The History Of The Siberian Husky
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Origin: Reindeer Chasers
The story of the Siberian Husky starts in Siberia, on the Chukotskiy peninsula which was home to the spiritual and ancient hunting people known as the Chukchi. No one can put a date on when the breed was officially created, though there are some indicators that this breed could be as old as four thousand years. But we do know it was the Chukchi were the people responsible for bringing the world this stunning breed.
The Siberian Husky was a treasured part of the Chukchi culture. At first, when their native lands were a more mild temperature than and the breed was used as a hunting companion. But about three thousand years ago the temperature in this region dropped and became more in line with the cold and snowy landscape we tend to picture as Siberia today.
This was a drastic change for the Chukchi people and their beloved dogs and they found new ways in which to work together. The herds of reindeer which they had depended on for food were now traveling much further than normal in search of vegetation. The Chukchi were left with little choice but to trail after the herds, and more often than not with all of their belongings and family in tow. The Siberian Huskies job shifted and they went from hunting companion to assisting in travel by pulling sleds filled with supplies as they and their people moved after their quarry.
The Chukchi and their dogs lived peacefully until the 1700s when the Russians set their site on Chukchi lands. They tried at first to get them to surrender their lands peacefully, but the Chukchi refused. Which led to Russia declaring war on the hunting people in the 1740s. Though the Chuckchi’s were always beaten they would just retreat further and further into the wilderness.
In the 1930s things took a turn for the worst, as the Russians moved forward with plans to wipe out everything was not “soviet-culture” and to replace relics of the past with modern technology- the sled dogs included. However, the breed was saved and their usefulness enforced when it was discovered that it was vertically impossible to traverse the Siberian landscape with current machinery. This saved the Siberian Huskies for another decade as in the 1940s it was decided that there was no more need for sled dogs and they reclassified the sledding breeds. The Siberian husky being left out of this reclassification as it was smaller than other breeds and the Soviets were unconvinced it could pull anything of merit. This led to a massive downfall in the breed’s native land and it is very likely that no more exist there.
History Fact Number One:
The Chukchi were highly spiritual people and they paid the utmost respect to their dogs. The Chukchi’s heaven was said to be guarded by two Siberian Huskies and anyone who mistreated one of them in the living world would not be allowed entrance.
How Nome, Alaska saved the Siberian Husky and how the Siberian Husky saved Nome
Without the exportation of the Siberian Husky to Nome, Alaska in 1909, and Alaskan’s seeing the true potential of this breed it is quite possible it could have been lost when things in its homeland turned sour forty years later.
The Siberian Huskies made it Nome thanks to fur trader, William Goosak. The breed was not well received at first and was nicknamed the “Siberian Rats' ', as Alaskan’s were used to much larger breeds like Alaskan Malamutes. William Goosak was intent on having his team of Siberian Huskies to run in the 1909 All Alaskan Sweepstakes, which was a grueling four-hundred and eight-mile sleddog race with a $10,000 cash prize. Goosak eventually enlisted Louis Thurstrop as the driver for his team though the odds were against them at one-hundred to one. The “Siberian Rats' ' proved themself in the sweepstakes and came in third place.
History Fact Number Two:
It was said that if Goosak's team would have won it would have broken the Bank on Nome. There were also rumors some gamblers paid off the team’s driver before he could claim the first-place win to save them from financial ruin.
The Siberian earned notoriety for how well it did in the race, which led a fellow competitor of the 1909 race, Fox Maule Ramsay, to head off and procure sixty of the best Siberian Huskies he could find to participate the following year in 1910. He entered three teams of his dogs into the race. One of his team’s driven by John "Iron Man" Johnson came in first and set a record of 74 hours, 14 minutes, 37 seconds, which would go uncontested for seven years. Fox’s own team came in 2nd and the last of his three teams in 4th place. The results of this race created a boom in popularity for the breed and made it one of the go-to dog breeds for sled racing.
The popularity and renown of this breed was well-deserved. This fact would be even more emphasized in 1925 when a diphtheria outbreak rattled the population of Nome. This deadly disease spread quickly and the cure was some six-hundred miles away In order to get the life-saving serum to the desperate people of Nome a sled dog relay was established. Leonhard Seppala was first up in the relay, along with his team of twenty Siberian’s and his legendary lead dog Togo. The team was to meet up with the next leg of the relay in Nulato, Alaska, which was over three-hundred miles away, to pick up the serum, but due to urgency, Seppala pushed his team to go further to meet with the team quicker. Once they secured the serum, Seppala turned his team around for the return voyage. Even exhausted and with the weather against them in the form of a raging blizzard the team made it to the next checkpoint. Where the serum was passed to Gunnar Kaasen and his team, his lead dog being the famous Balto. Kaasen then transported the precious cargo all the way back to Nome.
History Fact Number Three:
A Statue of Balto stands in Central Park, New York City in honor of all of the Dogs that made the perilous and tiring journey to deliver the residents of Nome the much-needed serum. Togo also received a medal in 1926 in recognition of his efforts in New York City.
The AKC, Antarctica and World War II
The dogs brought to Alaska in the early 1900s were not very consistent as far as type went. The indigenous Chukchi had never bred dogs for anything other than working ability. Leaving the breed with some varying traits from individual to individual. Leonhard Seppala and a partner had started their own breeding project and had started breeding for some uniformity in the breed. Though, he closed his kennel in 1931.
The breed was accepted to the AKC in 1930 and was the 87th dog breed to be inducted to the American Kennel Club. At this time the Soviet Union also stopped the exportation of any Siberian Huskies. However, due to there never being a set appearance for the breed the standard was revised five times and was not published until 1932.
History Fact Number Four:
In the 1990s the Siberian Huskies were being considered for a name change to the “Chukchi Indian Dog”.
The breeding and refinement under AKC standards were taken up by New England breeders Eva "Short" Seeley of Chinook Kennel and Lorna Demidoff of Monadnock Kennel. Between the two they were able to create dogs that were still expert sled dogs but were also visually appealing in the show ring. Their dogs became the early foundation for the standardized breed.
In 1933, Siberian Huskies were enlisted by the United States Navy and Admiral Richard E. Byrd. Fifty Huskies were selected and sailed to the southernmost part of the world to take part in “Operation Highjump” which was a massive exploration mission that ran 16,000 miles around the coast of Antarctica.
This would not be the end of the Siberian’s call to arms, however. As World War II shook the world the United States Army employed the dogs to once again act as sled dogs for transport and search and rescue. The breed was prized over horses in tough, snowy terrain as it was believed that two teams of seven dogs could accomplish more than five horses could. They were essential in moving goods, laying telephone wire to establish communications between soldiers, and were essential in search and rescue operations when pilots would down their planes in areas nothing else would have been able to reach.