Currently there is a worldwide crisis with the Siberian as they are being over-bred by unscrupulous backyard breeders because they have gained so much popularity in recent times. Movies like 8 Below and Balto have contributed towards their popularity but recently Game of Thrones has severely impacted on the crisis of unwanted Sibes. We recently received a Facebook message from a UK shelter asking us for advise because they could not cope with the influx of unwanted huskies. The US shelters are overflowing as well, with many huskies coming in with the actual names of the dire wolf dogs from the series Game of Thrones.
The Siberian husky is a breed unsurpassed by any other, except their relatives. The more familiar you become with this breed, the more you will grow to love his independent, intelligent, and free-spirited nature. Unfortunately, there is another side to the Siberian because of the very nature of his personality. People often take ownership of these dogs because of their unique blue eyes and intriguing wolf-like looks – only to discover very soon that they require hard work and dedication. The Sibe is a companion animal with special needs, and as a result is a very misunderstood breed. People do not research the nature of this breed adequately before owning one, and are then often not able to cope as the Sibe matures. As a result, the Siberians end up abused and neglected, chained up, caged or simply abandoned. Alternatively, they find themselves locked up in animal shelters. The tragedy of this however, is that they are one of the two most euthanized breeds of dog in shelters throughout the world because of their inability to cope with confinement for indefinite periods. (The Pitbull is the other breed)
A little bit of history…
Did you know that Huskies originated from Siberia and that the Siberian Husky was originally developed by the Chukchi people of eastern Siberia. They were used to help the Chukchi people hunt and to pull loads long distances through extreme cold and harsh environments.
They were raised in a family setting by the Chukchi, which makes them a good breed to have with children around. They can also run faster, for longer and on less food than any other breed of dog in the world – this is still true today.
They do however still have an instinct to hunt as the Chukchi used to let their dogs roam free during the summer months and they would have to hunt for themselves. So they can cause a lot of damage around chickens and other fowl.
They were first brought to Nome, Alaska in 1908 by a Russian fur trader, initially as sled dogs. It was here that the breed made a name for itself.
A Norwegian by the name of Leonhard Seppala moved to Alaska in 1914 and starting racing his team of sled dogs in the “All Alaska Sweepstakes Race” from Nome to Candle and back – a distance of 657 km. Seppala did not win the race in 1914 as he became lost in a whiteout blizzard and came within a 61m precipice – it was only the responsiveness of his native Siberian lead dog “Suggen” that prevented complete tragedy. Seppala went on to win the race for the next three years in a row, proving that Huskies have a great ability to race at all distances.
Huskies are however also well known for the serum run as is best described below… (with thanks to myhusky.com.au)
Seppala’s greatest feat was in January 1925 and had nothing to do with racing. A raging diphtheria epidemic had taken over Nome, two eskimo children had already died and it was feared the native population who had little exposure to the disease could be wiped out entirely if help did not arrive immediately.
The city’s small serum supply had been used up, the nearest supply was nearly 1610 kms away in Anchorage. The Alaskan railroad could take it as far as Nenana, but this was still 1060 kms away. There were only three airplanes in all of Alaska and the three people who knew how to fly them were spending the winter elsewhere. Furthermore the planes were grounded by the 80mph winds and raging blizzards. They were worried that the planes could not stay in the air during the blizzards and that the serum would be lost.
The Siberian Huskies came to the rescue. Under the leadership of Leonhard Seppala, 20 divers and 100 dogs were recruited for the trip. The dogs ran 1060 kms in five and a half days, on a mail trail that usually took 25 days, sometimes travelling through blizzards and snowdrifts that were waist high. It was snowing so hard the drivers could not see the dogs in front of them. At times the temperature plunged to 62 degrees below zero. Two dogs actually froze to death in their harness; their musher, Charlie Evans, took their place and along with the other dogs pulled the sled himself the remaining miles.
Seppala drove 550 km of the relay, his lead dog was Togo, the son of the resourceful Suggen. Togo was a little dog and not much to look at by todays standards but could lead a team like no other dog. Seppala estimated that Togo had run over 8050 kms during his career. The Great Serum run was his last appearance. Aging and injured on the trip the old hero was retired afterward and later died in 1929 at the age of 14-15.
The final leg of the relay was run by Gunnar Kassan, driving Seppala’s second string of dogs, using a dog named Balto as his lead dog. When Kassan became lost on the ice of the Topkok River, it was Balto who scented out the right trail (in 50mph winds) and brought the team in safely. If it had been left to Kassan the entire team would have plunged through the ice.
Kassan staggered into Nome at 5:30am on February 2, 1925. His dogs were cold and exhausted, their feet torn and bloody. The Serum was delivered. Out of this great race was born the modern sled race we call the Iditarod.