Breed History

The Origins

The Siberian Husky, as its’ name would suggest, originated from Siberia, developed by the Chukchi's, who were ancient Siberian hunting peoples. Climate change in the region from a relatively mild climate to one of intense cold led to the Chukchi’s becoming a nomadic race.  They had to travel large distances to reach their main food source, reindeer, who were, themselves, travelling vast amounts of ground in search of food. The Chukchi’s had also been pushed far into the interior of Siberia away from the Bering Srait by the Eskimos. This meant that to reach the seal-rich Bering Strait, again, they had to cover large distances in harsh conditions. The dogs became highly prized for their strength and ability to aid the Chukchi in their everyday tasks. Over time, the Chukchi learned how to domesticate and ‘farm’ the reindeer. This led to them developing and selecting their dogs for speed, endurance and agility rather than just brute strength, as they now had the reindeer to pull the heaviest loads. This meant that Siberian Huskies were much smaller in body, bone and build than many other Arctic breeds

The Russians tried to conquer the Chukchi peoples. Despite killing many many Chukchi’s – and their dogs – the Russians did essentially fail, deciding it better just to proclaim that they had conquered the area. This was not the end, as in the Stalinist Communist era, it was decided that all manners of traditional life would be stopped, and this even meant killing the native dog breeds in order to replace them with motorised vehicles. Of course, again, the Chukchi did know best, and by all accounts, even in these hard times, found it amusing that the Soviets did have to admit the worth of the dogs when they found that all their supposed superior vehicles all froze up in the harsh tundra of the Siberian interior.

Much favoured by Russian explorers who charted the Siberian coastline in the 17th century, Siberians from the Chukchi peoples made their first reported appearances in Alaska in the early 1900’s. It was always going to happen, due to close proximity of Siberia and Alaska, separated only by the Bering Strait. Chances are that the Chukchi dogs were actually in Alaska a long time before these reported cases, indeed a Russian Lieutenant named Zogoskin, wrote of his experiences of sled dogs in the Alaskan region in 1842 through to 1844, detailing the way in which the Alaskan natives were driving their dogs.

In 1908, a Russian fur trader named William Goosak crossed the Bering Strait and arrived in Nome, Alaska – a place so called purely as a result of the mis reading of a clerks writing on a map of the words ‘no name’- with the intention of running in the 1909 All Alaska Sweepstakes Race – a then 408 mile race. Quickly named ‘Siberian Rats’ by the locals, due to their lighter frames and smaller size, it looked as if Goosak would have an uphill struggle convincing the Alaskans’ of his dogs abilities. Goosak persuaded Louis Thurstrup to drive his team, and, to everyone’s surprise, nearly won the race. He finally finished third in that year, mainly due to a strategical error by Thurstrup. Goosak sold his dogs to a Nome fur trader named Charlie Madsen.

The dogs had, however, inspired another, namely a young Scotsman named Fox Maule Ramsay. He was the second son of the Earl of Dalhousie and arrived in Nome with tow uncles. The family has interests in the goldfields. Ramsay was fascinated by the dog driving, and with the help and advice of Ivor Olsen, he went to the small settlement of Markovo on the banks of the Anadyr River in Siberia, and reports says he purchased somewhere in the region of 60 to 70 of the best dogs. The 1910 All Alaska Sweepstakes saw Ramsay enter three teams. He entered one team in his own name which he drove, one in the name of his uncle Colonel Charles Ramsay, driven by John ‘Iron Man’ Johnson, and the third in the name of his other uncle, Colonel Weatherly Stuart, driven by Charlie Johnson.  

The team driven by John Johnson went on to win the race in a never equalled or beaten time of 74hrs, 14mins and 37 seconds. Fox’s team finished second, and the one driven by Charlie Johnson finished in fourth. From this tome onwards these so called ‘Siberian Rats’ were admired and gained in popularity.

