IN MEMORIAM: POLAND SPRING'S CORVUS OF SEPPALA Born 1 December 2007, Died 17 April 2017. Sire: Pyotr of Seppala (Shakal iz Solovyev x Zirconia of Sepp-Alta); Dam: Cuchi of Seppala (Surgut of Seppala 2nd x Kolyma of Seppala). Corvus, called "Crow" at SK, came to us as a stud-service puppy. She had a lovely outgoing cheerful personality and a striking resemblance to Leonhard Seppala's 1927 New England lead dog Billiken (minus his long coat). For several years Susan and I held out the hope that Corvus might produce our final litter at Seppala Kennels; we really felt Corvus should be bred but our population numbers did not decline quickly enough to make that possible so she never had a litter. Instead she fell victim to mammary cancer. (Yet another instance in which the presumed "good of the breed" worked against the welfare of the individual dog.) Crow was deeply loved at SK and admired by all who visited us. She will be sorely missed by Jeffrey and Susan.
Hello, site visitor! I wish I knew how to tell the right people about Seppalas. If you (as a visitor to this website and presumably a dog lover) knew where to find the ideal canine companion — a dog that is hardy, healthy, intelligent, affectionate, cooperative, just the right size, sound of body, with great natural beauty, a serious working heritage and a romantic past history — would you not be very interested in having such a dog for your personal companion, or as leader of your recreational dog team?
I found that dog back in 1969 and the finding changed my whole life! Today I live among the sixth to eighth generation descendants of Ditko of Seppala and I still find them anew, almost every day, as living, breathing canine marvels.
Yet hardly anyone seems to know this secret. True, authentic Seppalas remain such a rarity that few dog lovers have even heard of them and almost none have ever met a living example of this unique sleddog strain. The prevailing racing sleddog culture has much to do with this: the numbers-game, throwaway mentality of Alaskan-husky dogsled racers has little regard for tradition and little respect for individual sleddogs other than perhaps the handful of exceptional leaders of winning teams during the few years of their athletic peak. Worse yet, the few mushers who discover Seppalas often seem to get hold of the wrong end of the stick, convincing themselves that Seppalas, despite their rarity and tiny population numbers, ought somehow still to be the race winners that they were in the decade following the year 1910. (Dogsled racing today IS almost entirely a highly exploitative numbers game, hotly contested with special-purpose dogs of little other use, ill-suited to be companions or recreational sleddogs.) Worst of all, a few people have attempted to breed such special-purpose dogs from part-Seppala bloodlines and these poor misfits, neither proper Seppalas nor effective race winners, are the only dogs who are commonly seen by the public as Seppalas.
So the direct pure-strain descendants of Ditko of Seppala (and ultimately of Leonhard Seppala's renowned dogs such as Scotty, Fritz, Dolly, Nome, Bonzo and Togo) remain virtually unknown to the dog world and perpetually at risk of extinction because almost no one is aware of their existence, knowledgeable and concerned about their preservation.
The authentic heirs of Scotty and the rest remain here at Seppala Kennels, though. I have virtually bankrupted myself in my continuing effort to ensure a future for them. That effort is now drawing to a close in the fulness of time; I can no longer afford to carry on breeding. But for the time being we're all still here in Rossburn, Manitoba, ageing folks with ageing dogs. It is still a joy to me to live among these beautiful, affectionate true Seppala dogs, whether the dog world affords them a future or not.
SEPPALA KENNELS IV was established in 1993 in the heart of the Yukon Territory in Grizzly Valley twenty miles north of Whitehorse. The breeding programme began three years earlier, though, in the Pyrenees foothills region of Catalunya in northern Spain. As owner of Seppala Kennels and originator of the Seppala Siberian Sleddog Project, I dedicated the greater part of my adult life to the preservation, protection and development of Leonhard Seppala's Siberian sleddogs. For fifteen years (summer 1993 to summer 2008), the Gold Rush country between fabled Lake Laberge and the Miners' Range was home to Seppala Kennels In 2008 the kennels were relocated to the beautiful Parkland region of central Manitoba, just beside the southwest boundary of Riding Mountain National Park.
Ours was the fourth historic Seppala Kennels. It was preceded by the MacLean-McFaul Seppala Kennels in Maniwaki, Quebec (1950 - 1963), the Harry R. Wheeler Seppala Kennels in St. Jovite Station, Quebec (1930 - 1950), and the Seppala Kennels partnership of Leonhard Seppala and Elizabeth Ricker in Poland Spring, Maine (1926 - 1931).
My dedication to Seppalas began in 1969 when I acquired Ditko of Seppala. Dit and his successor Shango of Seppala inspired the Markovo rescue effort in the early 1970s. A solid core group of young Seppalas was successfully bred to carry on the McFaul/Shearer strain. Finally economic hardships and fears for the vulnerability of having the entire gene pool in one prairie farmyard led to the dispersal of the Markovo stock broadly across North America in 1975.
From 1990 the breeding programme was directed towards maintaining and furthering sleddog versatility and genetic diversity in the Leonhard Seppala Siberian sleddog. Seppala Kennels bloodlines are based on pure McFaul/Shearer lineage stock, through Markovo and Seppineau bloodlines of the 1970s. Our breeding stock came mostly from Carolyn Ritter (River View) and early Doug Willett (Sepp-Alta) breedings, with an assist from Whitmore (Spirit Wind) and Serbousek (Windigo) kennels. To these pure Markovo-Seppala bloodlines were added the progeny of our excellent Siberia import male Shakal iz Solovyev (whose immediate ancestors were Chukotkan dogs), and dogs imported from the Cal Segu bloodline of our friend and collaborator Ramón Rojas in the Spanish Pyrenees; Ramón's breeding, quite similar to ours, was a blend of Markovo-Seppala and Solovyev lineage.
Seppala Kennels' bloodlines represent the strongest direct link to the Nome Gold Rush dogs bred and owned by world-famous dog driver Leonhard Seppala. Seppala Kennels dogs are the original, authentic pure-strain Seppala Siberian Sleddogs, last remaining representatives of the Leonhard Seppala strain carried forward by Alex and Charles Belford, Harry R. Wheeler, William L. Shearer III, J. D. McFaul, J. Malcolm McDougall and Keith Bryar.
Twenty years of effort to bring a secure future to the Leonhard Seppala strain by obtaining status for it as a distinct dog breed in its own right, and to publicise it on the Internet under the name of the Seppala Siberian Sleddog Project, have now come to an end. Others may or may not choose to carry that effort forward. To date it has not been possible to gather, educate and hold together an adequate cadre of committed, ethical SSSD breeders. We have at length had to relinquish the aspirations for a Seppala breed; Seppala Kennels has now become a private sleddog kennel like any other, keeping sleddogs for our own personal joy in the dogs themselves with no other end in view.
My wife Susan E. Bragg, full partner in Seppala Kennels and a very experienced dog person whose abilities and judgment are valued assets to the kennel, joins me in caretaking our ageing canine population; our dogs now average around ten years of age. Susan and I also preserve and work with Chinook Sled Dogs. To see the Chinooks of our ATHOLL KENNELS, please click on the card below:
Best wishes to the few discerning admirers of the true authentic Leonhard Seppala sleddog,
J. Jeffrey Bragg