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Siberian Husky Education and Information

 
 

 

Siberian Husky

 

 
 
 
 

The History of the Siberian Husky

The 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 -100F 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.

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 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 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 (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 sled)

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.

In 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".

The 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.

In 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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FOSTER ALERT!

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