Nordic sled dog breeds
Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, Samoyed and Greenlandic sled dogs
In common parlance, we are accustomed to calling them generically huskies, but this term is improperly used to refer to the Nordic breed of dogs, which are instead a very heterogeneous and complex group. The ENCI (Ente Nazionale Cinofilia Italiana) classifies them in the dog breeds of group 5 – spitz-type and primitive-type dogs, which includes Nordic hunting dogs, European spitz dogs, Nordic guard and shepherd dogs and, precisely, Nordic sled dogs.
The latter grouping includes four officially recognised sled dog breeds:
- Siberian Husky;
- Alaskan Malamute;
As we have explained in this article, Alaskan Husky dogs – like those living in Valtellina at the Husky Village sleddog centre – are not considered as a dog breed in their own right, but rather as a type or category.
Siberian Husky breed: character and appearance
Siberian huskies are medium-sized Nordic dogs, perhaps the most famous of the different Nordic sleddog breeds due to the global success of the story of Balto, who was in fact a Siberian husky (although not the strongest and best performing of his sleddog team: discover the true story of Balto). These are Nordic working dogs, which possess a very restless and lively temperament and need stimulation and discipline: they love to run, especially in the snow, and thanks to their agility, lightness and speed they have been selected in the past as perfect sled dogs. Siberian huskies are dogs that enjoy the company of both their peers and humans, and are used to living in packs.
The appearance of Siberian huskies is characterised by a soft coat of various colours, while the eyes are generally blue or brown, but it is not uncommon to come across Siberian huskies with different coloured eyes.
Alaskan Malamute breed dogs
The Alaskan Malamute breed owes its name to an Eskimo tribe in western Alaska, the Malhemute (or Maliumiut), who most likely used them in centuries past as trailing dogs for travelling through the snow on sledges in harsh and difficult climatic conditions, as well as for bear hunting. It is a dog breed similar to the wolf and is considered among the oldest of the sled dogs. Malamutes are distinguished by their thick coat and proud bearing, their temperament is usually affectionate, brave and loyal, while physically their best feature is their power.
Samoyed dogs: temperament and qualities
Dogs of the Samoyed breed are easily distinguishable from other sled dogs by their white, thick and fluffy coat. As evidenced by its name, used in ancient times to refer to the nomadic Nenci people from Siberia, the Samoyed is a Nordic dog of Russian origin and possesses an innate elegance. The temperament of the Samoyed is mild, docile, strongly companionable, they are highly intelligent and very sociable dogs, who like to be together with other dogs or children, and the particular fold that the shape of their mouth takes in combination with that of their eyes defines the so-called ‘Samoyed smile‘. This does not detract from their natural predisposition for pulling and their hard-working nature: the Samoyed are excellent sled dogs, hardy and reliable.
Greenlandic breed dogs: the primitive Nordic dogs
The Greenlandic breed represents one of the oldest dog breeds in the world, not only of Nordic dogs or sled dogs, and is considered one of those most faithful to the Arctic wolf: slanted, dark eyes, wedge-shaped muzzle, coat of various colours, ears set back, it has always been an animal used by Eskimo tribes for their transport and hunting needs. This has forged the main characteristics of the Greenland dog: great strength, robustness, endurance and courage, it is a tireless Nordic dog when pulling sleds. The temperament of Greenlandic dogs is sociable and friendly, especially towards humans, but requires discipline and authority.