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.
A rare working dog breed, the Seppala Siberian Sleddog is a moderate-sized dog averaging 18 to 23 kg (40 to 50 pounds) weight and 56 to 58 cm (22 or 23 inches) height. Colours and markings are considered of little importance; eyes may be brown, blue or any combination of the two colours. Seppalas are active and energetic but very docile and trainable.
Seppäläs show a primitive canine type, never having been bred or selected for conformation or the show ring. The breed shares its ancestral base with the Siberian Husky and for half a century shared the same registry with that breed, but was bred always exclusively as a working sleddog breed in its own right and kept apart from show bloodlines. In the late 1990s, it was recognised by Canadian agricultural authorities as a new “evolving breed” and in 2002 a similar separate breed initiative was started in the USA. In the UK the Seppala is not recognised as a distinct breed.
Seppäläs of today differ markedly from many other Siberian Husky bloodlines in physical appearance, being in general less flashily marked, longer in leg and body length, and lighter in weight and physical build than most Siberian Husky show dog lines. Pure-strain Seppäläs have dense, smooth coats of medium length with an undercoat nearly as long as the guard hairs. Their ears are taller, set close together and strongly erect, the “stop” of the head less well-defined than that of Siberian Huskies. The tail is held high in a sickle curve over the back when alert, never “snapped” flat to the back or curling down the flank.
Many Seppäläs are pure white or buff and white. Others are very dark, black, or charcoal grey with dark faces and white only on the feet and tail tip. There are many varied shades of grey, brownish grey, and blue-grey. “Sable” reds with black-tipped guard hairs and black noses occur, but the liver-nosed “copper” phase seen in other lines of Siberian Huskies is unknown in pure Seppäläs. Agouti “wild type” coloration and piebald spotting are common.
Seppäläs are known for their extremely smooth and well-coordinated gait and for the consistency and strength with which they pull in harness. Although they appear to the inexperienced eye to be rather small and lightly built for sleddogs, actually they are far more efficient pullers than some larger northern breeds. They are capable racing sleddogs, particularly in mid-distance events, although perhaps not as speedy as world-class Alaskan huskies or pointer-crossed hybrids.
Like other northern breeds, they shed their coats hugely once or twice a year, cannot safely be allowed to run free off lead, and love to hunt small game. They are generally robust and healthy, living twelve to sixteen years, usually working well in harness up to ten or eleven years of age. Health issues for the breed are those common to all northern breeds, such as allergies, cancer and eye problems.They are highly efficient in their use of food, eating relatively little but requiring very high-quality nutrition that is rich in animal protein, animal fat, and fish oil.
The defining characteristics of the breed are its natural, primitive appearance, its highly developed work ethic, and its affectionate, cooperative, and highly bonded nature. They tend to be more trainable than other sled dogs and to be more highly bonded to their owners. The Seppälä Siberian Sleddog disposition is active, merry, and often quite inquisitive, although sometimes showing great reserve with strangers. A stable and serious temperament, neither nervous nor aggressive, is characteristic. Natural, innate sleddog mentality is a primary characteristic of Seppälä dogs. Their nature is highly cooperative. They show great seriousness in their work in harness.
Bred by the legendary dog driver Leonhard Seppala from dogs imported into Alaska from eastern Siberia, the Seppala Siberians became famous in Alaska for their domination of the All-Alaska Sweepstakes distance race in the period from 1914 to 1917. Later they became popular in New England when Seppala raced there and ran a kennel in Poland Spring, Maine.
In 1939 the last Siberia imports, along with several of Seppala’s dogs, became the breed foundation for the “Siberian Huskie” in Canada. The Canadian Seppala Kennels of Harry R. Wheeler in St. Jovite Station, Quebec, developed and bred Seppala Siberians until 1950 in genetic isolation from the developing Siberian Husky breed in the USA, which gradually became oriented more and more toward conformation dog shows. A succession of Seppala breeders kept the strain alive through the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1963, the third Seppala Kennels, run by C. S. MacLean and J. D. McFaul in Maniwaki, Quebec, closed without a successor kennel and by 1969 the unique Leonhard Seppala strain faced extinction. It was primarily saved by the timely action of two breeders: Markovo Kennels in Canada and Seppineau Kennels in the USA. The bloodline was then carried forward and developed as a serious mid-distance racing sleddog by Douglas W. Willett of Sepp-Alta Kennels in the state of Utah. The pure, original Seppala bloodlines are rare but found in small numbers in several Canadian provinces, the main population now occurring in Manitoba where the parent kennel relocated in 2008.
The Seppala Siberian Sleddog Project that was started in 1993 by the protagonists of the Markovo rescue effort won Agriculture Canada’s recognition for Seppalas in July 1997. The fourth historic Seppala Kennels in the Yukon Territory carried the breeding forward. In July 2002, Doug Willett undertook a similar breed initiative through the Continental Kennel Club’s registry in the USA.At present two disparate populations use the same breed name: the original Agriculture Canada recognised population in Canada, identified by the Working Canine Association of Canada, and its descendants elsewhere, registered by the International Seppala Association; and the Continental Kennel Club population, which is not descended from the Canadian original. A third group of “Seppalas” is distinguished simply as a Siberian Husky bloodline.
