|Seppala Siberian Sleddog|
|Country of origin|
|Breed standard (external link)|
|ISSSC (International Seppala Siberian|
A rare working dog breed, the Seppala Siberian Sleddog was developed for the purpose of pulling a sled in cold country. It is a moderate-sized breed averaging 40 to 50 pounds weight and 22 or 23 inches height. Colours and markings are considered of little importance; eyes may be brown, blue or any combination of the two colours. Seppalas are active and energetic but very docile and trainable.
Seppalas show a primitive canine type, never having been bred or selected for beauty or for the show ring. The breed shares its ancestral base with the Siberian Husky (SH) and for half a century shared the same registry with that breed, but was bred always exclusively as a working sleddog breed in its own right and kept apart from show bloodlines. In the late 1990s it was recognised by Canadian agricultural authorities as a new “evolving breed” and in 2002 a similar separate breed initiative was started in the USA.
Bred by the legendary dog driver Leonhard Seppala from dogs imported into Alaska from eastern Siberia, the Seppala Siberians became famous in Alaska for their domination of the All-Alaska Sweepstakes distance race in the period from 1914 to 1917. Later they became popular in New England when Seppala raced there and ran a kennel in Poland Spring, Maine.
In 1939 the last Siberia imports, along with several of Seppala’s dogs, became the breed foundation for the “Siberian Huskie” in Canada. Seppala Kennels of Harry R. Wheeler in St. Jovite Station, Quebec, bred Seppala Siberians until 1950 in genetic isolation from the developing SH breed in the USA, which gradually became oriented more and more toward dog shows. A succession of Seppala breeders kept the strain alive through the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1963 the third Seppala Kennels, run by C. S. MacLean and J. D. McFaul in Maniwaki, Quebec, closed without a successor kennel and by 1969 the unique Leonhard Seppala strain faced extinction. It was saved by timely action of two breeders: Markovo Kennels in Canada and Seppineau Kennels in the USA. The bloodline was then carried forward and developed as a serious mid-distance racing sleddog by Douglas W. Willett of Sepp-Alta Kennels in the state of Utah.
The Seppala Siberian Sleddog Project started in 1993 by the protagonists of the Markovo rescue effort won Agriculture Canada’s recognition for Seppalas in July of 1997. The fourth historic Seppala Kennels in the Yukon Territory carried the breeding forward. In July of 2002 Doug Willett undertook a similar breed initiative through the Continental Kennel Club’s registry in the USA.
Seppalas differ markedly from typical Siberian Huskies in physical appearance, being in general less flashily-marked, longer in leg and body length and lighter in weight and physical build than most SH show dogs. They tend to be more trainable than SH and more highly bonded to their owners. The disposition of the Seppala Siberian Sleddog is active, merry and often quite inquisitive though sometimes showing great reserve with strangers.Stable and serious temperament, neither nervous nor aggressive, is characteristic. Natural, innate sleddog mentality is a primary characteristic of Seppala dogs. Their nature is highly co-operative. They show great seriousness in their work in harness.
Many Seppalas are pure white or buff and white. Others are very dark, black or charcoal grey with dark faces and white only on feet and tail-tip. There are many varied shades of grey, brownish grey and blue-grey. “Sable” reds with black-tipped guard hairs and black noses occur, but the liver-nosed “copper” phase so common in SH is unknown among Seppalas. Piebald spotting is common.
Seppalas are known for their extremely smooth and well-coordinated gait and for the consistency and strength with which they pull in harness. Although they appear to the inexperienced eye to be rather small and lightly-built for sleddogs, actually they are far more efficient pullers than some larger northern breeds. They are capable racing sleddogs, particularly in mid-distance events, although perhaps not as speedy as world-class Alaskan huskies or pointer-crossed hybrids.
Like other northern breeds, they shed their coats hugely once or twice a year, cannot safely be allowed to run free off leash, and love to hunt small game. They are generally robust and healthy, living twelve to sixteen years, usually working well in harness up to ten or eleven years of age. Health issues for the breed are those common to all northern breeds, such as allergies, cancer and eye problems. They are highly efficient in their use of food, eating relatively little but requiring very high quality nutrition rich in animal protein, animal fat and fish oil.
The defining characteristics of the breed are its natural, primitive appearance, its highly-developed work ethic, and its affectionate, co-operative and highly-bonded nature.