Owning a Florida Siberian Husky, I get strange looks and comment when in public. People tend to stereotype the breed of dogs and think that they only belong in cold weather climates. Although it is true that a Siberian Husky can and do flurish in cold temperatures, it is also true that having a Siberian Husky in Florida is not considered cruel and unusual punishment. To understand a Siberian Husky you must first understand their history.
The Siberian Husky were bred and raised by the Chukchi people of Russia, for thousands of years. This tribe of Siberian nomads needed dogs that could offer fast, efficient transportation over the enormous frozen Tundra. Known for their gentle nature, Siberian Huskies often served as soft, furry beds for the children, hence the phrase “three dog night”. Powerful and agile, this average size dog was able to swiftly cover extensive distances on a nominal amount of food.[singlepic id=6 w=320 h=240 float=right]
The first Siberian Husky team made its appearance in the 1909 All Alaska Sweepstakes Race. Charles Fox Maule Ramsay and his team imported a large number of Huskies to Alaska that year. Driven by John “Iron Man” Johnson, they won the grueling 408-mile race in 1910. Siberian Huskies, particularly those bred and raced by Leonhard Seppala, captured most of the racing titles in Alaska over a ten year span, where the rugged terrain was ideally suited to the endurance capabilities of the breed. Leonhard Seppala and became famous for his outstanding racing Siberians. One particularly famous lead dog of Seppala’s was Togo. from about 1917 to 1925 Togo was Seppala’s permanent leader, although Seppala frequently used him as a lead dog even before 1917. Togo was the most famous and most traveled dog in Alaska, with many racing victories to his credit. He was scrappy, fast, and brilliant.
Togo was instrumental in saving many lives in the Alaskan village of Nome. In January 1925, doctors realized that a potentially deadly diphtheria epidemic was poised to sweep through Nome’s young people. Unfortunately for them, the only serum that could stop the outbreak was nearly a thousand miles away, in Anchorage. The only aircraft that could quickly deliver the medicine had been dismantled for the winter. Officials, In desperation, turned to a much lower-tech solution: moving the medicine by sled dog.
The serum was transported by railroad from Anchorage to Nenana, the train stop closest the trail that led to Nome. Yet, the distance from Nenana to Nome was still more than 670 miles, and the serum had to be transported across rough, potentially deadly terrain. Battling temperatures that rarely rose above 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, more than 20 mushers took part, battling winds that sometimes blew strong enough to knock over sleds and dogs. Reporters brought news of the race to a world suddenly transfixed by the drama in the far north.
Led by Togo, Leonhard Seppala’s team ran 91 miles, the longest and most dangerous leg of the relay, including a treacherous stretch over the unpredictable ice of Norton Sound. Togo faithfully led his team into a gale force winds, on the way to the handoff to the next musher. Seppala’s team covered more than 260 miles, out from Nome and back, in the serum run
On February 2, 1925, just six days later, Gunner Kaassen drove his heroic dog team lead by a husky named Balto, into the streets of Nome. Balto’s furry face soon became known around the world. A year later, in honor of the epic trek, admirers erected a statue of Balto in New York City’s Central Park. The statue is inscribed with the following:
“Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dogs that relayed antitoxin six hundred miles over rough ice across treacherous waters through arctic blizzards from Nenana to the relief of stricken Nome in the Winter of 1925. Endurance, Fidelity, Intelligence”
Balto was suddenly a world-famous celebrity; for two years after the serum run, the dog and some of his teammates traversed the continental United States as part of a traveling show. After his death in 1933, Balto’s body was preserved and displayed at Cleveland’s Natural History Museum. In 1995, a popular animated movie about Balto was released, adding to his fame.
Many of today’s Siberian Huskies have pedigrees tracing back to Seppala’s great racing dogs, including Siberians used primarily for showing and Siberians used primarily for working. One unique trait of a Siberian Husky that dates back to the original sled dogs, is their coats. Their coat is made up of two layers. The top layer is made up of long coarse stands of fur. This layer is designed to repel. Originally it would repel the snow and keep it from penetrating into the undercoat. For a Florida Siberian Husky it has another function, it reflects the sun creating a natural sun block.
Their undercoat is a soft almost downy like fur layer. In cold climates this layer would help to keep the cold and moisture from getting down to the dog’s skin. Siberian Huskies in Florida can also benefit from this insulating layer of fur. In Florida a Siberian Husky needs to keep cool. The insulating undercoat helps to keep the heat from getting down to the skin and allows the bodies own natural cooling mechanism to work less hard in keeping the body cool. This is why Florida Siberian Huskies tend to withstand the heat better than other breed, less suited for extreme temperatures.