The term Mackenzie River Husky describes several overlapping local populations of arctic and subarctic sleddog type dogs, none of which constitutes a breed. Most prominent and current of these are the sleddogs of Donna Dowling and others in the interior of Alaska. These dogs are described as standing 26 to 29 inches (66 to 74 cm) in height and weighing 63 to 104 pounds (29 to 47 kg). Usually long-coated, they are rangy, deep-chested and long-legged, built for heavy freighting in single file through deep snow. Their colors are the usual northern-dog range of black and white, shades of grey and sable, tan, blond, and red.
Historically, the term has been variously applied to different dog populations in the Arctic and subarctic regions of Canada and Alaska. Crosses of local freighting huskies with large European breeds such as St. Bernards, Newfoundlands, or Staghounds were sometimes called “Mackenzie River Hounds,” giving rise to great confusion surrounding the name. Some reference sources describe the Mackenzie River Husky as a dog, used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, consisting of a mix of Canadian Eskimo dog, large European breeds, and wolf ancestry.
A Eurohound (also known as a Eurodog or Scandinavian hound) is a type of dog bred for sled dog racing. The Eurohound is typically crossbred from the Alaskan husky group and any of a number of pointing breeds (“pointers”).
According to Egil Ellis, a top sled dog racer, various types of pointers have been popular with Swedish sled dog racers for at least the last 50 years, and Alaskan huskies were imported to Sweden in the 1980s; crossbreeding pointers and huskies began “to come up with something new, something that the mushers did not have in Alaska”. “A Eurohound is a cross between an Alaskan husky and German Shorthaired Pointer… This cross first successfully entered the competitive sled dog racing world in Scandinavia.” The Eurohound is not purebred, and is not a breed of dog, but a mongrel that instead is continually crossbred from purebreds and mixes in order to produce dogs for specific running conditions.
Rather than inbreeding similar-looking dogs in order to create a new breed with a consistent appearance, Eurohound racers crossbreed for specific working traits and health. Crossbreeding includes breeding between two established breeds, with two tightly bred but unrelated gene pools, and breeding the first generation cross back to one of the purebred breeds.Crossbreeding is also done for the purpose of heterosis (hybrid vigor). The dogs most often used for Eurodog crosses are purebred German Shorthaired Pointers and English Pointers), other pointers, and Alaskan huskies (Gareth Wright lines primarily) from tightly bred sprint dog lines used for racing.
A first-generation Eurohound cross (fifty percent pointing breed, fifty percent husky) have short coats, suitable for sprint races, which don’t involve resting or sleeping on the trail. When the first-generation cross is crossed again with the Alaskan husky, the resulting generation can have thicker coats, suitable for longer-distance teams. Most distance mushers prefer the pointer genetics to only be 1/8 in a dog for maximum performance. This then reduces the Eurohound influence, and dogs should be termed Alaskan Husky crosses or mixed hounds.
The term “Eurohound” was coined by Ivana Nolke, to distinguish the European racing dogs being imported into Alaska. Greyhound × pointer crosses are coined “greysters” and popular for dryland racing, and limited-class snow racing.
Appearance and breeds
As the Eurohound is a carefully bred performance dog type rather than a kennel club registered purebred breed, its appearance will vary. Characteristics of pointers, huskies, and any other breeds used in breeding may show up in the dogs. Breeders may target a specific size or coat length for the type of racing they do. “Our pointers and most of our crossbreeds have a weight of 18–24 kilos” (Egil Ellis).
Fairly common features of fifty percent crosses are half-dropped ears, black with white blazing as shown in the photo, or solid with patches of spots. Some completely spotted dogs appear as well. Once the percentage of pointer drops, the dogs start to look more like Alaskan huskies.
The Alaskan husky sprint dog has been tightly bred for performance, since sled dog racing began in Alaska. The German Shorthaired Pointer and English Pointer gene pool is restricted by the fact that they are registered breeds, but they too were bred for performance; the Scandinavian pointers from which the first Eurohounds came had been used historically for sled dog racing and hunting.
Although more accurately and traditionally called “crossbred”, crossbred dogs are sometimes referred to incorrectly as “hybrid”, as a fashionable trend. A hybrid animal most often refers to one with parentage of two separate species or subspecies (but sometimes even general), differentiating it from crossbred animals, which have parentage of the same species. All dogs, including crossbreeds, are even of the same subspecies Canis lupus familiaris, and so crossbred dogs are not a hybridization with another species.
