THE DISTINCT HUSKY BREEDS IN THE 1870s
“CHAPTER V. THE ESQUIMAUX DOG. BY CORSINCON (from Hugh Dalziel’s book “British Dogs” (1879)).
THE Esquimaux dog occupies as wide a geographical range, and includes as much variety, as the human species to whom the term is applied, but also presents throughout its variations certain general and prominent family features. These are a certain gaunt and wolf-like form and fierceness of expression, the muzzle pointed, ears erect, and eyes more or less oblique, small, and piercing, and the coat dense and deep, the latter to enable them to withstand the intense cold of the northern regions of which they are native. We have specimens of them occasionally exhibited which we may assume to have been selected as superior to the general run.
We have seen no handsomer than the dog Garry, of which we give an engraving. He has been repeatedly shown in this country, and at the Alexandra Palace exhibition, December, 1878, was described in the catalogue as " an Esquimaux bred in the extreme north of Lombardy." Mr. C. E. Fryer, whose notice of Garry we reproduce from The Country, entitled him a "North American wolf dog," and we find the idea that these dogs, or at least special varieties of them, are produced by a cross with the wolf rather commonly entertained, but there is no better reason for it than his general wolfish appearance. Garry is decidedly typical of the Esquimaux family of dogs, and on the subject of his breeding we have little to add to our sub-note to Mr. Fryer's letter at the time it first appeared.
Mr. Fryer says : " The accompanying engraving represents one of these curious dogs, which are so much prized by the natives and inhabitants of North America, and so difficult to obtain in this country. The cut is taken from a photograph of a dog lately owned by a member of Oxford University, who gave me the following account of it :
“Garry, the dog in question, is about eighteen months old, and has been in this country seven months. He was brought from the Saskatchewan Mountains, Manitoba, in the far north-west of Canada. The following are the dimensions of this handsome dog : Height at shoulder, 2ft. 6in. ; length from centre between shoulder blades to centre between ears, 1ft. ; from latter point to end of nose, 11in. ; length from shoulders to setting on of tail, 2ft. 7in. ; length of tail, 1ft. 4in. ; measurement round head just behind ears, 2ft. ; just above eyes, 1ft. 5in. ; at point of nose, 10in. ; his girth measured fairly tight, not outside the hair, 3ft. ; his weight is 8st. 81b. His hair is long, straight, and pure white, which is his chief beauty. The Indians take great pride in rearing a pure white wolf dog, and when they manage to secure one they have a feast in his honour, called the 'Feast of the White Dog.' I refrain from attempting the native names, lest I should display my own ignorance and do some damage to my readers' jaws.
“Garry is said to be the produce of an Esquimaux bitch, crossed nine times by a prairie wolf. The Indians chain up the Esquimaux mothers in the neighbourhood of the wolves, to whose kind attentions they leave them.
[Note: at the time it was believed that bitches retained the influence of previous matings and passed them on to the next litter. Modern science knows that if Garry’s mother mated 9 times with a wolf, her pups were only 50% wolf. In the 1870s it was believed that each subsequent mating with the wolf added more wolf influence to the offspring, hence the reports that Garry was 9 parts wolf.]
“The dog Garry has travelled many thousand miles over the snow, drawing a sleigh, and is quite tame, following his master closely through the streets without chain or muzzle. Sometimes he is treated to this latter sign of 'civilisation,' under which he is very patient, though he continually endeavours to free himself from it. His food is plain dog biscuit, which he eats without complaint, though at first he ate raw meat ravenously. His master, however, finding his blood was getting too hot, gradually reduced him to one meal per day of dog biscuits. He is very tractable and docile, and but for his enormous size would not give any idea of ferocity. His eyes are very small, and of a pale yellow colour.
“The long thick tail, the pointed head, and short pointed ears seem unmistakably to show the wolf blood in the dog, and his general appearance shows his descent. His mouth would easily take in a man's leg, and his teeth are a caution to dentists. Whether he feels flattered by being told that we are possessors of developed ' canine 'teeth I can't say. His owner tells me he does not bark, but utters a low growl when enraged, and at night howls piteously.
"The dog was entered for exhibition at the last Birmingham dog show, 1876, where he was awarded a special prize."
