Showsight August 2020


have thick, woolly, and sometimes oilier undercoats while having the coarse outer guard hair coat. Too often the show dogs have coats that are blown dry and open, losing their protective lay. The full, plume-like tail is also protective, shielding the face and nose from blowing snow when staked out. Feet should be snowshoe- shaped to enable greater displacement of body weight through the snow. Another breed that predates the emergence of modern breeds in the 19th century is the Samoyed. Siberian in origin, the Samo- yed was originally used for hunting, herding reindeer, and hauling the sleds of the nomadic Samoyede peoples. The herding of rein- deer was primarily achieved through tending and driving; how- ever, the breed has not been purposefully used for this in over 100 years. Today, the breed as a whole does not exhibit a consistent desire or interest in herding. Despite being “prettied” for the show ring, the Samoyed retains the type of its ancestors as well as the general hobby use of its working abilities. Trimming is verboten in the breed; however, trimmed/shaped specimens do enter show rings and are easily dis- cernible to the learned eye. The parent club recognizes various breed-specific working cat- egories, including sled and cart racing, excursion sledding or cart- ing, weight pull, packing, skijoring, and herding. It also awards progressively more difficult working Samoyed titles that encom- pass one or more of these disciplines, with the highest level having to succeed in at least four of the disciplines. Originally bred over a period of almost 3,000 years by the Chukchi people of Northeast Asia to guard, pull sleds, herd rein- deer, and provide companionship, the Siberian Husky was well adapted to life in the harsh, cold Siberian Arctic environment. During the summer, the dogs were released to hunt in packs and fend for themselves. As winter approached and food became scarce, the dogs returned to the villages for sustenance (their own) and to assist the Chukchi with their needs. The breed retains a primitive hunting instinct. The Chukchi dogs were brought to Alaska as sled dogs in 1908- 09 by a Russian fur trader during the Nome gold rush. Leonhard Seppala, famous for his Siberian Husky team’s 340-mile diphthe- ria “serum run” in 1925, demonstrated the speed and endurance inherent in the working aspects of the breed. Thereafter, Sep- pala became active in sled dog racing in the Northeastern US. Some direct imports from Siberia in 1930, plus Seppala’s dogs, sowed the seeds of the modern Siberian Husky. Today’s Siberian Husky most closely resembles those imports from 1930. However, emphasis on the show ring has brought about a stronger focus on greater consistency of type, markings, and furnishings. Needless to say, the forced air blow-drying of coats renders them plush, open, and non-protective. “Rather than selecting for size and strength as the Inuit always had, the Chukchi dogs were chosen for obedience and endurance. They would run at only moderate speed, but for long distances. They would be small—and hence easy for families to provide for—and each dog would have an amiable disposition that would make them ideal for working as part of a larger team.” 1 Presumed to have gone extinct as a working dog, the Chuk- chi dog was found in 2001 when Benedict Allen traveled to the Chukchi peninsula and northernmost reaches of the Bering Strait.

There he found the breed still being used for its intended pur- pose. The demise of the Soviet Union had curtailed the govern- ment handouts to the people of the region and, once again, the indigenous sledding/herding dogs enabled their people to endure. The parent club in the United States maintains a working pro- gram in order to perpetuate the breed’s working and performance capabilities. There are various award levels within the sled dog program. It is interesting to note that a “sprint” race is considered to be four miles. For distance races, the minimum distances are 8 to 10 times the number of dogs in the hitch, i.e., 8 x 6 dogs in hitch = 48 miles, 10 x 12 dogs in hitch = 120 miles! There are individu- als who actively exhibit in the breed ring and participate in hobby sledding and carting as well as competitive sledding. This writer recently became aware of a well-awarded Siberian Husky bitch whose winters are devoted to sledding with her owner/musher. Are we paying attention to the original intent of the breed when observing it? How conscious are we of these real and per- ceived differences when we make our judging decisions, be they in the show ring, working trials, sledding work, or in breeding? Is there is a divergence in type or morphology? What are we doing, as breeders and judges, to close the gap? I’ll look forward to your commentary and questions on this article, as well as the ones that follow in this series. Feel free to send your comments to or to me at jol- . The parent club recognizes various breed-specific working categories, including sled and cart racing, excursion sledding or carting, weight pull, packing, skijoring, and herding. It also awards progressively more difficult working Samoyed titles that encompass one or more of these disciplines, with the highest level having to succeed in at least four of the disciplines.

1 “An iceman’s best friend”. Benedict Allen in Geographical , December 2006.


Powered by