The Tamaskan dogs are a crossbreed, specifically designed by dog fanciers, beginning in Finland, to morphologically resemble a wolfdog. It is a cross of several standardized breeds of the sled dog type like the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute, and its bloodlines may sometimes include a small amount of wolfdog stock. As of November 2013, Tamaskans have not been recognized as a breed in its own right by any major breed registries or kennel clubs, only being recognized by two minor registries, the American Rare Breed Association, and the related Kennel Club of the United States of America, and by Tamaskan-specific breeder clubs. It is a highly versatile dog that can excel in agility, obedience and working trials. Although there are a little over 600 Tamaskans worldwide registered in these organizations, increasing interest has resulted in their spread throughout continental Europe, the UK, United States, Canada, and Australia.
Tamaskans are large, athletic dogs, slightly taller in size than German Shepherds. With regard to build, they are substantially larger than typical sled dogs but smaller than the Alaskan Malamute. They generally resemble grey wolves and wolfdogs.
On average, Tamaskan adults measure around 24-28 inches (60–70 cm) tall at the shoulder and typically weigh between 55-88 pounds (25–40 kg)–the heaviest recorded Tamaskan males (to date) weigh just under 50 kg. Females are usually slightly smaller and lighter than males, with a distinct feminine appearance. Males are more heavyset with broader heads and a heavier bone structure. Tamaskans have a lupine appearance with a straight bushy tail and thick double coat that comes in three main colors: wolf gray, red gray, and black gray. Each individual guard hair is agouti banded along its length. The almond-shaped eyes range from yellow through to amber and brown, with lighter colored eyes being very rare. Blue eyes are not acceptable, nor are mismatched eyes.
Overall, the Tamaskan variety is healthy; only a few notable health issues affect a small percentage of the bloodlines to date. Roughly 10% of males suffer from cryptorchidism: undescended testes. With these cases, usually only one testicle fully descends within the scrotum, while the other testicle remains “hidden” up within the abdominal cavity. Epilepsy has been diagnosed in five dogs, affecting about 1 out of every 100 registered Tamaskans worldwide. Several dogs have been found to be carriers of degenerative myelopathy. As with all large breed dogs, hip dysplasia is a risk.
In the early 1980s, five dogs, of Siberian Husky origin, were imported into the UK from America. These dogs were then bred to the Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, and German Shepherd, but also possibly other breeds exhibiting a lupine phenotype, to form a variety called the Utonagan dog. The Utonagan was perhaps later crossed with the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog to form the Tamaskan dog as it is known today.
In 2009, the Tamaskan Dog Register introduced a Saarloos Wolfdog as a single out-cross to bring some fresh blood into the breed. However, it is believed that none of his progeny have been bred from it to date. This particular Saarloos was specifically selected due to his great temperament, appearance, and health.
The Sakhalin Husky, also known as the Karafuto-Ken (樺太犬), is a breed of dog used as a sled dog that originates from Japan and parts of Russia.
Karafuto-ken breaks down as Karafuto, the Japanese name for Sakhalin and Ken, a Japanese word for dog; hence, this provides the breed’s geographical origin. This breed is used rarely now; therefore, few breeders remain in Japan.
As of 2011, there were only two surviving purebred members of the breed in Japan, which never recovered from the ill effects of World War II. An unknown number of purebred dogs can still be found on Sakhalin Island, particularly in communities inhabited by ethnic groups that have continuously habitated Sakhalin since the pre-War era (Nivkh, for instance). The sole remaining breeder, Sergey Lyubykh, located in the Nivkh village of Nekrasovka, died in 2012, but before his death stated that there were no longer enough living specimens of the breed to allow for the genetic diversity necessary for continued breeding.
This breed’s claim to fame came from the ill-fated 1958 Japanese research expedition to Antarctica, which made an emergency evacuation and was forced to leave behind 15 sled dogs. The researchers believed that a relief team would arrive within a few days, so they left the dogs chained up outside with a small supply of food; however, the weather turned bad and the team never made it to the outpost.
Incredibly, nearly one year later, a new expedition arrived and discovered that two of the dogs, Taro and Jiro, had survived and they became instant heroes. Taro returned to Sapporo, Japan and lived at Hokkaido University until his death in 1970, after which he was stuffed and put on display at the university’s museum. Jiro died in Antarctica in 1960 of natural causes and the remains are located at the National Science Museum of Japan in Ueno Park.
The breed spiked in popularity upon the release of the 1983 film Nankyoku Monogatari, about Taro and Jiro. A second 2006 film, Eight Below, provided a fictional version of the occurrence, but did not reference the breed. Instead, the film features only eight dogs: two Alaskan Malamutes and six Siberian Huskies. In 2011, TBS presents the much waited drama, Nankyoku Tairiku, featuring Kimura Takuya. It tells the story of the 1957 Antarctica Expedition led by Japan and their Sakhalin Huskies.
The breed and the expedition are memorialized in a monument near Wakkanai, Hokkaido, a monument under Tokyo Tower, and a monument near Nagoya Port.