The mystic story of Garry's birth and parentage is very charming, but I fear the talismanic number nine would alone be fatal to it, as it is decidedly suspicious ; and in these days of Kennel Stud Books we get awfully sceptical of unauthenticated pedigrees, and in such matters positively refuse as evidence the traditions of the Bed Man, however pretty and romantic. I saw Garry in the flesh at Birmingham where, by the way, he took a £5 prize and I must pronounce him the very finest specimen of an Esquimaux dog I have seen, but I must differ from our esteemed correspondent when he says there is unmistakeable evidence of wolf blood in the dog. Dogs appear to approach nearer to the wolf type the farther they are removed from the higher civilised life of man, and that, I think, is the case with Garry, and, besides that, hybrids do not breed. The measurements cannot have been accurately taken ; and Mr. Fryer must have been misinformed as to Garry's sleigh drawing, if we may judge by his age.
Among those exhibited in this country, the best specimens I have seen are Zouave, shown by Mr. W. Arkwright, and Mr. W. K. Taunton's Sir John Franklin and Zoe. Zouave I have understood was imported from Greenland, and Sir John Franklin, the finest exhibited, was brought over in the Pandora. As they are now being bred by one or two gentlemen in this country we may, in a few years, see more of them. Mr. Taunton describes his Esquimaux as intelligent and of amiable disposition, and the following is his description of them :
" The head is wolf -like, with the same pointed muzzle, and, more or less, the oblique eye, which gives the dog a treacherous appearance ; ears small, rounded, erect, and pointed forward ; short thick neck, deep chest, body long ; legs well made, without any feather, feet round, tail very bushy and carried curled over the back. The coat is dense and thick, standing out from the body, and is stiff on the outside like bristles, especially so along the back, whilst the undercoat is a soft wool, much resembling down, and admirably adapted to keep out the cold and wet. The nearer approach in appearance to the wolf the more typical of the breed I should consider it. The colour varies, being sometimes pure white, sometimes, as in Towser and Sir John Franklin, a silvery grey, and other colours. In size they vary, those which are reared where fish is plentiful making, I am informed, larger dogs than those bred further away where food is scarcer. The average height, as far as I am able to ascertain, would be 22in. to 24in."
Dogs of this class are of the greatest service drawing sleighs, and, as descriptive of several varieties so used, we quote the following description from a letter on the subject, and accompanied with sketches of the heads of several taken from life by a correspondent, Mr. Adrian Nelson, of Manitoba. The heads of the two named the Toganee and the Timber wolf dog, the latter especially, greatly resemble that of Garry. The Hoosque is in the drawing shown with a prominent skull, which the position and the amount of upstanding hair on it accounts for. Mr. Neison's remarks cannot fail to be of interest to those who take delight in the varieties our great shows now bring together, and among which are so often found specimens of Esquimaux type.
The first that Mr. Nelson, who was writing of sleigh dogs, noticed was a cross with the Newfoundland ; of those of decidedly Esquimaux character; he says, " The next is the most common breed of sleigh dog, and is better known as the plain ' Husky ' dog, of which there are two distinct varieties. It is quite evident that they are of the same stock, if not descendants of tamed specimens of the large timber or Arctic wolf, and of prairie wolf or Toganee. The other dog is the Hoosque of the Mackenzie river district, and is the dog used by the American Esquimaux, and of these there is a yellow and a black variety.
