The Siberian Husky as its name would suggest, originated from Siberia, developed by the Chukchi's who were ancient Siberian hunting people. Climate change in the region from a relatively mild climate to one of intense cold led to the Chukchi's becoming a nomadic race. They had to travel large distances to reach their main food source, reindeer, who were, themselves, travelling vast amounts of ground in search of food. The Chukchi's had also been pushed far into the interior of Siberia away from the Bering Strait by the Eskimos. This meant that to reach the seal-rich Bering Strait, again they had to cover large distances in harsh conditions. The dogs became highly prized for their strength and ability to aid the Chukchi in their everyday tasks. Over time, the Chukchi learned how to domesticate and 'farm' the reindeer. This led to them developing and selecting their dogs for speed, endurance and agility rather than just brute strength, as they now had the reindeer to pull the heaviest loads. This meant that Siberian Huskies were much smaller in body, bone and build than many other Arctic breeds.
The Russians tried to conquer the Chukchi people. Despite killing many many Chukchi's - and their dogs - the Russians did essentially fail, deciding it better just to proclaim that they had conquered the area. This was not the end, as in the Stalinist Communist era, it was decided that all manners of traditional life would be stopped, and this even meant killing the native dog breeds in order to replace them with motorised vehicles. Of course, again, the Chukchi did know best, and by all accounts, even in these hard times, found it amusing that the Soviets did have to admit the worth of the dogs when they found that all their supposed superior vehicles all froze up in the harsh tundra of the Siberian interior.
Much favoured by the Russian explorers who charted the Siberian coastline in the 17th century, Siberians from the Chukchi people made their first reported appearances in Alaska in the early 1900's. It was always going to happen, due to close proximity of Siberia and Alaska, seperated only by the Bering Strait. Chances are that the Chukchi dogs were actually in Alaska a long time before these reported cases, indeed a Russian Lieutenant named Zogoskin, wrote of his experiences of sled dogs in the Alaskan region in 1842 through to 1844, detailing the way in which the Alaskan natives were driving their dogs.
In 1908, a Russian fur trader named William Goosak crossed the Bering Strait and arrived in Nome, Alaska - a place so called purely as a result of the mis reading of a clerks writing on a map of the words 'no name' - with the intention of running in the 1909 All Alaska Sweepstakes Race - a then 408 mile race. Quickly named 'Siberian Rats' by the locals, due to their lighter frames and smaller size, it looked as if Goosak would have an uphill struggle convincing the Alaskans of the dogs abilities. Goosak persuaded Louis Thurstrup to drive his team, and to everyone's surprise, nearly won the race. He finally finished third in that year, mainly due to a strategical error by Thurstrup. Goosak sold his dogs to a Nome fur trader named Charlie Madsen.
The dogs had however, inspired another, namely a young Scotsman named Fox Maule Ramsay. He was the second son of the Earl of Dalhousie and arrived in Nome with two uncles. The family had interests in the goldfields. Ramsay was fascinated by the dog driving, and with help and advice of Ivor Olsen, he went to the small settlement of Markovo on the banks of the Anadyr River in Siberia, and reports say he purchased somewhere in the region of 60 to 70 of the best dogs. The 1910 All Alaska Sweepstakes saw Ramsay enter three teams. He entered one team in his own name which he drove, one in the name of his uncle Colonel Charles Ramsay, driven by John ' Iron Man ' Johnson, and the third in the name of his other uncle, Colonel Weatherly Stuart, driven by Charlie Johnson.
The team driven by John Johnson went on to win the race in a never equalled or beaten time of 74hrs, 14mins and 37 seconds. Fox's team finished second, and the one driven by Charlie Johnson finished in fourth. From this time onwards these so called 'Siberian Rats' were admired and gained in popularity.
In 1913, a miner in Nome, namely Jafet Lindenberg was contracted by Norwegian explorer Amundson to buy and train up some dogs for a expedition to the North Pole. When the expedition was cancelled, Lindenberg turned all the dogs over to a friend, employee and fellow Norwegian to be raced for Lindenberg. This man would become one of the greatest names in Siberian Huskies - namely the Norwegian Leonhard Seppala. He won the All Alaska Sweepstakes for the first time in 1915. Seppala is perhaps best known for his heroic actions in the 1925 Diphtheria outbreak in Nome. Details of this incredible story can be found in many books.
