OF ALL THE MANY PEDIGREES that I have seen in a lifetime in the canine fancy, I have a single favourite. It is the pedigree of a little Siberian Husky bitch whose registered name was BAYOU OF FOXSTAND. (Here is a link to BAYOU's pedigree.) She was born in 1940, bred by Joe Booth of Carlisle, Massachusetts. She was dark grey with blue eyes. Her sire was SURGUT OF SEPPALA from Harry Wheeler; her dam was DUCHESS OF HUSKYLAND, whose sire was Millie Turner's Wheeler leader SAPSUK OF SEPPALA. Three-quarters of her pedigree displays Harry Wheeler origins. Ah, but the other quarter has quite a tale to tell. No other Siberian sleddog pedigree, surely, is quite so packed with history as BAYOU's; no other has so urgent a message for the breeders of today.
But what dogs are these, in the ancestry of BAYOU's maternal grandam, ROLLINSFORD NINA OF MARILYN? KOTLIK, NERA OF MARILYN, TILLIE, CH. NORTHERN LIGHT KOBUCK? They surely are not Wheeler dogs, neither are they from the Seeleys' Chinook Kennels line. Where can we find out about these dogs?
The Modern Monolithic Siberian Husky Population
IT IS AN UNFORTUNATE human tendency to assume that things do not change much, despite the fact that we are surrounded by constant change. Siberian breed fanciers assume that their breed has always been more or less as it is today. Today the Siberian Husky breed, as found in registries of the American Kennel Club, the Canadian Kennel Club, and similar national registries, is overwhelmingly composed of the descendants of show dogs, today largely harking back to the "Innisfree" bloodline of Kathleen and Col. Norbert Kanzler. Before Innisfree, the ruling show bloodline was Lorna Demidoff's "Monadnock" and its offshoots.
Just how monolithic and homogeneous the overall Siberian Husky breed population is today, at least as far as its great majority of show dogs and pet stock goes, is not generally realised. Even as early as 1966, out of 103 dogs entered at the Siberian Husky Club of America's National Specialty, 100 were the descendants of one highly successful show dog: CH. MONADNOCK'S PANDO, then still alive. Popular, heavily-promoted show bloodlines tend to gain rapid ascendancy within the overall breed population. The people who do the bulk of the breeding ride on the coattails of show ring winners; red ink in the pedigree impresses those who buy pet stock and the breeders know that. Today, if you see a Siberian on the street, it's usually a safe enough bet to assume that he's a descendant of CH. MONADNOCK'S PANDO.
Who Was Lorna Demidoff and where did PANDO come from?
MRS. DEMIDOFF was around on the Siberian scene in the 1930s; she was Lorna Taylor then, the wife of newspaper magnate Moseley Taylor. The fifth- and sixth-generation ancestors of PANDO were also around at that same time, but few of them belonged to Lorna Taylor. In fact, the Monadnock bloodline stems almost entirely from a single foundation bitch, TOSCA OF ALYESKA, one of the Eva B. Seeley foundation litter (DUKE x TANTA OF ALYESKA) that was purchased for Lorna by her husband circa 1933.
In 1938 Lorna bred TOSCA OF ALYESKA to BELFORD'S WOLF to produce CH. PANDA, her first show champion and lead dog, and again in 1940 to Fred Lovejoy's VANKA OF SEPPALA (not to Millie Turner's CH. VANKA OF SEPPALA 2nd as erroneously stated in Michael Jennings' The New Complete Siberian Husky) to produce CH. KIRA OF MONADNOCK. She then bred CH. PANDA to a male owned and bred by Millie Turner, VALUIKI OF COLD RIVER, which mating produced CH. VANYA OF MONADNOCK 3rd. That male, bred to CH. KIRA OF MONADNOCK, produced the bitches TANYA OF MONADNOCK and NADEJDA. NADEJDA, inbred back to her own sire, produced PANDA GIRL. PANDA GIRL and TANYA OF MONADNOCK were both mated with William Belletete's IZOK OF GAP MOUNTAIN. The progeny of those matings, plus Mrs. Seeley's CH. ALYESKA'S SUGGEN OF CHINOOK, became the grandparents of Mrs. Demidoff's dominant show dog CH. MONADNOCK'S PANDO. His pedigree (here is a link to PANDO's pedigree) will help clarify the relationships and the manner in which Mrs. Demidoff forged show ring domination from a single bitch.
Many Siberian fanciers are aware of these facts to a greater or lesser extent. But is that really all we need to know about the history of the Siberian dog during its first decade of AKC registration? It is all that most people know, but it does not present an adequate picture of the breed population in the 1930s, not at all. Neither Mrs. Demidoff nor Mrs. Seeley were the dominant breeders of the 1930s, though breed clubs like to give the impression that they were.
