Seppala Siberian Sleddog: The Legendary Dog Heroes of 1925

Six Seppala Siberian Sleddogs at race in fresh snow

The Seppala Siberian Sleddog is often easily mistaken for being a wolf. And although both share the same ancestry, Seppala Siberian Sleddogs appear to be more docile and friendly than the wild wolf.

They sport a gentle expression despite their rough physical semblance to that of a predator’s.

What’s more astonishing is that Seppala Siberians were the hero dogs of the 1925 relay race to deliver the life-saving diphtheria antitoxin serum to icebound Nome, Alaska.

The wolf-like breed gained international fame for its role in the critical effort to carry emergency medical supplies across the icy Arctic regions.

Along with the raging popularity of having fluffy coats and a goofy personality, Siberian Huskies were said to have shared the same ancestry with the Seppala Siberian Sleddogs.

Yet the question that comes to mind when presented with both breeds is, “Aren’t they the same?” Well, not quite – and you’ll know why as you keep reading on.

What Is a Seppala Siberian Sleddog? Do Seppala Siberians Still Exist?

Two working Seppala Siberian Sleddogs in a winter race

The Seppala Siberian Sleddog is distinguished as a capable working dog breed historically tasked with pulling sleds in the harsh cold terrain. Although they have the same heritage as the popular Siberian Husky that we love today, they’re considered a separate breed entirely.

Seppala Siberians are known to be a driven and diligent working breed, trainable enough when given the right exercise needed to stretch and grow their muscular bodies.

Seppalas are also highly intelligent. They have quite an understanding of their own duties and responsibilities, consistent with that of an Arctic dog’s hardworking character.

However, because of their spunky personalities, Seppalas only obey a command if they sense that their owner or handler is stronger-minded than themselves.

To have Seppala Siberians by your side, you have to make sure your personalities match up, or else they turn mischievous.

Their existence has become a rarity these recent years, enough for Seppala Kennels to announce that Seppala Siberian Sleddogs no longer have an active and ongoing breeding program.

However, there are still some avid breeders that breed Seppalas for show and racing competitions.

Other Names of Seppala Siberian Sleddog

Seppala Siberian Sleddog – it takes talent to be able to get past the tongue-twister name for a breed of working dogs that saved Alaska in 1925. But what else can we call them?

Before introducing other alternative monikers, have you ever wondered where the name ‘Seppala’ came from anyway?

One of Alaska’s first great mushers, Leonard Seppala, is known for his contributions to Alaska’s sled dog racing history.

He was the man who pioneered the Siberian Sleddog and Siberian Husky bloodline that we know of today. Likewise, he took part in the 1925 serum run from Seward to Nome.

Today, his name continues to pride itself alongside the Siberian Sleddog breed he trained and loved. Oftentimes, we can refer to Seppala Siberian Sleddogs as Seppalas or Seppala Siberians. Never without Seppala.

Seppala Siberian Sleddog vs. Siberian Husky: What Are the Differences?

You might’ve seen some silly videos of Siberian Huskies while scrolling through your phone.

They’re usually known for their friendly and comedic antics. Many of the Huskies today are part of the family as pets, while the Seppala (since from the start) is a utility dog.

Seppala Siberians are tagged as the working lines and the Siberian Huskies as the show lines.

In comparison, the Seppala’s legs and body are longer, and they are mostly lighter in weight and build than those of the Husky show dogs.

Their ears are also taller than those in the show lines, set closer together, and are very erect.

Check out the picture below to see what does a Seppala Siberian Sleddog look like:

Generally, Huskies tend to have more standardized appearances while the Seppala was bred for performance, so appearances vary greatly.

Review the photo below of a Siberian Husky:

Siberian Husky photo

If you are looking for a family pet, go for a Husky; if you want a working dog for cart or sled pulling, the Seppala is more ideal.

Both thrive in cold weather and are not usually advised to stay in warm areas for long.

Both will be affiliative, loyal, and somewhat independent yet known to be “intelligent disobedient” performers, using their own judgment before obedience.

Seppala Siberian Sleddog History and Origin: Where Does the Seppala Siberian Sleddogs Come From?

