The Beginning -Siberia
The Siberian Husky was developed over a period of around 3,000 years by the Chukchi and related peoples of Siberia, the breed was developed to fulfill a particular need of the Chukchi life and culture. In one of the most inhospitable climates in the world, with temperatures plummeting to (-1000F)C in winter and with winds up to 100 mph, the Chukchi relied on there dogs for survival, as they were a remarkable tool of ingenuity. In teams as large as twenty or more they could travel out over the ice sometimes covering as much as 100 miles in a single day to allow a single man to ice-fish and return with his catch, by sled dog standards they were small the large size of the teams minimized per-dog pulling power, while smaller frames maximized endurance and low energy consumption. (Even today, in long races, Alaskan Huskies the Siberians cousins require twice the amount of food the Siberians consume)
The Chukchi economy and religious life was centered around the Huskies. The best dogs were owned by the richest members of the community, and this is precisely why they were richest members of the community. Many religious ceremonies and iconography was centered around the huskies, according to Chukchi belief two huskies guard the gates of heaven turning away anybody that has shown cruelty to a dog in there life time. A Chukchi legend tells of a time of famine both human and dog populations were decimated, the last two remaining pups were nursed at a woman's breast to insure the survival of the breed.
Tribe life revolved around the dogs The women of the tribe reared the pups and chose what pups to keep, discarding all but the most promising bitches and neutering all but the most promising males. The men's responsibility was sled training, mostly geldings were used. huskies also would act as companions for the children and families dogs slept inside the temperatures at night were even measured in terms of the number of dogs necessary to keep a body warm eg. "two dog night, Three dognight Etc." The legendary sweetness of temperament was no accident.100 miles out on the ice, a single man with twenty dogs, if there's a dog fight , he simply does not get home (this is also one of the reasons for using geldings; the other being food consumption is lowered ).
Long before the
Soviets managed to relegate them to the category of "those who officially
never existed." The reputation of
the little Chukchi dogs had already spread throughout the world around the
turn of the twentieth century, polar exploration was capturing the worlds
attention and adventurers came to the yearly
Markova Fair on the Siberian peninsula where tribes of the area came to trade.
This gathering included the Chukchi and other dog-breeding tribes, such as the
Koryak (all of whom probably had some part in the pool of animals that
eventually became the Siberian Husky). Gdosak, a Russian fur trader acquired a team there
in 1908 and, in 1909, took them across the Bering Strait to
race in the All Alaska Sweepstakes, a 408-mile, grueling race
first run in 1908.The Alaskan Gold Rush had established the sled dog as an
invaluable commodity, and the race had been instituted to add excitement to an
otherwise pretty grim world, to give bragging rights to the eventual winner, and
to give vent to that favorite frontier boomtown passion, gambling.Nome to Candle and back,was
the route of the race crossing every conceivable terrain,
including a valley almost always engulfed in a blizzard. Caches of food were
strategically stashed along the route by drivers. Regular
checkpoints were established, but rest was at each driver's
discretion. The Trade Saloon in Nome,was the betting office bets were placed on
a board and betting
was open until the first team crossed the finish line. School children had a
holidays the four days of the race and at the start of the race in 1909 event,
there was already more than $100,000 bet on the race.The siberians were about half the weight of the local sled dogs, and much smaller in
stature. They were given little chance by the bookies , referred to then as Siberian Wolf
Dogs. They were dubbed "Siberian Rats,"because of their small
stature. But Thurstrup was convinced by Goosak to
take on the team.in April 1909, the first team of
Siberian Huskies to be seen on the North American continent trotted out of the
town of Nome and into the annals of history.
The legendary John
"Iron Man" Johnson team finished first in this 1910 race was driven by
, who completed the race in 74 hours, 14 minutes, 37
seconds. This time was never equaled, even when the race was rerun within the
last decade with the benefit of modern equipment, better nutrition, and
supposedly more specialized hybrid "race dogs:' Next few years, of the race were plagued with scandal with rumors that Johnson's
dogs had been drugged
near the end of the race or that the moneyed interests had actually convinced
him to throw the race, and it was not until 1914 that Johnson again won the
the race or that the moneyed interests had actually convinced him to throw the race, and it was not until 1914 that Johnson again won the event.