By the 1930's all major Chukchi villages in Siberia had permanent Russian residents to ensure that the Soviet 'Modernisation Program' was fully implemented. In 1930, seeing the sad decline of the Chukchi dogs, Arctic explorer and fur trader Olaf Swenson selected and exported the last pure bred group of these dogs to Alaska. (He had earlier imported dogs to Leonhard Seppala in Alaska). The most famous dogs of the last importation were named Kreevanka and Tserko, who went to Elizabeth Ricker's Poland Spring Kennels in Maine and then on to Harry Wheeler.
Leonhard Seppala worked to standardise the breed. By means of his travels, he introduced many people to the sport of sled dog racing. The kennel he set up with Elizabeth Ricker in Poland Spring, Maine - known as the Ricker/Seppala Kennel - though only in operation for five years, set the 'benchmark' for the breeds characteristics, looks and temperament. Indeed, it's true to say that the breed really developed due to importations in to this kennel.
From the early days the Chukchi through its introduction to Alaska, and then, in modern times, on round the world, the Siberian Husky has endured. Its original function and characteristics must never be forgotten. let us not change the breed to anything resembling and other Northern Arctic breed, and let us uphold the type of dog that the Chukchi people admired and the early Alaskan breeders worked so hard to standardise!
The First recorded Siberian Husky in th UK was in may 1968 when two puppies were imported from Norway. Mr & Mrs Proffit had seen the breed in Switzerland, and decided to bring a pair in to the country. These were a silver grey dog called Killick, and a dark grey bitch called Togli.
The first Siberian to be registered with the Kennel Club was a grey and white bitch called Yeso Pac's Tasha. She was owned by Bill and Jean Cracknell. They also imported a male called Savdajaure's Samovar. Both these dogs feature in the pedigree's of many Sibes in the UK.
Don and Liz Leich imported two unrelated dogs in Douschka of Northwood and Ilya of Northwood on their return to the UK from the States in 1971. Douschka produced the first litter for the Forstal's Kennel in 1972. This started a dynasty of dogs still going strong today.
Siberians have been actively worked and shown in the UK since they arrived on these shores. It has always been the mindset in the UK to maintain a dual purpose dog, rather than fashion it purely for the showring or for the trail.
The most influential lines in the UK have been Alaskan Anadyr of Natalie and Earl Norris and Seppala, and this remains so today, though there has been the recent introduction of European specialist racing lines. Other favoured lines have been Sepp - Alta and Lokiboden. Early custodians of this lovely breed in addition to the Leichs' were, Jenny Manley of the Skimarque Kennels, Lynn Harrison of the Brushbow Kennels and Sandra Bayliss to name a few.
Siberian Huskies gained Championship status in the UK showring in 1986, when Liz Leich's daughter Sally, judged Crufts. The first UK Champion was the Leich's grey and white dog, Ch Forstal's Mikishar The Amarok. The first bitch Champion was another Forstal bred dog, namely Keith MacCallum's red bitch, Ch Forstal's Noushka. The only Siberian to win BIS at an All Breeds Championship Show is, again, one of the Leich's in the grey and white dog Ch Forstal's Meshka. One of the breeds most influential sires in this country is Goosack of Kolyma.
Working the dogs has always been of great importance in the UK, and the first ever working event was held on the South Downs Way. The first ever race was run in October 1978 at Hankley Common. The course was three miles. A racing calendar was eventually put together, and today many races are organised by many different breed clubs and racing organisations. The SHCGB even offers an award for the top Dual Purpose Siberian, which rewards dogs for competing and winning at both working rallies and shows. The biggest, and most popular race is the Aviemore Snow Rally run by the SHCGB.
The breed is served by two breed clubs. The most senior is the Siberian Husky Club Of Great Britain which held its inaugural meeting in 1977. The most recent club is that of the Scottish Siberian Husky Club which was set up in 1996. Both cater very well for the breed, and ensure that the health and welfare of the breed are maintained.
The SHCGB was born out of the growth in the numbers of Siberian Huskies, and also due to the fact that the Husky Club of Great Britain won a name change from the Kennel Club. It became the Eskimo Dog Club of Great Britain, and could therefore not really cater for the Siberians anymore. The proposed SHCGB needed a minimum of 25 founder members. These were; Messrs Les Crawley, Dave Lace, F Crawshaw, Mike Love, David Samuel, V Springthorpe, D Campbell, T Plant and Mesdames Heather Crawshaw, Ranee Crawley, Liz Leich, Sally Leich, Sheril Leich, Sandra Baylis, J Matthews, Mags Holt, Jean Lace, D Plant, Elizabeth Love, Esmee Samuel, Lynn Harrison, Stella Colling Mudge, G M Arnold and Janet Ward. We are indebted to these people for getting the SHCGB registered.
