forged their way across 674 miles through the rough interior of Alaska and across the Bering Sea ice to bring supplies from Anchorage to the grateful townspeople of Nome. It took the teams just over five days to deliver the serum. To-day a statue of Balto, who led one of the teams, stands in New York’s Central Park, and the Iditarod Sled Dog Trail Race is held during March of each year to commemorate the Nome Serum Run. Leonhard Seppala’s daring leg of the famous serum relay won him and Siberian Huskies international acclaim, whilst saving the township of Nome from an outbreak of diphtheria.

In Britain the opportunity to work sled dogs is limited. Not only is the weather on the whole against the sport - wheeled rigs are the usual form of transport rather than sleds - but also working teams are usually owner-driven and not available for hire on a short term basis. The Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain schedule Working Events throughout the Rally Season, October through March, where spectators are always welcome, though anyone interested in driving their own dog team must make further investigations via local team owner/drivers: contact the Husky Club htp://http://siberianhuskyclub.org.uk/

musherFor enthusiasts a visit to a Sled Dog Race, albeit on mud covered forest trails in Great Britain can be exhilarating. The annual Sled Dog Rally in Aviemore, Scotland in January offers the best chance of seeing sled katie-wakelingdogs in their natural surroundings (snow), though the fickle British weather has provided the opportunity to bring out the sleds elsewhere at the most unexpected times! Sled dog owners, like their dogs, are on the whole a friendly bunch and will talk for hours about their favourite subject ... the sport of sled dog racing and, more particularly, their dogs! Anyone coming to a race should make themselves known, ask for the Rally Organiser to check on where to go and see the racing and what to do out on the trail ....if a three to seven mile walk is on the itinerary.

Devotees to the sport are born overnight ....once bitten by the bug your two-seater sports car will almost certainly become a Transit van and your penthouse flat a Country Cottage!

The Siberian Husky is little changed today, is still capable of fulfilling his original function and could if necessary survive in his historic self-sufficient lifestyle. This is no problem to owners willing to adapt to and tolerate his natural instincts, but would be a liability to those who really want a more 'civilised' dog.

Article appears courtesy of Tessa and Ian Wakeling of Klewagin Huskies