" Of course these breeds are found more or less mixed all over the continent, especially varieties of the wolf breed, as these are by far the most numerous. I have observed them crossed until almost lost in the Newfoundland, and I am told on the best authority it is the same in Labrador. The dog is only found pure to my knowledge in Abbitibbe, and on the Peace river. The Toganee and Arctic wolf dog are both much the same in general appearance. Their colour ia stone grey, the build large and bony, with very large feet ; they have sharp noses and prick ears. When crossed with others they always have a blotched appearance from the peculiar dark markings which they then take. The hair is long and wiry, and falls against the body. The Arctic is a very large dog indeed, his usual size being fully equal to the largest dogs I have seen in England ; the Toganee is never larger than a spaniel, and is often smaller. This is the common so-called ‘ Husky ' dog of Manitoba. North of the Saskatchewan and east of Lake Winnipeg it disappears, and the Arctic takes its place a peculiarity common to the two breeds of wolf, the prairie wolf being unknown in these regions. The true " Husky " dogs are, I believe, peculiar to the American Esquimaux. The dog of the Greenland Esquimaux, as obtained at Disco, being, I believe, a distinct breed. These I consider the best sleigh dogs known, especially the black variety of Hoosque. They are also found in all shades of yellow, sometimes almost white. Out of a good many hundred I have not seen a single specimen marked with either white or brown patches. When skinned it is at once noticed that the skull is unusually flat ; this peculiarity is hidden in the live animal by its hair. It has a heavy jaw, very small round ears, which are always erect, and the hair, which is long, hard, and wiry, invariably stands erect off the skin, very similar to that of a black bear, to which the whole dog bears a very close resemblance when lying down. All of this breed are fierce, treacherous, and active. [. . .]. Mr. Ouyon, of Fort Chippewyan, on Lake Athabasea, has some splendid dogs of this breed. This post has the reputation of having the finest dogs in the North.
" A peculiarity in these dogs is that they all have bright, clear, yellow eyes, similar to a cat, with great powers of dilating the pupils."
The illustrations are facsimiles of some rough sketches which accompanied Mr. Nelson's letter.
Although we have had dogs exhibited under the distinctive names of the North American wolf dog and sleigh dogs, I have not seen any to warrant a separate description, and have, therefore dealt with them as Esquimaux dogs, of which they are varieties.
"British Dogs, Their Points, Selection, And Show Preparation", by W. D. Drury says “Garry, a pure white dog that won many prizes in former years, is described as being quite tame, following his master closely through the streets without chain or muzzle, and as being very tractable and docile [. . .] Garry, the dog referred to above, was of a different type from many other Esquimaux that have been exhibited. He was sometimes called a North American Wolfdog, and was said to be a cross between a wolf and an Esquimaux bitch. It is a perfectly well-known fact that the wolf and dog will breed freely together, and the late Mr. Bartlett, of the Zoological Gardens, told the writer that the offspring will continue to breed - a fact that has been doubted by some.. “ This volume depicted Myouk, another Esquimaux dog of the time.
[NOTE: Unlike pedigree dogs in Britain, Esquimaux dogs in North America were not bred for a standard conformation or for aesthetics, they were bred to be draught animals, were subject to natural selection as well as artificial selection, and they naturally varied in type. There were attempts to “improve” them by crossing them to large European breeds taken to North America by trappers and prospectors, but ultimately the Esquimaux dog reverted to the more-or-less wolf-like type that fared best in the harsh environment.]
1875 - AN INUIT WOLF-DOG
The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 20th February 1875, gives an account of an Esquimaux (Inuit) sled dog that was supposedly nine-tenths wolf - based on the fact his mother had mated 9 times with a wolf:-GARRY. THE foreign sporting and non-sporting classes at our principal dog shows often contain some very interesting specimens, and we have seldom seen a finer one than Garry, whose portrait we give. He is the property of Mr. Alfred Swinbourn, and was purchased at Fort Garry, Manitobah, North America, when about three months old. He is now just over two years, and his measurements are as follow:-- Height to top of shoulder, 28 and a-half in.; height to top of head, 37 in.; from nose to tip of tail, 6 ft.; from ear to nose, 13 in.; girth, 40 in.; round the top of fore leg, 10 an a-half in.; weight, 120 lb. Garry's breed is doubtful, though he is said to be a cross between an Esquimaux dog and a wolf, having nine parts of the latter to one of the former. We cannot, however, see that these proportions are possible. It is certain that he retains many of the characteristics of the Esquimaux dog, and the gentleman who imported him drove him many miles over the snow. He is white, with a yellowish tinge on the back. Garry is so quiet, well-mannered, and affectionate, that it is difficult to believe that he has much wolf in his composition he behaves as well in the house as a lady's lap-dog, and takes no notice of other dogs unless they attack him. A prize of £5 was awarded to him at the last Birmingham Show, where he attracted a great deal of attention."
