Siberian Huskies are a medium sized, strong, graceful, and tenacious sled dog. They are a handsome dog, energetic and dignified. While they are a medium sized dog, they are extremely strong, able to pull light loads at moderate speeds for long distances.
The Siberian Husky was originally developed by the Chukchi people of northeastern Siberia as an endurance sled dog. They were also used to herd reindeer. In 1909, the first large numbers of these Chukchi dogs were brought to Alaska to compete in the long-distance All-Alaska Sweepstakes races, and the Alaskan dog drivers quickly recognized the ability of these small, compact dogs from Siberia.
The Siberian Husky originated in north-eastern Siberia by the Chukchi people as a far-ranging, low-energy-consuming sled dog. The dog was crucial to the survival of the Chukchi culture, and a mutual respect existed between this dog and its people. A number of Asiatic tribes relied on dogs as helpers, each developing a type based on its needs. The Chukchi tribe created a culture based on long distance sled dogs since they relied on sea mammals for food but lived inland. The tribe's women bred and cared for the dogs so consequently they had to be good with children. The Chukchi believed that their dogs guarded the gates of heaven, and that the way you treated a dog in this life determined your place in heaven. They held their dogs in high regard, and bred them for temperament as well as their legendary stamina.
The Chukchi kept no written records and what information we have about these dogs came from tales of early explorers and traders. The name "husky" is thought to have come from a mis-pronounciation of the the word Chukchi, itself a mis-pronouncaition of the word Chauchu (meaning "rich in reindeer")The Chukchi people survived three hundred years of political pressure from Russian genocidal policies. This warfare actually strengthened their society and improved the qualities of the Chukchi sled dog by putting demands on it to withstand extended guerilla campaigns, over great distances, with very little food, in extremely harsh weather. In 1837, a treaty was signed between the Russians and Chukchis guaranteeing complete political independence within the Russian Empire. As a result of this treaty, the Chukchi culture separated themselves from the influence of the Europeans and were left to hunt as they had for thousands of years. Hunting conditions along the western side of the Bering Strait were poor because of climatic changes, causing the Chukchi to develop a culture based on a long-distance sled dog.
The Chukchi sled dog is a distinct type of sled dog, what we now know as the Siberian Husky. The smallest of the native sled dogs, they were bred to pull light loads at a moderate speed over long distances on relatively little food. Years of isolation in a hostile environment has meant their breeding has remained pure. They were selectively bred for stamina, a resistance to extreme cold and a temperament that allows them to work together in peace. The Chukchi used large teams to minimize the load per dog of from sixteen to eighteen dogs. Double teams of more than twenty dogs were also used.
The ancient Chukchi sled dog remained relatively unchanged for thousands of years until some of the last purebred descendants were imported to America early in this century. In 1908, a Russian fur buyer called Goosak brought a team of nine Siberian Huskies to Nome from Siberia to enter the All Alaska Sweepstake Race, a popular form of entertainment after gold was discovered in Alaska. These small dogs, weighing
between 40 to 55 pounds, were not taken as serious contenders compared to the other longer legged, heavier dogs, by the people of Nome. Used as they were to the Eskimos' larger and more aggressive dogs, most Alaskans were contemptuous of the lighter Siberians. Things were soon to change.
Louis Thrustrup drove the team for Goosak and almost won the race, placing third. The Honorable Fox Maule Ramsay, a Scotsman interested in mining in Nome was so taken with the Siberian dogs, that he went to Siberia and purchased sixty of the best dogs he could find. By the start of the third Sweepstakes in 1910, Ramsay had three teams entered in the race. One was driven by John Johnson, one by Charlie Johnson, and one driven by himself. The team driven by John Johnson won the race in record time for the 408 miles, and Ramsay came in second. Suddenly these small dogs from Siberia were taken seriously and their popularity grew. Roald Amundsen, the world famous Norwegian explorer, was planning an expedition to the North Pole using dogs. He contracted Jafet Lindenberg, a Nome miner, to buy and train the dogs. When Peary reached the pole first, Amundsen abandoned his polar expedition, turning over the Siberians to Leonhard Seppala, a Lindenberg employee, to race for Lindenberg.
In 1913, Leonhard Seppala entered his first race and won. For the next fifteen years, the Siberian Huskies that Seppala bred and raced, won most of the racing titles in Alaska. Seppala and his Siberians became world famous in 1925, as a result of their heroic efforts to get the badly needed diphtheria serum to Nome. In the winter of 1925, when a diphtheria epidemic broke out in the isolated town of Nome, Alaska, a relay of dog teams brought life-saving serum from distant Nenana. This heroic endeavor earned national prominence for the drivers and their dogs. The serum was taken from Nenana to Nome using relay dog teams. Of the 658 miles covered, Seppala and his team went 340 of it over the roughest terrain and in a blizzard, while the other teams made about 53 miles each.Senator Dill from the state of Washington, was so impressed with the efforts of the dogs and drivers in averting the diphtheria epidemic, that he introduced a resolution in Congress to make the events of the serum run a part of the Congressional Record. The Iditarod Sled Dog Race that is run each year in Alaska, commemorates the Diphtheria Serum Run of 1925. Balto, the lead dog of that team, is memorialised in New York's Central Park; harnessed for the race, this bronze Balto face north, his feat shrouded in history, his courage unknown to the children who climb on his sturdy back.
Leonhard Seppala, brought his team of Siberian Huskies, descendants of the original imports from Siberia, to the United States on a personal appearance tour. While in New England he competed in sled dog races and again proved the superiority of Siberian Huskies over the native dogs. The New England drivers and pioneer fanciers acquired foundation stock, earned AKC recognition for the breed in 1930, and founded the Siberian Husky Club of America in 1938.