Siberian Huskies are probably the best known of the four breeds presented here. Many people consider them the epitome of the sled dog, with their characteristic look: their coat patterns with or without a face mask, and their often blue eyes. The Siberian Husky is the smallest, lightest and fastest of the pure bred sled dogs. He has a more delicate build than an Alaskan Malamute or Greenland Dog; his head in particular has more subtle markings than that of a Malamute.
Siberian Huskies originated in eastern Siberia. They crossed the Chukchi Peninsula to Alaska, where they were soon thriving. The first Siberian Huskies reached Europe in the 1950s, and since then their number has been increasing in leaps and bounds. By nature, the Siberian Husky is an agreeable and gentle fellow. He is easy to steer, and mixes well with his peers. He is also very fond of children and is adaptable. But his greatest passion is still running.
In front of a sled, there is nothing that the Alaskan Malamute or Greenland Dog can show the Siberian Husky in terms of endurance and willpower. His very pronounced hunting instinct is also of note.
The shoulder height of the Siberian Husky should be between 53 and 59 cm. Females should be slightly smaller. Their weight varies accordingly between 16 and 27 kg. As well as blue eyes, brown or different coloured eyes (one blue and one brown) are acceptable in Siberian Huskies. Coat colours range from white to black, and there are usually black, white and grey markings. But there are also brown or reddish-brown variations.
The Greenland dog has been a draught animal in the Arctic regions for centuries and consequently they have developed a powerful body and heavy coats, with a natural capacity for load pulling and endurance in a harsh working environment. Greenland dogs have been used on many expeditions by explorers, the most famous being Fridtjof Nansen. Nansen recorded in his book På ski over Grønland, Greenland dogs being used as working dogs by the Greenland Native. Nansen was a successful polar explorer and used the dogs on his famous voyage across the Arctic Ocean in the equally famous ship Fram
The Greenland Dog is a powerful, heavy-built dog. It has a broad, wedge-shaped head, slightly tilted eyes and small, triangular ears covered with thick fur that prevents frostbite. It has strong, muscular, short-haired legs. The tail is usually rolled along/across its back. When it lies down and curls up to rest, the tail often covers the nose. Its coat is of medium length and consists of two layers. The inner layer consists of short wool-like fur, the outer layer of longer, coarser, water-repellent fur.
A characteristic of most Greenland Dogs is the "úlo", a triangular shaped area on the shoulders. It is named after a common woman’s-knife from Greenland which is of the same shape.
Males are significantly larger than females at between 58 and 68 cm (23–27 in) at the withers; females are between 51 and 61 cm (20–24 in).
Alaskan Malamutes are the largest and heaviest sled dogs. They are very powerful and achieve above-average performances. Because they can cope easily with moving heavy loads over long distances, they are often also called the “freight locomotives of the high North”. Despite their powerful appearance, Alaskan Malamutes are very trusting, tolerant, even gentle, but also highly self-confident. They are very intelligent and remarkably docile. Alaskan Malamutes may be wary of other dogs, because pecking order within the pack is very important to them.
The breed was named after the Mahlemuts, an Inuit tribe from the Yukon estuary in Alaska. These Inuits were very tall people. They were extremely hard-working and highly skilled at fishing, hunting and sled building, and their dogs were remarkably beautiful, tenacious, eager to work and seemingly tireless.
The Alaskan Malamute has a shoulder height of 58 cm to 63 cm. Its weight should be between 32 kg and 44 kg, and of course, the males are heavier and larger than the females. The coats of Alaskan Malamutes can be of various colours, but are usually wolf-grey and white or black and white.
The Samoyed is a beautiful dog with long, white, sometimes also biscuit-coloured fur, and a typical smile on its face.
The Samoyed took its name from a nomadic tribe which followed the reindeer herds between the Ural Mountains and the Yenisei River. The dogs which accompanied them were used for whatever job was required, whether as herding dogs, for pulling loads, as domestic guard-dogs or to help with the hunt. Man and dog lived side by side, and this has moulded the character of the breed to the present day.
Samoyeds are very gentle and friendly in nature. They are very affectionate towards their keeper. The high level of intelligence and sophistication they exhibit when it comes to wrapping their owner around their little paw, is quite astonishing. Samoyeds are not suited for use as security dogs or for herding, although they are very fond of the sound of their own voice. In contrast to the other sled dog breeds, the Samoyed likes to comment on everything that is happening around him. Thanks to his great capacity for learning, it is even possible to use Samoyeds as companion, medical service or avalanche rescue dogs. But they are also strong and resilient when pulling a sled. Scott and Fridtjof Nansen used such dogs when conducting their numerous research expeditions.
The shoulder height of the Samoyed is up to 56 cm, but can vary significantly. Its weight should be around 30 kg.