Breed Type:  Husky
Country of Origin: Siberia
Size: Medium
Also known as:  Seppalas
Males: Height: 56-58 cm, Weight: 18-23 kg
Females: Height: 56-58 cm, Weight: 18-23 kg
Exercise Requirements: High
Care Requirements: High
Lifespan: 12-15 Years
Best Suited as: Working Dogs / Family Pets

Seppala Siberian Sleddogs (Seppalas) are a rare working breed that was developed to pull dog sleds in snowy climates. While they are extremely good workers, they also make good pets and are active and loving companions.

A Seppala is a medium size dog with a well-angulated front, moderate to long neck, back and legs. Their ears are pointed and their expressive eyes are usually brown or blue, or a combination of both.  The color of their double coat (the undercoat is almost as long as their top coat) may be white or buff and white while others are grey with dark faces and white feet and tail tip.  It is dense and medium in length with a smooth texture. Their longish tail is carried arched over their backs when they are alert.

Seppalas are often compared to other Siberian Husky breeds but are different in several marked ways. Their legs and bodies tend to be longer and they are less substantial. While they may appear to less sturdy than some of the other sledding breeds, their size actually lends itself to more speed and better coordination when pulling a sled. Watching a Seppela at work is quite an amazing experience – there movements are smooth and appear effortless.

Seppala Siberian Sleddogs namesake is a famous Norwegian miner named Leonhard Seppala. Seppala, a world famous sleddog driver, known for his special type of Siberian dogs, formed a winning team of dogs shipped from all over Siberia. With this team he was able to win the All-Alaska Sweepstakes three years in a row. In 1927, Seppala and Elizabeth Ricker began operating a kennel together in Maine and the Seppala Siberian was introduced in the United States and Canada.

While the relatives of the Seppala, the Siberian Husky, took the beauty circuit route, the Seppala remained largely a working dog and was kept separate from show bloodlines. They continued to be bred through the 1930’s and 1940’s and these new Seppalas won many more races.  Several key Kennels kept the pure Seppala strain going in New England through the mid-1950’s and continued to be bred as a pure strain within the Canadian Kennel Club’s Siberian Husky stud book. In the 1970’s the popularity of the Seppala began to diminish as they were replaced with other types of sled dogs. Near the brink of extinction, the breed was revived when Jeffrey Bragg, in 1968, adopted one of the remaining purebred Seppalas and started his own breeding program. This program became even more successful when he moved the program to a farm north of Spain in 1990.

Two dozen Seppalas were brought back to Canada in 1993 in a rescue effort dubbed the “The Seppala Sleddog Project in Grizzly Valley”.  Today the Project works hard to protect the breed and to keep producing Seppalas that are versatile sled dogs much like the ones owned by Leonhard Seppala, himself.

After 1993, several Kennels in both Canada and the United States kept the breed alive.  The International Seppala Siberian Sleddog Club (ISSSC), incorportated in 2002 has set forth the breed standard.

The Seppala can best be described as a true “team player”. They bond very easily with their owners and have brought joy into the lives of many with their happy go lucky, curious and active personality. They tend to be more trainable than other sled dogs and are quite cooperative.

While fun loving, once in a harness, a trained Seppala will quickly become the serious worker he was born to be. This seriousness can be seen when the Seppala is given many tasks. Because they bond so firmly with their pack and pack leader, the Seppala tends to be reserved around strangers until he knows that they are not a threat.

Care and Grooming
Put on your running shoes – your Seppala has a strong need to run and she requires a fair amount of daily exercise to thrive. In case you do not own a dog sled, that long run will give your dog the outlet she needs.

Grooming your dog will also take a fair amount of energy. The Seppala is a hairy breed and is known to shed heavily. Brushing your Seppala daily will help to remove the dead hair and keep her looking good. Your Seppala will blow her coat once or twice a year.  Skip the bath, the hard working Seppala does not need this activity added to her beauty regime. Bathing can harm your pet by removing the oils that enable its coat to retain heat and stay clean.

The Seppala Siberian Sleddog is a naturally healthy dog with no known serious health conditions. Working Seppalas can be part of a sled team until about ten years of age and generally have a longer life span than some dogs their size – twelve to fifteen years.

The medical issues they do often have are similar to all northern breeds, such as cancer, eye problems and allergies.

Suitability as a Pet
While the Seppala is known for its serious hard working personality, this dog also knows how to have fun. Going for a run with you daily will probably be his favorite activity so do not skip your exercise regiment. You will pay if your Seppala does not get enough exercise and is left alone for a long period of time, becoming destructive of furniture and personal property. Take care not to overheat your Seppala, however, as their thick coat is only a positive in cold climates.
While the Seppala is known for being easy to train, it is very important that your pet knows that you are in command. Strong pack animals, the Seppala needs to know that you are boss and that other family members are above him in the pack order. The Seppala can do very well with other dogs if introduced to them as puppies.

Veterinary Surgeon, London at Blue Cross UK | + posts

A London based Veterinary surgeon, Sanja is also an avid writer and pet advocate.