The inaugural meeting of the newly formed Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain was on the 16th May 1977. The first committee consisted of Les Crawley as Chair, Heather Crawshaw as Secretary, Dave Lace as Treasurer, Liz Leich as Vice Chair, and Sandra Baylis, Sally Leich, Sheila Sones, Jenny Manley and Margaret Holt. In these days the club had Area Representatives, a Welfare Committee and a Breed Advisory Committee. How hard these people worked to get the Club on a firm footing. An important aspect of the initial years was the rewriting of the Siberian Husky standard. This was done by Nancy Dilling, Stella Collong Mudge, Sally Leich, Liz Leich, Les Crawley and Renee Crawley.
The first working event held in the country was a sponsored run in aid of Siberian Welfare. The South Downs Way was chosen as the venue, and the distance - wait for it - 20 miles! A racing sub-committee was set up, and the first sled dog race in this country was organised to be held at Hankley Common in October1978. The course was set a 3 miles. A second race was held at Cannock Chase in March 1979, organised by Keith MacCallum and Trevor Plant. This was the first race to be held on Forestry Commission Land. 1982/83 season saw four events, and the Siberian Committee (Kari Coyne, Sally Leich, John Evans, Penny Evans, Wendy Harris, Keith MacCallum, Anna Sanchez and Mike Harrison) decided to make annual awards for Team of The Year and Musher of The Year. 1984/85 saw seven rallies, 1985/86 had nine rallies and a fun rally.
The 1986/87 season saw the approval of another new award called the 'Complete Siberian Award' where points were won at the shows aswell as rallies. This is very similar to the Dual Purpose Award that operates today. The club has seen the working side escalate beyond belief, and in 2002/03 season the club proudly staged 17 rallies. Details of these rallies are all contained in a rally brochure produced every year by the SHCGB. These are all organised for the club under its rules by dedicated people, and we cannot extend our thanks enough. The premier rally staged in Aviemore celebrated an incredible 20 - year anniversary in 2003!
In the early days, Siberians found it hard competing in the showring with other Nordic Breeds. In 1972, the Nordic Open Show was the first show to clasify the breed in its own right. The show side like the working just grew and in 1986 the Kennel Club granted the Siberian Husky Championship Status. Eight Championship shows offered the breed CC's. The first CC winners being Zoox Gadzheek and Zima Zala Synegoorachka. The judge was Sally Leich. A lull in entries occurred over the mid 90's, but now we see some entries in excess of 150! The breed is offered 27 sets of CC's.
In 1988, the Club Show was granted CC status and our judge was Nancy Van Gelderen Parker. She had a record entry for the time. The club show is now massive and requires a different judge for each sex. Many of the breed's best judges have officiated. The show ring had produced many great champions. The club has awards for Top Dog, Bitch, Stud, Brood, Puppy and Veteran. These awards are won by gaining points throughout the year by winning prizes at Championship Shows where CC's are on offer.
General Appearance: Medium-sized working sled dog, quick and light on feet. Free and graceful in action, with well-furred body, erect ears and brush tail. Proportions reflect a basic balance of power, speed and endurance, never appearing heavy or so coarse as to suggest a freighting animal, nor so light and fragile as to suggest a sprint racing animal. Males are masculine but never coarse, bitches feminine but without weakness of structure. Muscle firm and well developed, no excess weight.
Characteristics: Medium size, moderate bone, well balanced proportions, ease and freedom of movement and good disposition.
Temperament: Freindly and gentle, alert and outgoing. Does not display traits of the guard dog, not suspicious with strangers or aggressive with other dogs but some measure of reserve expected in a mature dog. Intelligent, tractable and eager disposition. An agreeable companion and willing worker.
Head and Skull: Medium size in proportion to the body, presents a finely chiselled fox-like appearance. Slightly rounded on top, tapering gradually from the widest point to eyes. Muzzle medium length and width, neither snipey nor coarse, tapering gradually to rounded nose. Tip of nose to stop equidistant from stop to occiput. Stop clearly defined but not excessive. Line of the nose straight from the stop to tip. Nose black in grey, tan or black dogs; liver in copper dogs; may be fleash coloured on pure white. In winter pink-streaked 'snow nose' is acceptable.
