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.
These are the original sled dogs, and the most primitive. They are at home in the harsh climate of Greenland’s inland ice cap, something which has affected the breed both physically and mentally. Greenland Dogs are very headstrong and independent. If you want to be regarded as the dominant pack leader, you will need a lot of intuition and consistency. They have a very good sense of direction and smell, and pull the sled with perseverance and tenacity.
The Greenland Dog exhibits marked pack behaviour, and feels most comfortable with others of his kind. But a pack of Greenland dogs does not baulk at meting out punishment to its members, so in numbers they can be difficult to handle, and problems do occasionally arise.
Greenland Dogs are found anywhere where there is hard work to be done, even in the harshest of conditions, and where you need to be able to rely one hundred percent on your sled dog team. Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole with their help, and Alfred Wegener led expeditions across the largest island in the world with them.
The Greenland dog has a shoulder height of up to 60 cm and weighs approximately 35 kg. The females are slightly smaller and lighter. With the exception of albinos, all colour variants are permitted, regardless of whether they are the same colour throughout or patchy.
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.