The Seppala Siberian Sleddogs hauled through the forceful winds and frozen wastelands in the same way their ancestral Northeastern Siberian sled dogs had persevered before them.

From this line, the original wolf genome was carried down to our modern dogs. The Seppalas have a long history when it comes to dedicating their lives to their companions.

Renowned dog driver Leonhard Seppala has been acclaimed for developing this dedicated breed of dog.

He was an immigrant from Norway who went to Alaska to seek his fortune in gold but became known instead as one of the most successful dog sled racers of his time.

Dogsled racing was a popular pastime at Nome, Alaska that when Russian fur trader William Goosak brought a team of 10 Northeastern Siberian dogs, the locals were thrilled with the smaller dogs and called them ‘Siberian Rats’ for a time.

It wasn’t until during the 1909 Nome Sweepstakes race when the ‘rats’ bagged gold that people finally started acknowledging the dogs.

It was Seppala – along with his two-dog sled team – who set forth the recognition and prestige for the breeds.

In 1913, he was entrusted to care for a team of Siberian Huskies, which were then known as the Chukchi Huskies.

Not long after, he went on to become a legend who dominated the Alaskan sweepstakes from 1914 to 1917.

In 1925, the isolated town of Nome was struck with a diphtheria outbreak amidst the harsh winter conditions.

Seppala became renowned by taking his team of dogs in a series of dog relays, covering over 340 miles in whiteout conditions and below zero temperatures, to deliver the antidote that’ll save the lives of the townspeople. Fortunately, he succeeded and turned man’s best friend into man’s saviors.

Out of all the dogs that took part in the Great Serum Run, the most celebrated were two Siberian huskies named Balto and Togo who are soon to be the stars of their very own movie.

Togo, a Husky named for a Japanese admiral, led the team of sled dog heroes. Back then, Togo was a small and weak pup that Seppala judged to be unfit even to be considered as a sled dog.

Yet, although Little Togo may have been tiny, he was adorably smart and sprightly with a little streak of disobedience and mischief.

Togo always found ways to escape from any sort of imprisonment to be able to run out and join his master with his team of dogs.

It was only a matter of time before Togo was able to convince his master that he was no ordinary sled dog.

Togo’s strong will and enthusiasm are attributed to the ancestral Seppala Siberian Sleddog blood that runs through his veins.

Seppala Siberian Sleddog Appearance: What Does a Seppala Siberian Sleddog Look Like?

The Seppala Siberian Sleddog is an Arctic dog breed that has a striking resemblance to a wolf. Although they are alluring in appearance, their owners give more importance to their abilities and work ethics.

Seppala Siberians have a medium to large build (yet leaner than those of Siberian Huskies), with well-developed shoulders, neck, and chest that are useful for hauling sleds.

Here are some specifics on their features:

  • Mesaticephalic skull type, proportionally sized, wedge-shaped, and wolf-like or fox-like in appearance. The top skull is moderately broad and long, while the ears are set flat in-between.
  • Agouti “wild type” coloration and piebald spotting are common.

With the Seppala Siberian’s role of pull sledding, it is a moderate-sized dog averaging between 40 and 60 pounds for the male and around 31 to 53 pounds for the female.

Any more or less than the advised weight will result in either being overweight or underweight.

On the flip side, the ideal height of the male Seppala Siberian Sleddog is 21 to 25 inches while that of the female is 19 to 22 inches.

They are a bit similar to the Siberian Huskies and just enough to pat its head for a job well-done by sled pulling through the vicious snow pile.

How Rare Is a Seppala Siberian Sleddog?

If you haven’t heard of the Seppala Siberian Sleddog until this article, you aren’t alone. In a popularity game, Siberian Huskies take the lead.

Rarely do people know the existence of a breed with superb mushing capabilities and the athletic prowess of an Olympian.

The fact that the Siberian Husky and Seppala Siberian Sleddog once shared the same origin is evident in the similarities between their features.

However, the bloodlines of the show ring dogs and the working dogs were eventually separated.

