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Husky Education and Information
The History of
the Siberian Husky
Siberian Husky (originally the Chukchi dog) was developed over a
period of around 3,000 years by the Chukchi tribe of Siberia. The
breed was developed to fulfill a particular need of the Chukchi
life and culture. In one of the most hostile climates in the world,
with temperatures plummeting to -100°F in winter and with winds
up to 100 mph, the Chukchi relied on their dogs for survival. 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. Their smaller frames maximized endurance
and low energy consumption. Even today, in the long races, Alaskan
Husky teams, the Siberians cousins, require twice the amount of
food the Siberian teams consume.
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 what made them the 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
their lifetime. A Chukchi legend tells of a time of famine when
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
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 (neutered
males) were used. The dogs would also act as companions for the
children and family dogs slept inside. The temperatures at night
were even measured in terms of the number of dogs necessary to keep
a body warm. i.e.."Two dog night, Three dog night, etc."
The legendary sweetness of the Siberians temperament was no accident.
Would you want to be 100 miles out on the ice, a single person with
twenty dogs? If there's a dog fight you simply would not get home!
(This is also one of the reasons for using neutered males on the
When Winter came, all dogs were tied up when not working, but the
elite unneutered dogs were allowed to roam and breed at will. This
insured that only the very best would breed. In summer, all dogs
were released and allowed to hunt in packs like the Wolf, but unlike
the Wolf they would return to the villages when the snow returned
and food grew scarce (hey, they know where the handouts are, they
are not dumb by any means). The high prey drive can still be found
in the breed today.
the nineteenth century, when Czarist troops were sent on a mission
to open the area to the fur trade, the Chukchi faced a peril even
deadlier than the Siberian winters. Czarist troops attempted an
all-out genocide of the Chukchi people. Again, the dogs would be
the key to their survival. The Chukchi were able to evade the Russian
reindeer cavalry on their Siberian pulled sleds. The Chukchi were
able to do this for some time. The invasion finally coming to a
head in a final battle where the Chukchi, armed only with spears
and overwhelmingly outnumbered, trapped and defeated the heavily
armed Russian troops. This victory led to Czarist Russia signing
a treaty with the Chukchi giving them their independence; the first
tribe to achieve this "honor".
Chukchi people and their dogs existed peacefully for many years
after this conflict. By the close of the 19th Century the Chukchi's
dogs were discovered by Alaskan traders and imported into the Northwest
Territory and renamed the Siberian Husky. This importation proved
to be a very important event in the survival of this breed. The
first team of Siberian Huskies made its appearance in the All Alaska
Sweepstakes Race of 1909. That same year a large number of them
were imported to Alaska by Charles Fox Maule Ramsay, and his team,
driven by John "Iron Man" Johnson, won the grueling 400-mile race
in 1910. For the next decade Siberian Huskies, particularly those
bred and raced by Leonhard Seppala, captured most of the racing
titles in Alaska, where the rugged terrain was ideally suited to
the endurance capabilities of the breed.
the 20th Century, the Soviets opened free trade with the Chukchi,
then known as the "Apaches of the North," and brought
with them smallpox which almost wiped out the tribe. When the Soviets
found out the importance of the dogs to Chukchi cultural coherence,
they executed or imprisoned the village leaders, who were of course
the dog breeders. The Soviets then set up their own dog breeding
programs designed to obliterate the native gene pool of the Chukchi
dogs and replace it with a gene pool that would produce a much larger
freighting dog thought to be more effective for the Soviets own
proposed fur-trading practices in the region. The Soviets even went
so far, in 1952, as issuing an official proclamation that the breed
we now call the Siberian Husky never really existed. Only a small
remnant of the Chukchi dog still survives in Siberia today.
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