Eyes: Almond shaped moderately spaced and set obliquely. Any shade of blue or brown, one of each colour, or part-colours equally acceptable. Expression keen, but friendly, interested, even mischievous.
Ears: Medium size, relatively close together, triangular in shape, the height slightly greater than width at base. Set high on head, strongly erect, the inner edges being quite close together at the base, when the dog is at attention carried practically parallel. Slightly arched at the back. Thick, well-furred outside and inside, tips slightly rounded.
Mouth: Lips well pigmented, close fitting. Jaws strong with a perfect regular and complete scissor bite, ie upper teeth closely overlapping, lower teeth set sqaure to the jaws.
Neck: Medium length and thickness, arched and carried proudly erect when standing. When moving at a trot, extended so that the head is carried slightly forward.
Forequaters: Shoulder blade well laid back, upper arm slightly backward from point of shoulder to elbow, never perpendicular to the ground. Muscle holding shoulder to ribcage firm and well developed. Straight or loose shoulders highly undesirable. Viewed from the front, forelegs moderately spaced, parallel and straight with elbows close to the body, turning neither in nor out. Viewed from the side, pasterns slightly sloping, wrist strong but flexible. Length from elbow to ground slightly more than distance from elbows to top of withers. Bone proportionate, never heavy. Dewclaws may be removed.
Body: Straight and strong with level topline from withers to croup. Medium length, not cobby, nor slack from excessive length. In profile, body from point of shoulder to rear point of croup slightly longer than height from ground to top of withers. Chest deep and strong but not too broad, deepest point being just behind and level with elbows. Ribs well sprung from spine but flattened on sides to allow for freedom of action. Loins slightly arched, well muscled, taut and lean, narrower than ribcage with a slight tuck-up. Croup slopes away from spine at an angle, but never so steeply as to restrict thrust of hindlegs.
Hindquaters: Viewed from rear, hindlegs moderately spaced and parellel. Upper thighs well muscled and powerful, stifles well bent, hock joint well defined and set low to ground. Dewclaws if any, should be removed.
Feet: Oval, not long, turning neither in nor out in natural stance. Medium size, compact, well furred and slightly webbed between toes. Pads tough and thickly cushioned. Trimming of fur between toes and around feet permissible.
Tail: Well furred or round fox brush shape set on just below level of topline and usually carried over back in a graceful sickle curve when dog at attention. When carried up, tail should not curl too tightly, nor should it curl to either side of body, or snap flat against back. Hair on tail of medium length and approximately same length all rouund. A trailing tail is normal for a dog when working or in repose.
Gait/Movement: Smooth and seemingly effortless. Quick and light on feet, gaited on a loose lead at a moderately fast trot, exhibiting good reach in forequaters and good drive in hindquaters. When walking, legs move in parallel but as speed increases, gradually angling inward to single track. As paw marks converge forelegs and hindlegs carried straight with neither elbows nor stifles turning in or out, each hindleg moving in path of forleg on same side. Topline of back remaining firm and level during gaiting.
Coat: Double and medium in length, giving a well furred appearance, never so long as to obscure clean-cut outline of dog. Undercoat soft and dense of sufficient length to support outer coat. Guard hairs of outer coat straight and somewhat smooth-lying, never harsh, rough or shaggy, too silky not standing off from the body. Absence of undercoat during shedding normal. No trimming of fur on any part of dog, except feet.
Colour: All colours and markings, including white, allowed. Variety of makings on head is common, including many striking patterns not found in other breeds.
Size: Height - Dogs 53-60cms (21-23.5ins) at withers
Bitches 51-56cms (20-22 ins) at withers
Weight - Dogs 20-27kgs (45-60lbs)
Bitches 16-23kgs (35-50lbs)
Weight should be in proportion to height. These measurements represent the extremes in height and weight with no preference given to either extreme. A dog should not exceed 60cms (23ins) or a bitch exceed 56cms (22ins)
Faults: Any departure from the foregoing should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regardeexact proportion to its degreed should be in .
Note: Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
The Siberian Husky was bred by the Chukchi people of Siberia over many centuries as a winter sled-dog. In summer they had to fend for themselves and so retain strong pack instincts and a talent for hunting and roaming. Owners who want a more civilised dog may find these characteristics intolerable.