There are other sled dog breeds that exist around the world, which are much lesser known that the Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed, Canadian Eskimo Dog and the Greenland Dog.
These include the Alaskan Husky which has been bred from a mixture of pure bred Siberians with other sled dog breeds to encourage speed and endurance. These are the dogs most top flight mushers use for competition.
The Alaskan husky is not considered a pure breed. It is defined only by its purpose, which is that of a highly efficient sled dog. The husky is a blend of various Northern breeds, chosen particularly for skills such as pulling. Specializations in type exist within the category, such as freighting dogs (Mackenzie River husky, Malamute), sprint Alaskans (Eurohound), and distance Alaskans.
The Alaskan husky is the sled dog of choice for world-class dog sled racing. None of the purebred northern breeds can match it for sheer racing speed. Sprint-racing events such as the Fairbanks, Alaska Open North American Championship and the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous are invariably won by teams of Alaskan huskies, or Alaskans crossed with hounds or gun dogs. Hounds are valued for their speed and endurance. Winning sprint racing speeds often average more than 19 miles per hour (31 km/h) over three days’ racing at 20 to 30 miles (32 to 48 km) each day.
Huskies that fulfill the demanding performance standards of world-class dogsled racing are extremely valuable. A top-level racing lead dog can be worth £3,000–£10,000. Alaskans that fail to meet the performance standards of the musher who bred them often go on to be sold to less competitive mushers, allowing them to continue to run.
The first dogs arrived in the Americas 12,000 years ago, however people and their dogs did not settle in the Arctic until the Paleo-Eskimo people 4,500 years ago and then the Thule people 1,000 years ago, both originating from Siberia. In 2015, a study using a number of genetic markers indicated that the Alaskan husky, the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute share a close genetic relationship between each other and were related to Chukotka sled dogs from Siberia. They were separate to the two Inuit dogs, the Canadian Eskimo Dog and the Greenland dog. In North America, the Siberian Husky and the Malamute both had maintained their Siberian lineage and had contributed significantly to the Alaskan husky, which showed evidence of crossing with European breeds that was consistent with this breed being created in post-colonial North America. The modern Alaskan Husky reflects a century or more of cross-breeding with Pointers, Shepherds, and Salukis to improve their performance.
Alaskan huskies are moderate in size, averaging 40 to 60 pounds (21 to 25 kg) for males, and 35 to 55 pounds (17 to 19 kg) for females. Some of them superficially resemble racing strains of the Siberian husky breed (which is part of the Alaskan husky genetic mix), but are usually smaller and leaner with a more pronounced tuck-up.
Colour and markings can vary; Alaskans may be of any possible canine color and any pattern of markings. Eyes may be of any color. Coats are almost always short to medium in length, never long. The shorter coat length is governed by the need for effective heat dissipation while racing.
In very cold conditions, Alaskans often race in “dog coats” and/or belly protectors. Particularly in long distance races, these dogs often require “dog booties” to protect their feet from abrasion and cracking. The qualities of hardiness and climate resistance which are prevalent in breeds such as the Siberian husky and Canadian Inuit Dog are subordinated in the Alaskan husky to the overriding consideration of speed. On long-distance races, they require considerable care and attention on the trail at rest stops.
The Alaskan husky is generally a healthy dog. Some strains are prone to genetic health problems similar to those found in purebred dog breeds. These may include PRA, hypothyroidism, etc. Dogs with a congenital deformation of the larynx, termed “wheezers”, occasionally occur. This disorder typically causes the dog to make a wheezing noise when breathing. The defect is suspected to be genetically linked. Theories of common exterior traits among “wheezers” abound, but are conflicting and undocumented. Because Mushers have selectively bred Alaskan Huskies to not be picky eaters, Alaskan Huskies are prone to be garbage eaters in urban settings. This tends to cause frequent stomach and bowel issues in urban Alaska.
The life span of the Alaskan husky is usually between 10 and 15 years.
Today, Alaskan Huskies may be hound crosses, husky types, or a combination of both. They also range in size and build depending on the use of the dog, whether for racing or for working. A working sled dog may be 50 to 80 lbs and a racing sled dog may be 35 to 60 lbs for a male or female. The old-time village dogs were bred to imported Siberian dogs, and more recently to European dogs.
Racing sled dogs vary greatly in type, and may contain purebred pointer or hound to the modern Eurohound, a sprint dog that is unmatched for winning sprint races and is a predominantly black-colored combination of husky and German Shorthaired Pointer. Alaskan huskies intended for distance racing will compete 50 to 1,000 miles, where as mid-distance dogs compete 20 to 250 miles. Many of them retain the much-sought-after thick coat, balanced bodies, and tough feet of other northern breeds. Alaskan Huskies with hound or pointer bloodlines may sometimes wear booties
Alaskan Huskies tend to vary as greatly in personality as in color and appearance. However, generally speaking, the Alaskan Husky is a very affectionate dog. There are several types of Alaskan Husky, varying in disposition and appearance due to the variety of breeds used to create them according to their intended function. Ameri-Indian Alaskan Husky is a focused breed type that shows strong family focus as well as being multi-functional disciplined, reflecting the dogs once owned by Native Americans. Alaskan Huskies, like Siberian Huskies, tend to wander.