[Note: Garry was registered with the Kennel Club as an “Esquimaux dog” and was exhibited at the Alexandra Palace Exhibition and the Birmingham dog show (one of many regional shows at that time) in 1876 and was said to be an “Eskimaux bred in the far north of Lombardy.” He was depicted and described in Hugh Dalziel’s book “British Dogs” (1879), the author being of the opinion that Garry was neither a wolf nor a hybrid.]
TEN DISTINCT HUSKY BREEDS IN THE 1940s
Excerpts from Dogs In Britain, A Description of All Native Breeds and Most Foreign Breeds in Britain by Clifford LB Hubbard (1948). It described the ten major and distinct branches of the Husky breeds.
THE HUSKY OR ESKIMO GROUP OF DOGS
The Husky or Eskimo group is large and comprehensive, embracing many breeds and sub-breeds, all of which are usually lumped together and described as Huskies rather than by their specific titles. Actually the name Husky is a generic term for sled dogs […] the idea is prevalent that every dog seen by a tourist hauling a sledge in Canada is a Husky, a pure-bred Husky, when at least half the dogs used for haulage purposes in the more southern belts are cross-breds and mongrels far removed from the hardy dogs of the pure Husky race.
[…] the Husky is divided into many distinct types, as follows: the Husky proper (recognised by the American Kennel Club under the name of Eskimo), the Alaskan Malamute, the Toganee, the Mackenzie River Dog, the Timber-Wolf Dog, the West Greenland Husky, the East Greenland Husky, the Baffinland Husky, the Chuchi (recognised by the American Kennel Club as the Siberian Husky), and the Ostiak. All these ten breeds are distinct from each other and are only the main branches of the group, for the lesser varieties have never been imported into Britain and are of little importance.
It will be noticed that the last two of the ten breeds just listed are native to the eastern hemisphere, where there exist many others, so that it must be remembered that sled dogs are not confined to the west only, but are evenly distributed over the entire Arctic belt wherever Eskimo, Indian, Lapp, or Siberian need their assistance in hauling, carrying, hunting and herding.
THE HUSKY PROPER OR ESKIMO (ESQUIMAUX)
The Husky proper is less rare in the North West Territories and has long been officially recognised by the American Kennel Club in the ‘Working Dog’ category, and as a show dog, under the name of Eskimo (sometimes called Esquimaux). Although a few good specimens may be found throughout the Canadian backwoods and islands it is only in the North West Territories that the purebred dogs are found in any numbers. These are mostly used by trappers, explorers, Eskimos and Indians; the Hudson Bay traders, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, lumber-jacks, doctors, priests and others generally use what the Indians call the ‘white’ dogs, or crossbred dogs which are half Husky and half Hound, Great Dane, Newfoundland or any other type that is handy. Dr. S. Hadwen, of the Ontario Research Foundation […] expressed a desire that a total embargo be placed upon the importation of foreign breeds into the North.
The true Husky is not a large dog; the dogs of 27 inches height and even more are cross-bred with wolves or ‘white’ breeds. The head is broad and tapering to a pointed muzzle of medium length, with a slight stop; the eyes are dark and set obliquely giving an untrustworthy expression (full, round and prominent eyes soon suffer in the winds and ice-glares of the Arctic); the ears are small, triangular and erect; the lips are tight to the strong jaws, with strong level teeth. The neck is muscular and arched on to oblique shoulders; the chest is deep and long, well ribbed out; the back is short and straight; the legs are well muscled and substantially boned with almost round feet, which are hard-padded with the toes well arched; the tail is about 13 inches long, set high, carried curled over the back (very tired dogs let their tails droop) and well brushed. The coat is very dense, hard and coarse in texture and of the stand-off type, with a thick soft undercoat. Colours are white, cream or grey, with grey, buff, tan or black markings on the head and body. Many are all white, but some are black with tan or fawn eye-spots, muzzle, throat, feet and tail-tip. In measurements the true Husky is 75-80 pounds in weight, about 25 inches at the shoulder and with a girth of about 30 inches; bitches are considerably smaller, being from 60-6 5 pounds in weight, 22-2 3 inches in height and about 27 inches in girth.