In 1913, a miner in Nome, namely Jafet Lindenberg was contracted by Norwegian explorer Amundson to buy and train up some dogs for an expedition to the North Pole. When the expedition was cancelled, Lindenberg turned all the dogs over to a friend, employee and a fellow Norwegian to be raced for Lindenberg. This man would become one of the greatest names in Siberian Huskies – namely the Norwegian Leonhard Seppala. He won the All Alaska Sweepstakes for a first time in 1915. Seppala is perhaps best known for his heroic actions in the 1925 diphtheria outbreak in Nome. Details of this incredible story can be found in many books

By the 1930’s all major Chukchi villages in Siberia had permanent Russian residents to ensure that the Soviet ‘modernisation program’ was fully implemented. In 1930, seeing the sad decline of the Chukchi dogs, Arctic explorer and fur trader Olaf Swenson selected and exported the last pure bred group of these dogs to Alaska. (He had earlier imported dogs to Leonhard Seppala in Alaska.) The most famous dogs of the last importation were named Kreevanka and Tserko, who went to Elizabth Rickers Poland Spring Kennels in Maine and then on to Harry Wheeler.  

Leonhard Seppala worked to standardise the breed. By means of his travels, he introduced many people to the sport of sled dog racing. The Kennel he set up with Elizabeth Ricker in Poland Spring, Maine – known as the Ricker/Seppala Kennel –, though only in operation for 5 years, set the ‘benchmark’ for the breeds characteristic looks and temperament. Indeed, it's true to say that the breed really developed due to importations in to this Kennel.

From the early days with the Chukchi through its’ introduction to Alaska, and then, in modern times, on round the world, the Siberian Husky has endured. Its’ original function and characteristics must never be forgotten. Let us not change this breed in to anything resembling any other Northern Arctic breed, and let us uphold the type of dog that the Chukchi peoples admired and the early Alaskan breeders worked so hard to standardise! 

Leonhard Seppala with one of his teams.

Leonhard Seppala with one of his teams.

The Breed in the United Kingdom

The first recorded Siberian Husky in the UK was in May 1968 when two puppies were imported from Norway. Mr & Mrs Proffit had seen the bred in Switzerland, and decided to bring a pair in to the country. These were a silver grey dog called Killick, and a dark grey bitch called Togli.

The first Siberian to be registered with the Kennel Club was a grey and white bitch called Yeso Pac’s Tasha. She was owned by Bill and Jean Cracknell. They also imported a male called Savdajaure’s Samovar. Both these dogs feature in the pedigree’s of many Sibes in the UK.

Don and Liz Leich imported two unrelated dogs in Douschka of Northwood and Ilya of Northwood on their return to the UK from the States in 1971. Douschka produced the first litter for the Forstal’s Kennel in 1972. This started a dynasty of dogs still going strong today.

Siberians have been actively worked and shown in the UK since they arrived on these shores. It has always been the mindset in the UK to maintain a dual purpose type dog, rather than fashion it purely for the showring or for the trail.

The most influential lines in the UK have been Alaskan Anadyr of Natalie and Earl Norris and Seppala, and this remains so today, though there has been the recent introduction of European specialist racing lines. Other favoured lines have been Sepp-Alta and Lokiboden. Early custodians of this lovely breed in the early days in addition to the Leichs’ were, Jenny Manley of the Skimarque Kennels, Lynn Harrison of the Brushbow Kennels and  Sandra Bayliss to name a few.  

Siberian Huskies gained Championship status in the UK showring in 1986, when Liz Leich’s daughter, Sally, judged Crufts. The first UK Champion was the Leich’s grey and white dog, Ch Forstal’s Mikishar The Amarok. The first bitch Champion was another Forstal bred dog, namely Keith MacCallum’s red bitch, Ch Forstal’s Noushka. The first Siberian to win a BIS at an All Breeds Championship Show was, again, one of the Leich’s in the grey and white dog Ch Forstal’s Meshka. One of the breeds most influential sires in this country was Goosack of Kolyma, pictured below. 

The 'mother' of the breed in the UK, Liz Leich, pictured with some of her early dogs.

The 'mother' of the breed in the UK, Liz Leich, pictured with some of her early dogs.

