Sunday, February 10, 2008

Making me rethink siberians

Don Schmidt

Here is an interesting article it contains an interview with Don Schmidt, a musher who ran the iditarod with registered siberian huskies last year and who is running the Yukon Quest right now with the same dogs.

Most people run these races with mixed breed alaskan huskies but, there are a few dedicated mushers, who still use registered siberians. But anyway, they all generally get the red lantern. I think its frustrating for most of them.

Here is why I think alaskan husky teams win races:

The selection pressure for breeding a winning race team is intense, but this selection pressure is acting upon greater genetic variation because of the cross breeding.

In addition to this, there are just more alaskan husky kennels out there competing in races. Its a numbers game.

There are a few siberian kennels competing seriously but they don't compete successfully at the highest levels, so if they wanted to only breed race winning stock, they would never breed anything. So even though their standards may be high in terms of their goals, compared to top racing teams they aren't.

What I mean is, alaskan huskies that perfrom like siberians in races aren't bred by top alaskan husky kennels.

Also in a closed gene pool, like siberians have, there will only be so much genetic variation. There is much more genetic variation to draw from with an gene pool open to cross breeding. More culling too though.

Personally, though, I don't want to race. So, producing siberians that can win races over alaskan huskies is not a goal I would ever pursue.

I just want really durable working dogs and I like primitive characteristics. It looks to me based on this Guy's performance that he has really tough durable dogs. They are thick furred and medium boned.

I think over time, what has happened is racing kennels acting with the natural variation in the siberian gene pool, have made choices and selected for racing qualities. Longer legs, lighter bone and lighter coat. Not as exagerated as it is in the cross bred alaskans, but by competing with alaskan huskies, I think they have come to resemble them a little.

Its seems to be the case that there is somthing to be said for siberian huskies in their own right according to the standard as it is written.


Anonymous Terry said...

I have been filming the Kearney Sled Dog Races for years(Ontario)and thought I would share my site info.Have a nice Day "Mushers"

March 31, 2011 at 7:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are exactly right. Competitive Alaskan kennels breed for function. Since sled dog racing became popularized by the "white man", yes, I said it, the "function" has been re-defined. We do not race dogs that can haul loads like older Siberian-esque dogs were used for. However, it could be argued that a Siberian, by definition is nothing more than a cute village dog that the white man tried to duplicate in quantity.

REAL village dogs, however, are just that - village dogs (that includes Siberia). I would argue that Siberians are nothing more than thoroughbred cuties from the villages. You know the natives didn't give a care what they looked like, nor do most of them now.

In a sense, the collective "we" may have set the standards too low when we took the dogs' looks in to account. Kudos to the people who want to compete with Siberians, but they haven't even been recognized as a breed for 100 years. Village dogs (and wild northern dogs, as most village dogs are and were), didn't look like a registered Siberian. SIBERIANS looked like cute village dogs.

Point being, people decided that the dog should look a certain way, then later, took racing them in to mind. It could be argued that the natural advantages of these northern dogs have been sort of bred out of them. A "racing line" Siberian has the same ancestors as many of the TOP Alaskan dogs, but the Alaskans were continually bred for ONLY function, as was the case for millennia, either via natural selection or otherwise.

Every Siberian kennel knows they can't compete with Alaskans, but that's ultimately because they've chosen to continue the breeding of not-quite-natural dogs. I have a hard time empathizing.

December 31, 2011 at 7:17 PM  

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