THE ALASKAN MALAMUTE
The Alaskan Malamute is mostly found on the Seward Peninsula, the best specimens being in the vicinity of the Nootak river. It is named after the Malamute Eskimo tribe which has bred its dogs for centuries, especially suited to the mountainous terrain of Alaska. Unfortunately through the admixture of dogs owned by white traders the race is rapidly losing its identity and good qualities so that to-day only on rare occasions may the true Malamute be found.
The famous All-Alaska Dog Derby or All-Alaska Sweepstakes is a sled race run for 420 miles in five days in thirty-mile ‘hops’, but the dogs which are teamed for the race are seldom pure Malamutes, many being brought from the Hudson Bay regions and even further east. The Eskimos wisely breed their dogs for stamina and work and do not like the tucked-up racy dogs, as these cannot stand hard work for very long.
The Malamute is recognised by the American Kennel Club and fostered by the Alaskan Malamute Club. Its head is similar to that of the true Husky except that the ears are placed wider apart (about 7 inches rather than the Husky 5-6 inches) and are, therefore, not set so high, nor are they quite so well formed. The general description is the same as for the Husky, but the back is fairly long showing the influence of alien blood, whilst the tail is seldom well curled over the back. The coat is often as long as the Husky’s but not of stand-off type, usually lying flatter to the body, and coloured black with white or fawn self markings.
THE TOGANEE AND MACKENZIE RIVER DOGS
The Toganee and Mackenzie River Dogs are more closely related to the true Husky, and as the terrain where they are used is similar to that where the Husky proper is found they are sometimes interbred. Like the Husky they are used in teams of 4-6 only, at least when used in their own districts. In build they both resemble the Husky, with the same head formation, short back and couplings; the main differences are that the Toganee is often a little higher on the leg and is usually tricolour (black-tan-and-white), while the Mackenzie River Dog is a shade longer in coat which is not quite so hard.
THE TIMBER-WOLF DOG
The Timber-Wolf Dog is not confined to one district but is spread throughout the areas from Alaska to north of Hudson Bay; the Yukon basin appears to be its adopted home to the largest extent. It is, as its name applies, a first-cross between the true Husky and the timber-wolf of the North American backwoods; gaunt, ferocious, the largest of its type and the most wolfish of all sled dogs. Owing to its size and strength it is capable of being a good leader or ‘king’ dog for a team, but otherwise it is not the best type for general use, as is the Husky itself which can be used in summer for pack carrying. Its heavy build handicaps it on very long journeys though for short heavy loads the breed is frequently in demand.
In general shape it is nearer the timber-wolf than the Husky; longer in back and coat (the coat does not stand stiffly out); longer couplings and greater angulation of the hindlegs; a more loping gait which is not the best for long journeys; the head usually having non-erect ears, scarcely any stop and a slightly longer muzzle. Colour is grey, or grey or sable with white throat, chest, belly, feet and tail-tip; rarely pure white. In height it stands about 27-28 inches, and in weight ranges from 85 to 100 pounds (outstanding specimens equal the height of an Irish Wolfhound and weigh as much as eight stone). The tail usually hangs low and is heavy in brush.
THE BAFFINLAND HUSKY
The Baffinland Husky is a type which is only different from the true Husky in having a black coat with white self markings (white on the face, throat, chest, belly, feet and tail-tip), and being a trifle larger in size generally. A few of this breed show traces of crossing with Labrador sled dogs which are rather long in back and some, such as those used by Lieut.-Commander Donald B. MacMillan, are white with black markings; all agree in having both black and white on the body either in the form of markings or ground colour. At one time they were mixed with the West Greenland Husky, but caused that breed more harm than good. In height the Baffinland Husky is about 26 inches, with a girth of approximately 3o inches, and a weight of from 75-85 pounds.
THE WEST GREENLAND HUSKY AND EAST GREENLAND HUSKY
The West Greenland Husky and the East Greenland Husky are the only good types found in Greenland. The West Greenland dog is the larger and shows much effect from the crossing with the Baffinland and other dogs which have the timber-wolf strain in them. The dogs of Smith Sound, for example, are probably fifty per cent Baffinland Husky, and show the tell-tale grey in every instance. In 1864 some fourteen teams arrived on the West Greenland coast from Baffinland, and the host of dogs which remained eventually caused an epidemic of piblockto from which all but three dogs perished. The entry of foreign breeds of dogs into Greenland was forbidden by law as a result of this disaster, and to-day the Smith Sound area is replenished with stock from the south of Greenland - the issue of some dogs taken north by Freuchen and Rasmussen in 1910.