Kennels that have had great success in the showring are Forstal - who stand away in number of Champions made up, and CC’s won, Zoox of Chris McRae and Rajarani of Brunette Greenland and Krystyan Greenland and Amical of the late Anthony Rees and currently Caroline Friend-Rees . In addition to these,the following Kennels have won many CC's and made up a large number of Champions; Aceca’s of Bruce and Lyn Hall, Azgard of Chris Barry, Skiivolk of Jenny Littlejohn, Zima of Simon & Shiela Luxmoore. and Rigrunner of Keith & Sarah Robinson In Scotland, Huskidoo of Mark Theaker & Bette Hawthorn and the Alascotia’s of Georgie Lawrence have also had much success. In recent years, Kevin and Elsie Whitehead of Jacalous Siberian Huskies have produced a number of Champions and other top winning dogs. North of the Border, Sharon Jones of Icynights Siberians has bred a number of quality Champions.

Working the dogs has always been of great importance to many in the UK, and the first ever working event was held on the South DownsWay. The first ever race was run in October 1978 at Hankley Common. The course was three miles. A racing calendar was eventually put together, and today many races are organised by many different Breed Clubs and Racing Organisations. The SHCGB even offers an award for the top Dual Purpose Siberian, which rewards dogs for competing and winning at both working rallies and shows. The biggest, and most popular race is the Aviemore Snow Rally run by the SHCGB.

The Breed is served by two breed Clubs. The most senior is the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain which held its inaugural meeting in 1977. The most recent Club is that of the Scottish Siberian Husky Club which was set up in 1996. Both cater very well for the breed, and ensure that the health and welfare of the breed are maintained.

 Details of these Clubs and the history of the breed in the UK can be found throughout this website 

Rajarani Champions

Rajarani Champions


Article written by Krystyan Greenland for The SHCGB Year Book 2002/03.

The SHCGB was born out of the growth in the numbers of Siberian Huskies, and also due to the fact that the Husky Club of Great Britain won a name change from the Kennel Club. It became the Eskimo Dog Club of Great Britain, and could therefore not really cater for Siberians anymore. The proposed SHCGB needed a minimum of 25 founder members. These were; Messrs Les Crawley, Dave Lace, F Crawshaw, Mike Love, David Samuel, V Springthorpe, d Campbell, T Plant and Mesdames Heather Crawshaw, Ranee Crawley, Liz Leich, Sally Leich, Sheril Leich, Sandra Bayliss, J Matthews, Mags Holt, Jean Lace, D. Plant, Elizabeth Love, Esmee Samuel, Lynn Harrison, Stella Colling Mudge, G.M Arnold and Janet Ward. We are indebted to these people for getting the SHCGB registered.

The inaugural meeting of the newly formed Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain was on 16th May 1977. The first committee consisted of Les Crawley as Chair, Heather Crawshaw as Secretary, Dave Lace as Treasurer, Liz Leich as Vice Chair, and Sandra Bayliss, Sally Leich, Sheila Sones, Jenny Manley and Margaret Holt. In these days the Club had Area Representatives, a Welfare committee and a Breed Advisory Committee. How hard these people worked to get the Club on a firm footing. An important aspect of the initial years was the rewriting of the Siberian Husky standard. This was done by Nancy Dilling, Stella Colling-Mudge, Sally Leich, Liz Leich, Les Crawley and Ranee Crawley.  

The first working event held in the country was a sponsored run in aid of Siberian Welfare. The South Downs Way was chosen as the venue, and the distance – wait for it – 20 miles! A racing sub-committee was set up, and the first sled dog race in this country was organised to held at Hankley Common in October 1978. The course was set at 3 miles. A second race was held at Cannock Chase in March 1979, organised by Keith MacCallum and Trevor Plant. This was the first race to be held on Forestry Commission Land. 1982/83 season saw 4 events, and the then Siberian Committee (Kari Coyne, Sally Leich, John Evans, Penny Evans, Wendy Harris, Keith MacCallum, Ana Sanchez, and Mike Harrison) decided to make annual awards for Team of the Year and Musher of the Year. 1984/85 saw 7 rallies, 1985/86 had nine rallies and a fun rally.

