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There is not one unique type of sled dog. Several races are able to run and each possesses its own specific characteristics.

The Siberian husky is a dog suitable for wide open spaces.

Origin: The famous « husky » is originally from the North-East of Siberia.

Name: Its name would come from a tribe that used to breed them, the « Chuchkis ». But for some other people, the word « husky » means « hoarse » in Eskimo language. 

Particularity: One of these dogs’ particularities is that they almost never bark; they howl just like wolves do.

Physical Characteristics: beautiful dog, known by everyone, its fur has different colors. Its hair is long and silky, combined with a second layer of very thick hair, which allows him to be resistant to cold weather. 

Character: This is not a dog one should own only because it is beautiful. Before its looks it is first and foremost an athlete who needs wide open spaces. Its character is one of a cat, it likes to runaway, these dogs love running and love the snow, for these reasons it was the dog the most abandoned in numerous countries.

True/false: Very often said to have blue eyes, this is a common mistake! This is not a characteristic of those perfect Nordic dogs, even if it is true that some huskies have wonderful eyes, blue or another color.

Record: The husky is the fastest of all four recognized Nordic dogs.  Several thousand of dog teams of those breeds participate in races in winter all around the world.

The Alaskan husky, the most capable in the world

Particularity: The Alaskan husky is a very special dog breed. Those dogs were « selected » since the early 20th century, not for their looks, but for their sport abilities.

Origin: The Alaskan, as we call it, is originally a crossbreeding between Siberian huskies, Indian dogs, wolves and a few other labor dogs. It became the most capable sled dog in the world.

Physical characteristic: Its small size (16 to 24 kilos) makes him a real snow marathon runner, tough and resistant, rarely sick.

Anecdote: The Alaskans represent currently about 90% of all competition sled dogs in the world. The big breeding stocks are located in Alaska and in Canada.
Mushers train those dogs depending on the type of race they participate to: speed race, medium distance, long distance (like La Grande Odyssée). The most capable mushers can have 100 dogs or more. 

The malamute of Alaska : powerful , but slow…

Origin: « powerhouse of the snow» is what was named long ago the biggest of all Nordic dogs. The malamute, massive dog which can reach 40 kg, is originally from Alaska.

Particular sign: It is named after an Eskimo tribe, known as the Malliumiu (also called Mahlemuts). The heaviest and the most powerful of all sled dogs is also the slowest. That’s why we almost never see him anymore in races, where he’s only harnessed by a few impassioned of this breed.

Anecdote: Vigorous and massive dog, its bad temper is also part of its reputation. Able to pull colossal loads, it also appears now in weight pulling competition: one dog must pull up one sled heavily loaded on a 50 meters distance… the winner is the one that manages to pull up the biggest load!
Some malamutes win this competition regularly with loads weighting over 4 tons. One of the most famous sequences in The Call of the Wild from jack London, recounts Buck’s accomplishment in this exercise, to please his master.

Le Greenlander, the big explorers’ mate

Origin: Relatively close to the malamute in its general gait, although less massive, the Greenlander, as its name suggests, has a very different origin.
Selected by Eskimo tribes from Greenland, this dog breed was used by the well known French Polar explorer Paul-Émile Victor. The American Peary and the Norwegian Amundsen also used it to conquer the North and South Poles.
Shortly before the Second World War, Paul-Émile Victor brought back a bunch of dogs, with which he underwent the big Alps expedition. Those dogs’ descendants were then used for the construction of the highest European railway, the Jungfrau train in Switzerland. These dogs are still over there and one can have a go around the glacier on a sled pulled by them!

Physical Characteristics: Le Greenlander, also called the Greenland Eskimo, is a powerful dog, highly muscular, with bad temper, faster than a malamute for pulling a sled but nonetheless not much used for sled dog races anymore.

The Greyster, the speed races champion
Origin: For the Greyster, it all started in Norway, in the mid 80’s. In order to increase their dog’s speed potential, some breeders of this country decide to do some crossbreeding between a hunting dog, German shorthaired pointer, and a real sprinter, the American greyhound.
That’s how the Greyster was born, a sort of half blood became, through generations, the most efficient sled dog for speed racing.

Record: He’s now the king of short races (from 4 to 20 kilometers by stage, depending on the number of harnessed dogs) and of the Scandinavian Pulka. For the last few years, the Sweden Egill Ellis has brought progress to this breed by a crossbreeding with the Alaskan husky, in order to improve its endurance. Its team remains, since 2000, unbeatable on this competition format, in the whole world!

Le Samoyed, a rather unadventurous athlete!

Particularity: Famous Nordic dog with a white and rich fur, the Samoyed is without a doubt, the dog the closest to what was the primitive type. But it is not a very good sled dog.

Distinctive signs: Sweet and very often affectionate, this dog was more used as a dog back than as a sled dog, by reindeers breeders in the North of Siberia. Since then it became a family dog. Nowadays, only a few Samoyed remain in sled dog competitions.
Well, beauty is not enough to make an athlete! We will keep in mind though that the Samoyed is the only one among the other Nordic dogs to actually really bark. 

The « chinooks »

The « breed » chinook took that name in memory of the arctic explorer Arthur Wolden’s dog’s name.
The admiral Byrd had asked the latter to prepare the dogs teams which became the core of its Antarctic expedition. Chinook leads Byrd’s dogs and earns the respect of all, allowing completing the mission He disappeared in 1920 on the ice floe and his body remained unfound, earning honors of the New York Times front page.

Chinook’s descendants were the basis of a breed now almost extinguished, very often named in the Guiness records book as one of the rarest in the world!
Let’s hope that this « All american dog , as the president of the United States Edgar Hoover, called the chinook, does not disappear completely from his earth.