By the 1990s, the Seppala Siberian Sleddog was distinct enough from the Siberian Husky to be recognized as a new “evolving breed” by the Canadian agriculture authorities.

And in 2002, a similar separate breed initiative was started in the United States.

Is the Seppala Siberian Sleddog Recognized by Kennel Clubs?

More than 70 years after the Siberian Husky was formally recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Seppala Siberian Sleddog Project (SSSD Project) had its ideological beginnings in the 1990s.

It was there that the idea of a separate Seppala breed, distinct from the AKC registered Siberian Husky, was first introduced and discussed.

At first, the SSSD Project was synchronized with Seppala Kennels. After the refusal of the Canadian Kennel Club to recognize the Seppala Siberians as a separate breed, Seppala Kennels took charge in compiling the material and in briefing Agriculture Canada, determining breeding guidelines, establishing a breed standard, and incorporating a new Animal Pedigree Association.

Currently, the International Seppala Siberian Sleddog Club (ISSSC), incorporated in 2002, is the recognized breed club for the Seppala Siberian Sleddog as stated by the Continental Kennel Club.

Seppala Siberian Sleddog Temperament: Do Seppala Siberian Sleddogs Make Good Family Dogs?

The compelling characteristics of Seppala Siberian Sleddogs are their natural and primitive appearance, the positive attitude in pulling the harness, and its cooperative and highly bonded nature.

Seppalas can be predatory towards smaller animals, but they are well socialized towards others once a hierarchy has been established.

Thrilled by the joys of hauling a sled through the cold, treacherous weather, Seppala Siberians have high energy that needs to be regularly exhausted. This is why they aren’t suited for apartment living.

Although they’ll reserve most of their bursts of energy for outdoors, they’re active enough indoors to need plenty of space to run around. Their ideal living environment is a family home with access to a large, fenced-in yard.

The Seppala personality is a happy, curious, and intelligent one that, when properly socialized, results in a joyful companion. This fits best for owners that seek to explore and experience the world.

Seppala Siberian Sleddog Lifespan and Health Issues: Are Seppala Siberian Huskies Healthy Dogs?

Seppala Siberians live as long as 12 to 16 years yet can be a bit high-maintenance in terms of wellness as they tend to have more and frequent health issues than other breeds.

Because they usually dwell in snowy areas, Seppala Siberian Sleddogs are more prone to vision complications caused by snow blindness and excessive eye dryness.

Regular vet check-ups are advised as preventive measures to avoid further complications.

Here are the common health problems of Seppala Siberian Sleddogs:

  • Corneal Dystrophy – When your Sleddog contracts corneal dystrophy, this means that abnormal material has accumulated within the clear area of its cornea. In some lucky cases, no symptoms emerge. On the other hand, it usually causes vision impairment.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) – This eye problem is an inherited condition that causes the eventual degeneration of a dog’s retina. More often than not, this will lead to irreversible blindness.
  • Cataracts – Cataracts in dogs can range from something as small as a dot to occupying an entire lens. This disease leads to cloudiness within the crystalline lens of the eyes, thus limiting or even completely removing the pooch’s vision.

The Seppala Siberian Sleddog has an average risk for obesity. Daily walks should be on schedule, and a nutritious diet should be monitored.

This breed drools much more than others, so slobber spots on your clothes could not be fully avoided.

Seppala Siberian Sleddogs are quite energetic dogs, and they don’t spend much time sleeping. They are always rearing to go for walks and runs.

So if you’re a fan of cuddling with pets on the couch on weekends, it’s best to consider whether the Seppala is a good match for you.

Seppala Siberian Sleddog Puppy Prices & Expenses: How Much Does a Seppala Siberian Sleddog Cost?

The Seppala Siberian Sleddogs from reputable breeders cost around $600 to $800.

Color and appearances aren’t given much thought to this breed as they’re expected to be the working lines in contrast to the Seppala Siberian Husky show ring dogs.

As for the yearly budget in caring for your Seppala Siberian Sleddog that covers food, vet bills, toys, and licenses, it varies between $1,400 and $3,000.

Additional expenses also include frequent visits to the veterinarian for a complete assessment, shots, and a heartworm test every year and promptly if your fur baby is injured or ill.