Alaskan Huskies are generally very good with other dogs and gentle with people. They are ferocious eaters and can be food fixated.
The coat of Alaskan Huskies is self-cleaning. They can be trained or encouraged to be active swimmers. They don’t take to retrieving naturally. Due to the inclusion of sight-hound in their genetic make-up, Alaskans can have very good vision and a strong nose. Alaskan Huskies can sometimes possess a strong prey drive.
The Chinook is a rare breed of sled dog, developed in the state of New Hampshire during the early 20th century. The Chinook is New Hampshire’s official state dog.
Standing 21 to 27 inches (53 to 69 cm) in height at the withers and weighing 55 to 90 pounds (25 to 41 kg), the Chinook is balanced and muscular. The United Kennel Club (UKC) breed standard states, “The ideal coloration runs from light honey color to reddish-gold. Black markings on the inside corners of the eyes are preferred. Dark tawny to black markings on the ears and muzzle are preferred. Guard hairs on the tail may be black. No white markings are allowed. Buff markings on the cheeks, muzzle, throat, chest, breeches, toes and underside are acceptable.” The UKC standard faults any color other than tawny and disqualifies albinism. Other proposed standards state that the medium-length double coat is “tawny” in color, with darker shadings on muzzle and ears; white dogs are not allowed, nor are other colors. Eyes are brown to amber in color. Ear carriage is variable, but dropped is preferred and the head more strongly rectangular than other sleddog breeds. The tail is a well-furred saber and not the usual brush or plume of Arctic breeds. Overall, the Chinook seems to owe more to molosser than to spitz ancestry.
The Chinook is an affectionate and playful family companion with a special devotion toward children. It is a willing worker who is eager to please and enthusiastic to learn. The Chinook is highly trainable, adaptable, and versatile in his abilities. Gregarious with other dogs, the Chinook works well in teams and within family packs. The Chinook is a dignified dog; some may be reserved with strangers but should never appear shy or aggressive.
Health issues include normal hereditary problems such as epilepsy, hip dysplasia, and atopy. Also common is cryptorchidism, which occurs in about 10% of all male dogs.
The Chinook owes its existence to one man: Arthur Treadwell Walden of Wonalancet, New Hampshire. The breed derives principally from one male ancestor born in 1917, named “Chinook”, who was Walden’s lead dog and stud. “Chinook” derived from a crossbreeding of husky stock from the Peary North Pole expedition with a large, tawny Mastiff-like male. Photos of “Chinook” show a drop-eared dog with a broad Mastiff head and muzzle. Walden’s leader was bred to Belgian Sheepdogs, German Shepherd Dogs, Canadian Eskimo Dogs and perhaps other breeds; the progeny were bred back to him to set the desired type and was apparently a strong reproducer of his own traits. Arthur Walden was an experienced dog driver with years of experience in the Yukon; he was the lead driver and trainer on Byrd’s 1929 Antarctic expedition. He is credited with bringing sled dog sports to New England and with founding the New England Sled Dog Club in 1924. The 12-year-old “Chinook” was lost on the Byrd expedition.
Control of the core breeding stock passed from Walden to Julia Lombard and from her to Perry Greene in the late 1940s. Greene, a noted outdoorsman, bred Chinooks in Waldoboro, Maine, for many years until his death in 1963. Rare and closely held by Greene who was for many years the only breeder of Chinooks, the population dwindled rapidly after his death. By 1981 only eleven breedable Chinooks survived. Breeders in Maine, Ohio and California divided the remaining stock and managed to save the type from extinction.
The Chinook obtained registered status with the UKC in 1991; current numbers of registered animals are around 800. Only about 100 puppies are born annually worldwide. The registry has a cross-breeding program under which Chinooks are bred to individuals of other breeds thought to have contributed to Chinook development; fourth-generation backcross descendants of such crosses may be accepted as UKC purebred Chinooks if they meet the Chinook Owner Association’s Cross Breeding Program requirements.
Chinooks joined the American Kennel Club (AKC) Foundation Stock Service in 2001 and were later added to the AKC’s Miscellaneous Class in 2010. Finally, in January 2013 the Chinook became the AKC’s 176th breed and joined the working group. Chinooks are still working for recognition from other major kennel clubs including the UK.
Although still used for recreational dog sledding by some owners, Chinooks today appear to be used largely as family pets. Individuals are also used for dog-packing, search and rescue, skijoring, and obedience and dog agility trials.