Yes these are real sled dogs ~ they are Alaskan Huskies

Dust

I have a bone to pick with the folks at Disney. They need to stop hiring actors to play sled dogs in the movies. All too often visitors to the Yukon Quest office will comment “Oh they are so small” when meeting my dogs. And I, for one, blame the casting agents at Disney and other various media giants for not using the predominant breed in racing sled dogs. With all due respect to my pure breed mushing friends; becuase, many dogs are fun, and successful in harness, but when it comes to competitive mushing, with a few notable exceptions: Mike Ellis and Karen Ramstead come to mind, Alaskan huskies are the dog you see pulling sleds in the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest, and the 200-400 mile qualifying races leading up to those major 1000 mile events. And they do not need a stand in that looks more like a sled dog, they deserve to be seen as they are for what they are: awesome canine athletes capable of running farther faster then just about anything. – *disclaimer* I had to add the ‘just about’, I actually saw a show on animal planet years ago that said Alaskan huskies were in fact THE most extreme distance traveler, beating wolves and caribou; but have never been able to find the documentation to back this up. Feel free to help if you have a link

Yes the movie actors are lovely to look at. Whereas strength and endurance kicks butt! And that is exactly what these amazing endurance athletes we call Alaskan Huskies are. Not that they can’t be  beautiful, it’s just that is not what is truly impressive about them. There has never been a standard of looks for sled dogs, and no dog is too ugly to be bred if it is the very best, proven, preformance dog. Their capacity and attitude give them a beauty all their own. As I have said before, these dogs are the ultimate endurance marathon athletes. Lean muscle mass, huge aerobic capacity, and an ability to utilize fats for energy in a way humans can only dream of make them superior runners. And I can not imagine why these amazing dogs would not be the dog of choice to play themselves in movies about sled dog racing in Alaska. But alas they are often overlooked, and movies are shot with dogs that big-wigs think the American public thinks a sled dog ought to look like.

Just look at the wonderful pictures taken by Steve and Kim Whitworth of Florida on their recent visit to the Yukon Quest office. These two females, Loben and Dust were with me on all of my races this past winter: the Copper Basin 300, the Yukon Quest, the Iditarod, and the Yukon Flats 300, for a grand total of 2600 race miles! You can not tell me they are not amazing. Now I am admittedly biased, but surely they are also pretty enough to star in movies.

With the beautiful Loben (L) and Dust (R) at the Yukon Quest office in Fairbanks. They may be little but they are mighty.

And while I am clearing up common misconceptions about Alaskan huskies…

Yes they are a breed. This is not news to those of us who breed them. Although never bred for looks, always for purpose, there was still a very calculated effort to breed the best racing sled dogs, and over generations this work in progress has become the Alaskan Husky. Recent research has confirmed this on a genetic level.

Loben

Speaking about the results, in this article from Science Daily, researcher Heather Huson said, “The Alaskan sled dog presents a case in which a genetically distinct breed of dog has been developed through the selection and breeding of individuals based solely on their athletic prowess. Interestingly, this continual out-crossing for athletic enhancement has still led to the Alaskan sled dog repeatedly producing its own unique genetic signature. Indeed, the Alaskan sled dog breed proved to be more genetically distinct than breeds of similar heritage such as the Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky.”

The Alaskan Sled Dog — A Genetic Breed Apart (the primer)
http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2156/11/71/
– the longer more scientific version

The science and athletic capacity of Alaskan huskies is only part of what makes us  love them dearly. It is also the relationship with them, these amazing adventures with them, and their individual personalities that have earned them a special place in our hearts and sealed their role in our lives.

Loben and Dust, 2 amazing athletes

You can see more of Dew Claw’s summer photos on Facebook

 


About Jodi

Jodi Bailey and Dan Kaduce live a life with dogs. They own Dew Claw Kennel a competitive long distance kennel where dogs come first. Jodi and Dan have each finished both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod 1000 mile sled dog races, in addition to many other races in Alaska. http://www.dewclawkennel.com/
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10 Responses to Yes these are real sled dogs ~ they are Alaskan Huskies

  1. Philip Walters says:

    So true! I’m working on a glacier mushing operation this summer and so many folks come up expecting to see malamutes and Siberians running around! (I can only imagine how badly those guys would deal with the heat…) We joke with our guests that Alaskan huskies are “purebred mutts”– deliberately mixed-breed. “You see that dog over there? The one that looks like a German shepherd? And then that one over there that looks like he’s got some collie in him? Yeah, they’re Alaskan huskies.”

  2. Louise Midkiff says:

    This is so true, Jodi. I have one personal friend out at Homestretch Kennels in particular, whose name is Happy. He’s only at his best and happiest when he’s in harness and running full tilt. I have a picture of him and the team that I really love showing a big grin on his face and running like crazy down the street at the 2011 Iditarod Ceremonial Start. He’s beautiful!

  3. Yuki says:

    Quality information, stylish website template, continue the good work

  4. Merle says:

    Thanks for finding the time to explain the terminlogy to the newcomers!

  5. Mike says:

    Great article, sweet website template, stick to the good work

    • Alma says:

      I heard of the Iditarod for the first time last summer at the LASCBWI cefnorence, when Gary Paulson spoke of it. Wow! I would love to be able to follow some of it live! Thanks for this link, Loni!

  6. Pingback: Students ask the best questions ~ | Dew Claw Kennel: Yukon Quest and Iditarod Mushers

  7. I really enjoyed this site. It is nice when you read something that is not only informative but entertaining. Outstanding!

  8. Kaycie says:

    I won’t lie, I don’t know the first thing about dog sledding. I also didn’t know the Alaskan Husky existed until I picked one out of a litter of 13 from the back of a woman’s truck five months ago. For weeks I went on believing Keko was a lab-husky mix; in part that was true. I just didn’t know what KIND of husky. I can personally say this article doesn’t lie, though. She’s beautiful, fast, has a wonderful personality and endless amounts of energy. You should see the looks people give me when I tell them her breed. Some have even told me there’s no such thing as an Alaskan Husky!

    As a side note to this I’d like to add how clever they can be. She finds her way out of every rule and problem. Last week I even hooked her up to a sled, threw some logs on it for weight, and let her run her heart out. By Friday she was pulling my little nephew around (who’s managed to teach her how to stop, surprisingly). I’d have to say their excellent dogs; really and truly.

    But normal pet owners beware, they’re not easy! If you’re unwilling or unable to put in the work required for these dogs, you probably shouldn’t get one (at least not a puppy!). They’re at their best while working, so they’re best as working dogs.

  9. Pingback: Sled Dogs ~ the truth about these amazing athletes. | Dew Claw Blog: a life lived with dogs