Sally Leich racing one of the first 'teams' in the UK.

Sally Leich racing one of the first 'teams' in the UK.

The 86/87 season saw the approval of another new award called the ‘Complete Siberian Husky Award’ where points were won at shows aswell as rallies. This is very similar to the Dual Purpose Award that operates today. The Club has seen the working side escalate beyond belief, and in the 2002/3 season the Club proudly stages 17 rallies. Details of these rallies are all contained in a rally brochure produced every year by the SHCGB. These are all organised for the Club under its’ rules by dedicated people, and we cannot extend our thanks enough. The premier rally staged in Aviemore celebrates an incredible 20-year anniversary in 2003!  

In the early days, Siberians found it hard competing in the showring with other Nordic Breeds. In 1972, the Nordic Open Show was the first show to classify the breed in its’ own right. The show side like the working just grew and grew and in 1986 the Kennel Club granted the Siberian Husky Championship Status. Eight Championship shows offered the breed CC’s. The first CC winners being Zoox Gadzheek and Zima Zala Synegoorachka. The judge was Sally Leich. A lull in entries occurred over the mid 90’s, but now we see some entries in excess of 150! The breed is offered 27 sets of CC’s.  

In 1988, the Club Show was granted CC status and our judge was Nancy Van Gelderen Parker. She had a record entry for the time. The Club show is now massive and requires a different judge for each sex. Many of the breeds’ best judges have officiated. I’m pleased to say I had the honour to judge bitches in 1997. The showring has produced many great champions. The current breed record holder is Simon & Sheila Luxmoore’s Ch Zima Toaki with 33 CC’s. The Club has awards for Top Dog, Bitch, Stud, Brood, Puppy and Veteran. These awards are won be gaining points throughout the year by winning prizes at Championship shows where CC’s are on offer. The list of past winners is printed elsewhere, but suffice to say that some great dogs have collected these awards

The Club has always sought to educate the people that are involved in either activity. Working Rally Teach- Ins and Judges seminars are regularly held and have been held ever since the Clubs inception. The Club regularly reviews its’ judges lists and assesses potential judges as per KC instruction. The training of judges has become particularly difficult with the drop in Open Show entries, so, again the Club is trying to be forward thinking in proposing to support 12 Open Shows, whereby a judge will be picked from our judges list, and the Club will offer prizes for the winners. We hope these Open shows will then be a training circuit for our prospective judges.  

The current Committee is a progressive one, continually seeking improvement, and always attempting to maintain the health and welfare of the breed. We are always trying to organise events or produce literature that involves and benefits all our members, not just those involved in the high profile areas of racing and showing. The Committee has ensured the continued success of the Welfare Scheme, and has recently produced a policy by which all aspects of use of the system are explained. Health matters are extremely important and the Club continues to organise eye-testing clinics, and maintains its policy that ALL dogs must be eye tested and hip scored prior to breeding

The Club has had its ups and downs. Politics have sometimes got in the way, but I truly feel that the Club has risen above this and is now one of the best run Clubs in the Country. Today, dedicated and diligent people continue where some of our Founder Members left off. Many people have come and gone, but many have stayed, like the Leich’s’ who are still very much top of the tree, and Jenny Manley and Lynn Harrison who are still very much involved in the breed. We have lost some great people along the way and special mention must be made of Liz Leich and David Samuel. Liz Leich was the mother of the breed in this country, and David did so much to promote the breed within Kennel Club circles, and actively tried to educate other all rounder judges that the dual purpose type was the correct type rather than the chocolate box type Huskies.

All in all, the Club has achieved so much. Thanks to all those over the years that have made it what it is today!

The first SHCGB Champ Shoow in 1988.Pictured here is Helen Lightfoot with DCC winner Brattlid Oscar

The first SHCGB Champ Shoow in 1988.Pictured here is Helen Lightfoot with DCC winner Brattlid Oscar