History of the Siberian Husky
For more than 1,000 years a tribe of people known as the Chukchi
have inhabited the Arctic coastal region of northern Siberia...a
land where the extremes of winter make life a daily challenge just
for survival. It is there that the Chukchi dog, the progenitor of
today's Siberian Husky, was developed.
Over many generations of
breeding, the Chukchi developed the breed of dog that most suited
their needs. Although their permanent home was inland, the Chukchi
hunters worked primarily along the coast, with seal as their main
food source. The hunters' catch was not so heavy as to require large
dogs capable of pulling great weight. Instead, the Chukchi hunters
needed a dog that could withstand extended exposure to the low
temperatures, pull a light to moderate load quickly over long
distances, and expend a minimum amount of energy in the process. The
less energy the dog used on its work, the more it had left to
protect it from the weather.
Quick, small working dogs that were
docile and intelligent enough to work in teams proved to be most
suited to the work and terrain. They had to be hard, eager workers
that had enough common sense and dedication to their task to keep
from constantly tangling themselves in the lines of the sled. The
Chukchi so valued their dogs that they often took them into their
homes as guardians for their possessions and companions for their
children. This, no doubt, accounts for much of the gentleness in the
Siberian Husky personality.
The Chukchi dog's most important trait
was its instinct and desire to run, seemingly endlessly. Because of
its moderate size, it was able to run far and fast, but it could not
pull much weight. Therefore, teams of up to 20 dogs at a time were
required to pull the hunters' load. The Chukchi were able to breed a
dog that combined all these traits, and today's Siberian husky
traces to those dogs.
The fate of the Chukchi dog...and the birth of the Siberian Husky
breed... are tied to several historical events, primarily in Russia.
In the eighteenth century, Russian Cossacks began a march across
Siberia to conquer the land and thereby attain all its resources,
primarily fur. Most of the people living in the northern area were
rather primitive tribal groups unable to compete with the advanced
weaponry of the invading Russian army. The Chukchi people were able
to withstand conquest, however, because their sled dogs always kept
them ahead of the advancing military forces. They could not fight,
but they could run - efficiently. The Chukchi were accustomed to the
Siberian weather; the Russian soldiers were not, and suffered great
The Chukchi actually forced the Cossacks to give up their quest to
conquer all of the northern Siberia. The Chukchi lured the Russian
forces into a mountain pass, in which all escape routes were
blocked. Using only sharpened rocks and spears, the Chukchi
inflicted substantial casualties on Russians, who subsequently
withdrew from the area.
The Chukchi people and their dogs existed peaceably in Siberian for
many years after this conflict. By the close of the nineteenth
century, the Chukchi dog had been discovered by Alaskan traders,
imported into the Northwest Territory, and renamed the Siberian
Husky. The importation proved to be a very important event for the
survival of the breed.
In the early 1900's the monarchy in Russia was overthrown and
replaced by a Communist regime, vowing to do away with all
"bourgeois" and elite aspects of Russian life. By the 1930's, the
forces of Communism reached the Arctic North. Because Chukchi dogs
were revered highly and desired by the Chukchi people, those in the
tribe that bred and maintained the finest dogs had assumed a
leadership position and measure of wealth. Such people were viewed
as hindrances to the forces of collectivization, and most were
imprisoned or killed. In a matter of a few years, the Chukchi dog
breed all but disappeared from Siberia.
Unlike the breed's fate in
Russia, the Siberian husky was taking hold in Alaska. Dog sledding
had become not only a means of transportation, but also a popular
sport for the adventurers who had journeyed north in search of gold.
Local races quickly evolved into large events with numerous entries.
The first sled driver to gain notoriety on the sled dog circuit
using Siberian Huskies was a Norwegian named Leonhard Seppala, who
had emigrated to Alaska early in the twentieth century. He inherited
a well-trained team of huskies that had originally been scheduled to
drive explorer Roald Amundsen to the North Pole. When the expedition
was canceled due to the outbreak of World War I, the dogs were
placed with Seppala. Over the next few years his Siberian Husky
teams beat all comers in races throughout the Northwest.
In January 1925, Seppala and his huskies earned a place in history.
That winter, and epidemic of diphtheria broke out in Nome and local
doctors did not have adequate supplies of the required diphtheria
serum. In a race against time. Seppala and his team headed into some
of the most treacherous sections of Alaska's wilderness. A relay
team comprised of 15 sleds and dogs was sent north with the serum to
meet Seppala, as the world waited. On the day Seppala met up with
the relay team (after mushing nearly 170 miles) he had already
traveled more than 40 miles in blizzard conditions; he retrieved the
serum and immediately headed back to Nome, posting another 40 miles
before resting briefly. His team of 20 dogs amassed nearly 350 miles
in this journey. The teams from the south ran relays of
approximately 50 miles each and contributed greatly to the success
of this mission.
News reports of the feats of Seppala's dogs brought great acclaim to
the breed. It created a demand for Siberian Huskies, especially by
sledding enthusiasts in New England. Because the breeders in Alaska
were unable to fill the request, they received, many interested
fanciers imported dogs directly from Siberia. These proved to be the
last substantial imports before the breed disappeared in its
This, along with the simple commemoration of the uses of the
Iditarod trail, is the origin of the Iditarod sled dog race
Female & Dog
Seppala & Togo