Born in Skjervoy, Norway, inside the Arctic Circle Leonhard Seppala came to Alaska as a young man around 1900 seeking fortune and adventure. A short man at only about 5 feet tall, Seppala had been an Arctic fisherman since he was 11years old, an apprentice blacksmith to his father, and was an accomplished wrestler and skier. Seppalla worked at various jobs in the mining camps. In 1914, Jafet Lindeberg, his employer, acquired what was left of the first Siberian imports and their offspring, around fifteen animals in all. They were to be a gift to the explorer Captain Roald Amundsen, who was planning a expedition to the North Pole. Seppala was given the job of the care and training of the dogs, and he loved it.
When World War I broke out
it changed Amundsen’s plans, and Seppala ended up in
possession of the dogs. He entered the 1914 All Alaska Sweepstakes, but with disastrous results he had to drop out early
when he lost the trail, and his
dogs’ feet got badly cut. He trained hard in secret, far from town,Blitzing the
field in the 1915 Sweepstakes by over
and hour . He repeated this victory in 1916 and 1917, at
which time the increased war effort and the lack of any real competition for him
caused the race to be discontinued.
“The little man with his
little dogs,”as he came to be known, became a legend in Alaska,
remaining devoted to his Siberians
hauling freight and supplies, setting many new records in mid-distance races, and on several
occasions being involved in truly heroic exploits he once, unarmed, chasing down
an armed kidnapper, and on another occasion transporting a man mangled in a
sawmill accident oVer a long distance at a speed no one thought possible.
Togo became permanently lame from that marathon run. Seppala credited Togo with over 5,000 miles in his running career. The teams had covered a distance of 650 miles that normally took the mail teams twenty-five days, and they did it in just five and a half days. Senator Dill of Washington state had the story written into the Congressional Record, one sentence of which reads, "Men had thought the limit of speed and endurance had been reached in the grueling races of Alaska, but a race for sport and money proved to have far less stimulus than this contest in which humanity was the urge and life was the prize.
After the Serum Run Seppala was a national hero and he marched in parades and posed for glamorous photographs in his equally glamorous furs, sometimes in 900F weather. All this fame and notoriety brought a challenge from Arthur Walden the polar explorer, adventurer, and full-time blowhard, he challenged Seppala to come to New England to race against his locally famous Chinook dogs, a strain of large, Mastiff-types he had developed from a single dog. This dog, named Chinook, gained fame on Admiral Richard E. Byrd's first Antarctic expedition. Walden would become Byrd's chief dog handler on that voyage, was the president of the New England Sled Dog Club, and was generally considered unbeatable.
Seppala accepted the challenge,
As they drove
their teams for three days to get to the site of the race, Seppala was careful
to keep his dogs in
check and letting Walden gain a false sense of confidence. Seppala figured his dogs
may be out of condition from all their parade appearances and
wasn't sure how they would perform on the New England trails. As the two teams
lined up the Chinooks weighing in at 90 to 100
pounds, the Siberians at around half that weightthe contrast was striking . many New Englanders
objected to the race on humanitarian grounds, considering the Siberians too
small to compete (There were even nutters like that in them days) Dick Moulton, who would later become Byrd's
chief dog handler and a two-time Congressional Medal of Honor winner (once for
saving the Admiral's wife and once for his search-and-rescue missions during the
Battle of the Bulge), was a teenager at the time. Moulton remembered vividly the
stark contrast between the dogs as the two teams were boarded at opposite ends
of a barn the night before the race. "At one end," he says, were
Walden's great big Chinooks, while at the other were these sweet, little, kind
of foxy Siberian dogs who stood up on their hind legs to greet you, and their
heads were hardly higher than your waist."
The Last of the Imports, and
Seppala stayed on in New
England for a time, winning pretty much all the races and planting the seeds of
the future Siberian Husky that would come to be officially recognized by the
American Kennel Club in 1930.A partnership with Seppala and a woman named
Elizabeth had imported the last Siberians
to come directly from Siberia and was an avid sled dog enthusiast, Nine of these were selected by the renowned
expert on Siberian dogs, Olaf Swenson, but the ship that brought them to the United States became
stranded in ice for the winter, and only four survived. Kreevanka and Tserko were
the most influential of
these males, who, along with the legendary Togo,
his father Suggen, and the beautiful leader Fritz, probably figure in the
pedigree of every Siberian Husky living-if one were to trace back that far.