Places to Find Seppala Siberian Sleddog Puppies for Sale and Adoption

Seppala Siberians are often unheard of in contrast to the Siberian Husky’s popularity and only a few breeders are left willing enough to continue Togo’s bloodline.

If you’re lucky, you might be able to find a specific nearby breeder to cater to your needs.

On the other hand, be prepared to look for alternatives such as general sleddog breeders if you cannot find what you’re looking for.

Here are some trusted breeders of Seppala Siberian Sleddogs:

  • Seppala Kennels – This breeder used to have its own website back in 2003. In recent years, however, they have moved to the site Dogtec for ads and postings. For over 15 years, Seppala Kennels remains to be the main breed development center of pedigree SSSDs straight from the Togo bloodline in North America.
  • Northlane Siberian Huskies and Seppala Siberian Sled Dogs – This is an active breeder for Seppala Siberians and Siberian Huskies. They produce about one litter per year after each parent has completed all required health tests. The kennel actively breeds for the purpose of shows and races. Parents are chosen based on their racing performance, and the price depends on the parents and the number of puppies born.

READ NEXT: Best Siberian Husky Breeders (2021): 10 Places to Find Husky Puppies for Sale

If you’re looking to adopt a Seppala Siberian Sleddog or a similar related breed instead, you may head on to these sites:

  • Adopt-a-Pet – Adopt-a-Pet is an online adoption site that connects over 17,000 animal shelters and pet rescues to millions of aspiring pet owners. Make sure to drop by their site from time to time to check for a Seppala Siberian Sleddog, or perhaps a Husky!
  • Petfinder – Similar to Adopt-a-Pet, Petfinder hosts an extensive database of dog breeds as well as their locations for your perusal. The site includes adoption posts from various shelters across the country so be sure to regularly check them for updates on rare Seppala Siberian Sleddog sightings!

READ NEXT: 10 Best Siberian Husky Rescues for Adoption (2021): Our Top 10 Picks!

Frequently Asked Questions

Seppala Siberian Sleddog with blue eyes waiting to be harnessed for dog sled races

Are Seppala Siberian Sleddogs Aggressive?

The Seppala Siberian Sleddog is not an aggressive dog. Their disposition is active, merry, and often quite inquisitive. Although sometimes, they may tend to exhibit great reserve with strangers.

They possess a stable and serious temperament, neither nervous nor hostile. Being a hardworking sleddog, Seppalas have a nature that is highly cooperative.

Do Seppala Siberian Sleddogs Bark a Lot?

As potential dog owners, you are well aware of the fact that dogs bark to communicate, and sometimes, they get loud when they have the momentum.

In the case of Seppala Siberian Sleddogs, they may tend to bark more than other breeds.

Due to their diligent nature, Seppala Siberians can become protective and territorial of their area or spot, which could possibly prompt extreme barking.

Considering that they have strong predatory instincts towards small animals, this factor might only serve to prove the point in the discussion.

But like normal dogs, Seppalas may bark due to feeling bored, seeking attention, or attempting a greeting.

Do expect that because they have higher stamina compared to other breeds, the barking may most likely be their pastime if they feel even a bit lonesome or bored.

Final Thoughts: Is the Seppala Siberian Sleddog Your Long-Awaited Canine Companion?

The experience of searching for a man’s best friend is as thrilling as finally getting to spend your days with your soul pooch.

There are many things to consider before deciding which companion best fits your lifestyle and personality. But when you finally feel that instant flicker of connection, it makes every worry you’ve felt melt away.

Seppala Siberian Sleddogs are the true working dogs’ hearts and souls. Settling for this breed means you are willing to keep up with its energy and vigor.

Of course, your enthusiasm will also be rewarded greatly through their loyalty.

Owning and befriending a Seppala Siberian will keep you on your toes, waiting for the next adventure that lies ahead. So if you’re one adventurous fella, the Seppala Siberian Sleddog might just be the one for you!

Featured Image Credit: Reimar / Shutterstock.com

John Carter

My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially cats and dogs. I've got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.

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