Short Description of 4 Sled Dogs Breeds
by Maria Czerwinska
It has been a human companion since ever. Shared his place by the fire, guarded his
home, accompanied him hunting and conquering new territories; the most faithful friend,
always ready to sacrifice for a handful of food, some warmth, and a petting hand – A
DOG, the earliest domesticated animal.
The oldest known excavated remains are dated for about 10 thousand years B.C.E. We
can thus assume it was then the stable relations between a dog and a man started, and
last continuously until now. In his theory of evolution Carol Darwin claims dog originates
from the golden jackal (Canis Aureus) and a wolf (Canis Lupus). Still controversies among
scientists remain what subspecies of wolves participated in shaping the present DOG.
And though both evolution and creation of the tight relations between a dog and humans
has not been finally explained, I think the theory assuming the primitive man, armed
with a primitive weapon, with slim chances of hunting a quarry, sought allies in a
natural way, is the most probable one. It is thus possible men were following the traces of
packs of wolves in order to drive them back from their prey. Close relations of the both
species became inevitable then, moreover they were united in one attribute, common for
both humans and wolves: the hierarchic, clearly determined structure of a flock,
necessary for its efficient functioning. It is also possible that young puppies were taken in
for to become favorite playmates and consequently turned into the handy hunting
members of the human flock.
Another theory claims a dog was appreciated primarily as a camp guard being superior
in smell, hearing, and eyesight, whose presence kept other predators away. One may
assume in all likelihood the process of dogs domestication run gradually, as dogs were
getting accustomed to the sight of humans, and those more courageous and less
aggressive members of a pack started to approach human domiciles, may be seeking
warmth of burning fire during cold snowy or rainy nights. More intelligent humans
noticed in time they were able to dominate dogs and make them obedient thus taking
over a role of guides within that mixed flock of humans and dogs. One may contemplate
the conditionings of the birth of those strong and long-lasting, until today, bonds
between a man and a dog for a long time, but regardless the origins of the friendship it is
well known they were close companions as long ago as 8 thousand years. Valuing given
features of dogs, a man started in time to select them accordingly to desired traits; thus
consequently differentiated them in many respects.
I am personally fascinated with pulling dogs and that is a group I would like to bring
closer to the readers here.
Currently classified by the FCI as group V – the Spitz – subgroup: Northern Pulling (Sled)
Dogs, characterized by well muscled limbs, strong paws, and thick pelage. A thick pelt
between fingers of its paws enables them to run long time, often across sticky snow. A
perfect smell is another feature of Northern dogs. They can track animals and smell a
distant human domicile or a strange human’s trace. Apart from working in a pulling
team they often take part in hunting even a big game like a bear or a musk-ox.
The most familiar name is undoubtedly the Husky, often mixed up with the Malamute. In
fact those are very different breeds as far as their origin, size, and exterior are concerned.
The Alaskan Malamute is the biggest and strongest pulling dog. The breed originates
from North America, and the name after the deformed word “A-la-as-ka” meaning “The
Great Land”, and The Mahlemiut – the name of an Indian tribe populating the present
Alaskan Peninsula. It is characterized by big strength, endurance, and an interesting
disposition. It is a very friendly dog, a good and faithful companion. It does not belong to
just one man, everybody can provoke it to play. It is very useful to work and play with a
disable child or an adult person. It can serve as a pulling force of a wheelchair and as a
soft toy (a confessor) for long lonely hours in the world inaccessible for others. It can be a
perfect handy companion for those loving lonely hikes in the mountains, woods or lakes,
not only accompanying but helping to carry our luggage. We have to have in mind
however its origin and the related atavism it is burdened with. Since it use to be a
hunting dog with Indians too and it may become somehow troublesome for us. So we
should not let it hunt a neighbors’ poultry and control it while in the woods, moreover
that it may resemble a wolf to “hunters”.
The Siberian Husky is similar in color (gray with a white mask) and often mixed up with
the Alaskan Malamute. Yet it is much lighter and slightly smaller too. To compare:
Alaskan Malamute – height 63,5 cm (dog), 58,5 cm (bitch); weight 38-40 kg., and 34,9-36
kg., and the Siberian Husky – height 53,5-59,6 cm (dog), and 50,5-55,9 cm (bitch); the
weight proportionally smaller: 20-27 kg. (dog), and 15-22 kg. (bitch). Smaller and lighter
Siberian Husky is nevertheless much faster than the Malamute and the fastest from
among all pulling dogs. It is also more lively and vigorous. It is worth remembering while
considering the choice of a puppy. Considering those features in competitions the breed
is classified separately. They are also characterized with blue eyes or one blue and the
other brown. Colors are much varied. All are acceptable: from black to pure white.
