What is a Seppala Siberian Sleddog?

Every day, more and more people in the mushing community are lending the “Seppala” title to their main stream Siberian Huskies. Often times the kennel owner is not wishing to be deceitful, but is himself deceived as to what a Seppala truly is. The purpose of this page is to describe what 100 years of History defines as a Seppala.

We will start by where everyone agrees.

Agreed !

• Everyone agrees that Leonhard Seppala’s team that won the Poland Spring Challenge races in the late 1920’s and the subsequent “Poland Spring Kennel” dogs in Maine were indeed Seppalas.

Seppala's Fritz: Jonathan Hayes

• Everyone also agrees that the Siberian imports that they brought in to deepen the gene pool, were regarded, not as out-crosses, but as Seppalas (the title Seppala has come with time, so we here speak in retrospect).

• When Harry Wheeler acquired Kree Vanka, Tserko, and Volchok (Siberian imports) to his Seppala Kennel in Quebec to deepen his Kinkeak X Pearl progeny, the subsequent litters are regarded in all camps, not as an out-cross, but as Seppalas.

Harry Wheeler and his imports: Photo curtesy of Seppala Kennels

• The dogs of these breeders, acquired by McFaul and Shearer, are regarded in all camps as Seppalas.

• The dogs of these kennels rescued by JJ Bragg and bred by him at Markovo Kennels in the 1970's are regarded as Seppalas.

• Finally, Everyone that has seriously evaluated the WCOI (Wright's Coefficient of Inbreeding) agrees that there is currently a genetic bottle neck in the breed that has to be addressed by adding genetic diversity.

The Disagreement

The disagreement is to how the genetic bottleneck is to be addressed.

The Disagreement comes now due to the fact that there are so few “Markovo pure” Seppalas left, that many debate what percentage a dog needs to be in order to be dubbed a “Seppala.” So few pure Seppala litters were bred in the last twelve years that, once again, the breed has encountered a bottle neck. Some genetic diversity has to be added to keep this breed’s vitality as a sleddog.

At the risk of oversimplifying the debate, there are basically three camps that have emerged;

• One camp says that keeping American Kennel Club registration on a Seppala insures that the other 8% of a 92% Seppala (for example) is a Siberian Husky, and that this is the best solution for the bottleneck. This approach assumes the breed is a subcategory of the Siberian Husky and insures that it will remain thus by continuing to share a common name and registry with the American Kennel Club.

• The second Camp, namely the International Seppala Siberian Sleddog Club, suggest that the American Kennel Club should be rejected due to their refusal to recognize the Seppala as a separate breed. Therefore this group has dropped their AKC registration, and maintains a Contenental Kennel Club registration, which allows for  outcrosses to ANY other breed,  and will register the dogs after they have been “bred back up” to a certain percentage (92%).

• Finally, the third group avoids the whole percentage question by arguing from historical precedent. This third group, the Seppala Siberain Sleddog Project, and its global incarnation, The International Seppala Association, argues that imports were used, and so that should be the solution today.

It is sad that such a small population of dogs has become so divided and threatened by the philosophies of the very breeders wishing to sustain the breed.

The conclusion,

The conclusion when all has been heard, is that ...

A Seppala Siberian Sleddog is a dog descended from those original Siberian Sleddogs of Leonhard Seppala (particularly those 10 ‘second foundation’ dogs of the Markovo era), as well as the Siberian imports of Elizabeth Ricker and Harry Wheeler.