In 1929 shortly after his return from the
Antarctic on the first Byrd expedition Arthur Walden sold Chinook Kennels to Milton and Eva Seeley
acquired . This was . Milton had just been
diagnosed with diabetes and was advised by his doctor to take up country
living. It was at Chinook that the dogs were trained for Byrd’s second and
third Antarctic expeditions, and there that most of the Search and Rescue teams
used in World War II were developed. Like Elizabeth Ricker before them, the
Seeleys bred both Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies, and are seen as doing
much of the important foundation work in both breeds. For their Siberian
stock, they combined animals from Harry Wheeler and chose coming directly from
Alaska to produce several of the first champions in the breed after AKC
recognition. Their most famous and influential animals were probably Ch.
Wonalancet’s Baldy of Alyeska (sire of the extremely influential Izok of Gap
Mountain) and Ch. Alyeska’s Suggen of Chinook, both of whom proved important
to the development of the Demidoffs’ Monadnock line along with many others.
Milton Seeley died in 1944, but
Eva (affectionately known to all as “Short”) continued to be very
influential in the breed (judging, driving, breeding, and serving in many
capacities for the Siberian Husky Club of America, of which both Seeleys had
been founding members) for decades thereafter. When Short Seeley died in 1985,
Chinook Kennels became an official historic landmark of the State of Vermont,
and can be visited to this day.
Milton Seeley died in 1944, but Eva (affectionately known to all as “Short”) continued to be very influential in the breed (judging, driving, breeding, and serving in many capacities for the Siberian Husky Club of America, of which both Seeleys had been founding members) for decades thereafter. When Short Seeley died in 1985, Chinook Kennels became an official historic landmark of the State of Vermont, and can be visited to this day.
Lorna Demidoff became interested in sled dogs while married to Moseley Taylor, who was the owner of the Boston Globe. Moseley purchased Lorna her first Siberians from the Seeleys, along with a dog named Tuck who was from the Mike Cooney/John "Iron Man" Johnson kennels in Alaska. Lorna became the first woman to win a race, finished her first champion (and first Group placer in the breed) in 1939, her first home-bred champion in 1941, and became, for the next three decades, the most prominent breeder of Siberian show dogs and breeding stock in the United States. Having divorced Mosely Taylor, she married Nicholas Demidoff, an emigre Russian prince, in 1941, becoming affectionately known as "the Princess." She fielded competitive teams through the 1950s and continued to drive her pleasure teams until well into her sixties. Her animals may have won more National Specialties than anyone else's before or since, and her Ch. Monadnock's Pando was possibly the most influential stud dog in the history of the breed. (When he was shown for the last time in the Veterans' Class at age 14 in Philadelphia, he not only received a standing ovation, but was discovered to be the progenitor of 100 of the 103 Siberians shown that day!) With his son, Ch. Monadnock's King, he won every major Best Brace in Show award for which they competed, and virtually spearheaded the black-and-white, blue-eyed fashion in the breed. Lorna once told me the author said she regretted having started "that craze" and also regretted letting Pando be used at stud on so many bitches. "But, you know' she said, "there were so many shy dogs in those days that if the bitch had a good temperament I usually accepted her for breeding." I think this is a very telling comment because, although she was known (quite rightly) for establishing consistency of type in the breed, her greatest gift was probably in the area of making more consistent the confident, friendly temperament we so much value in the Siberian today. Until her death in 1993, Lorna Dernidoff remained the "premier" breeder- judge of Siberians and one of America's most respected Group and Best in Show judges.
Affectionately Known as "the Duchess,"
Mrs. Marie Lee Frothingliam did not follow her friends
Short Seeley and Lorna Demidoff into the show ring, with the consequent stronger
focus on greater consistency of type, markings, and furnishings. However
She did produce
several influential show champions, most significantly Ch. Helen of Cold River
(Dr. Roland Lombard's great racing leader) but her focus remained racing.
Though she never drove a team herself she fielded some of the most competitive
teams of her time, 1936-56, often two top-flight teams per race. When she
retired, some of her better animals were passed onto her then driver/trainer
team, Lyle and Marguerite Grant, to form their famous Marlytuk Kennels. Many of
these dogs, though still very capable running dogs, became dominant show dogs,
particularly the multiple-Specialty winner and famous producer, Ch. Marlytuk's
Red Son of Kiska, sired by the last great Monadnock stud, Ch. Monadnock's Akela.
* All information regarding the history of the Siberian Husky has been adapted from several different books & from the internet , the main source being Michael Jennings' book - "The Siberian Husky - Able Athlete, Able Friend".