Different marks on the head are common, and gray-white mask very similar to that one
of the Malamute. As the very name indicates, it originates from Asia and more precisely
from East Siberia where it was bred by the Kamtchadahls, the Koriaks, the Tchuktches,
and the Yagakirovs. The dogs were brought about to America at the beginning of the 20
century, and we owe American breeders the first description of the breed.
Also from Asia, the territory between the Yenisey river and the Urals, the Samoyede
comes (the name originate from the nomadic tribe that populated the area). They are
gorgeous, snow-white, furry, elegant, and full of grace. Their height is about 57-60 cm.
(dogs), and 53-56 cm. (bitches). They used to play extensive roles in the past: as
shepherds (to guard reindeers), hunting dogs, and pulling. I think they are the most
good-natured and mostly devoted to men from among all pulling breeds. Generally
distrustful to strangers, they are mostly helpful as guarding dogs since they “have it in
their blood”. They proved in our climate, like the above mentioned breeds, and they can
stay inside in town, and outside in backyard. Their coat needs more grooming (combing),
but instead they do not lose their pelage if one takes care of it. They are irreplaceable and
persistent playmates for kids, looking at us with their smiling and joyful eyes and face.
The Gronlandshund, or the Greenland Dog, is the fourth and the last pulling breed. As
the name indicates, it originated from Greenland and it is probably the most resilient of
all pulling dogs. The height at the withers is 60 cm., or more and bitches 55 cm., or
more. They are of any color uniform or complex, with an exception of albinos which
should be disqualified. They are also the most self-reliant and relatively less related to
humans so we have to devote much time to bring up the puppies early enough in order to
build up strong friendly bonds. They are much faster than the Malamutes though they
are classified together in contests. There are just a few of them in Poland now.
The work of pulling dogs was very hard in the past. A team composed of several to dozen
dogs had to pull a sledge with a cargo of even 500 – 600 kg., running with a speed of 10 –
15 km/h, and covering a distance of 80 – 100 km. and more in some cases, during one
day. They usually were spending nights under the open skies in holes dug in snow. They
slept curled up with their mouth close to chest and covered with their furry tails thus
surviving in extremely low temperatures down to 45 –50 C. Arctic life conditions made
them hardened, very strong, courageous, and resilient. They have to be tolerant since
through generations human leftovers was their only food: remains of fish, seals, whale
skin. Fight for full stomach was popular: Huskies, e.g., learned to catch jumping fish in
the water with a great agility, like bears do. Also crabs, mussels, bird eggs, small rodents,
hares, and even a carrion was their food. The harsh polar conditions forced the animals
to uncompromisingly fight for existence. Instances of cannibalism also happened; once a
team dog collapsed, the hungry rest of them pounced on it and fed in no time.
The situation of Northern breeds dog has recently changed for their benefit. Motor-driven
sledges, airplanes, displaced dog teams from their ancient trails of the Far North. Many
people charmed with the exotic attraction of the kind breed them mainly “for the
exterior”, for esthetic experience. Fortunately more and more people understand the
Northern dogs are made for run and work in team is their element. In Western countries
weekly short distance races, 5 to 12 km., are organized (depending on category), and also
three-to-four day long distance races up to 50 km. daily. The organizers for whom that
sport makes their way of life are associated in private sports clubs and organizations.
That sport is slowly becoming more and more popular also here. The first Polish Sled
Dogs Sport Club “CZE-NE-KA” was established in 1991, grouping lovers and owners of
pulling dogs, as well as those who possessing no dogs but became involved in social work
defined by us as “dog-human therapy”.
Couple of new clubs associating more and more lovers of the sport came into being
during last 2-3 years. There are two federations recently in Poland: one grouping 4
pulling breeds dogs owners (pure breed – pedigree), and the other grouping the owners of
both pedigree as well as non-pedigree ones, and also the crosses of those breeds (racing
dogs). There are also clubs not associated in any of the federation.
Few months after the first born in Poland Malamute Cze-ne-ka, the chief character of the
TV serial “Janka” died, the Foundation of People and Animals Friendship CZE-NE-KA
was registered, and the Sled Dogs Sports Club became its part.