In height the West Greenland Husky is about 26 inches, and it weighs about 8o pounds.. Its colour is black-and-white or grey-and-white, and the coat is rather softer than that of the true Canadian Husky.
The East Greenland Husky is probably the oldest and least diluted type extant. It came to the east coast of Greenland with the Eskimo when he travelled from Asia (the long way round - across the Bering Straits) some twenty thousand years ago (according to Dr. Arne Høygaard of the Oslo Fysiologisk Institut). As yet no trace of timber-wolf blood or even any mixed Husky is evident, and the type is remarkably uniform. It is smaller than the west coast dog, being about 24 inches in height, with a girth of 29 inches and weighing about 65 pounds. It further differs from the West Greenland and all other sled dogs of the western hemisphere in being red or red-and-white in colour (this shows its close relationship with the Siberian types which are mostly red). It is often distinguished from the dog of the west coast by its native synonym, Angmagssalik Husky.
[…] The dogs are protected by law and the interests of specialist clubs in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The first published work on the Huskies of Greenland appeared in 1784.
THE OSTIAK OR WEST SIBERIAN HUSKY
The Ostiak breed is Asiatic, and like most of its near relations is used not only for sled hauling but also in hunting elk, bear and wolf. Nansen and Johansen used a good many Ostiak dogs (Nansen took about thirty with him) and though they are comparatively small they are quite hardy and make good pullers. It is sometimes called the West Siberian Husky. Its height is about 23 inches, and its weight from 45-55 pounds. In colour it varies considerably but is commonly fawn or sable with black markings.
THE CHUCHI OR SIBERIAN HUSKY
The Chuchi, or Siberian Husky as it is officially recognised by the American Kennel Club, is native to north-eastern Siberia and is rather like the Ostiak and East Greenland dogs. It is well known in Alaska […] The breed has a specialist club in America which has drawn up a standard for the breed.
The Chuchi was first imported into Alaska in 1909 and importations into the United States then followed in 1911. To-day the breed has a considerable following in America and is frequently exhibited. It takes its name from the Siberian native tribe of Chuchi which lives in the area drained by the River Kolyma. Its description is roughly that of the Ostiak, that is, in height, weight and colour. Chuchi height is recognised as between the minimum of 21 inches and the maximum 23.5 inches (bitches 20-22 inches) and weight not permitted to exceed 6o pounds. Like all Siberian types (and the East Greenland dog) the eye is set far less obliquely than in the North American Huskies. Other desiderata are a soft coat, freedom of action, good ‘snowshoe’ feet, and high-set ears. The colours are sable, light tan, grey, and black with white points.
THE HUSKY BREEDS IN BRITAIN IN 1948
Not many Huskies have been imported into Britain; those that have been especially brought in have seldom graced the show bench, usually spending their lives in zoological gardens. Exceptions have been those imported about the end of the last century by the two foreign breed collectors Messrs. W. K. Taunton and H. C. Brooke. Taunton’s best dog was “Sir John Franklin” which won many awards during 1879-81, and sired several litters out of “Zoe”, a bitch bred from some Huskies then owned by the London Zoological Society. “Sir John Franklin” was 22 inches in height, and Brooke’s dog “Arctic King” was described as being 22 inches; thus in both cases the dogs were on the small side though they were otherwise typical. A much better dog was Brooke’s “Farthest North “, which was about 25-26 inches in height, of the West Greenland breed and well marked. This dog’s skin was in the British Museum (Natural History).
Since the days of Taunton and Brooke, Huskies have only arrived on rare occasions, for there is as yet no demand for the race as companions; this is probably due to the great number of stories propagated about the alleged ferocity of the race. However, in later years Huskies will probably be imported in greater numbers for they have much that would appeal to the British public. The last Husky to be exhibited with any constancy was “Angugssuak” one acquired by the London Zoological Society and exhibited by Dr. Vevers at Cruft’s Show in 1938 and 1939.