There is an appalling unawareness of the real breed history of the 1930s decade today. Little information can be had from those who ought to be best able to supply it, such as The Siberian Husky Club of America and Siberian Husky Club of Canada. The breed clubs seem to care little about the history of their breed; they do nothing to encourage research and awareness among breeders. Other than vague, generalised, brief historical sketches, little information is provided on Internet websites dealing with the Siberian Husky breed, at least those of breed clubs and show dog fanciers! (The greatest single accumulation of detailed, factual Siberian Husky history used to be found, oddly enough, on the Seppala Siberian Sleddog Project website.) But there is another handy source that we can tap, one that tells all by itself a very clear tale of early breed history.
"CARDED" -- The First Decade of A. K. C. Registrations
A USEFUL AND FASCINATING BOOKLET was published in 2003 by New Englander Nancy Cowan of Deering, New Hampshire. Entitled "CARDED! (Siberian Husky Profiles Prior to 1945)", it consists largely of photocopies of the index cards accumulated by Margaret Dewey of Komatik Kennels during a three-week period of research in 1942 at the headquarters of the American Kennel Club in New York City. The cards provide a fascinating survey of the earliest registered Siberian sleddog population during the first decade following A. K. C. Siberian Husky breed recognition. With their aid we can survey the registered Siberian population of the 1930s and separate it into bloodline groups.
Thirty-two breeders' names account for all the Siberians listed in the Dewey card collection; better to say fewer than thirty since in a couple of instances a kennel name was substituted for the actual breeder's name. About half these names account for fewer than five dogs each in the 284 listings. Some of the breeders fall into reasonably well-defined lineage or bloodline groups according to the original sources of their breeding stock. Others do not. Several names who accounted for only two or three listings in the late 1930s went on to become major players in the 1940s: Marie Turner and William L. Shearer III are the most outstanding examples. Some minor breeders tended to straddle two bloodline groups, but overall tendencies are clear. Next to the names I have shown the number of individual dogs in this group bred by each individual, but to preserve clarity I have taken no account of owners' names.
An Analytical Breakdown of the "CARDED" Database
Northern Light Bloodline (84 dogs)
Julien A. Hurley, Fairbanks, Alaska - 41
Elsie K. Reeser, Fairbanks, Alaska - 6
Oliver R. Shattuck, Alton, New Hampshire - 18
Ford Cary, Traverse City, Michigan - 3
C. H. Young, Center Sandwich, New Hampshire - 7
John D. McIlhenny, Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania - 7
Norman D. Vaughan, Hamilton, Massachusetts - 2
Chinook/Alyeska Seeley Bloodline (76 dogs)
Mr. and Mrs. Milton Seeley/Chinook Kennels, Wonalancet, New Hampshire - 57
Lorna B. Taylor, Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire - 19
Seppala Bloodline (41 dogs)
Leonhard Seppala, Fairbanks, Alaska - 5
Alex G. Belford, Laconia, New Hampshire - 1
Elizabeth M. Ricker/Seppala Kennels, Poland Spring, Maine - 8
Harry R. Wheeler, Canada - 13
Stouder Thompson, Willoughby/Gates Mills, Ohio - 6
Kathryn S. Post, Montclair, New Jersey - 6
Marie Turner, Beverly Farms/South Hamilton, Massachusetts - 2
Suzanne Bloodline (35 dogs)
Jacques Suzanne, Lake Placid Club, New York - 21
Jack S. Hagy, Elmira, New York - 14
Komatik Bloodline (21 dogs)
Margaret A. Dewey/Komatik Kennels, Lake Placid Club, New York - 15
Edward A. Shepard, Cassville, New York - 4
Dr. Beverly Sproul, Lake Placid, New York - 2
Others (20 dogs)
Laika Kennels, Ipswitch, Massachusetts - 1
Everlyn Washburn, Lewiston, Maine - 3
Ray J. Thornton, Lake Placid, New York - 3
Joseph A. Booth, Carlisle, Massachusetts - 1
Joel E. Nordholm, Jr., Tilton, New Hampshire - 3
William L. Shearer III, Boston, Massachusetts - 4
Margaret S. Deardorff, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania - 4
Nancy Moffat, Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire
Imported Stock (7 dogs)
"Import" - 7
It should be noted that the above numbers represent A. K. C. registrations only, and bear little relationship to the actual sleddog populations of the various groups! In particular the Seppala faction, especially Ricker and Wheeler, registered very few of the animals they produced.
Northern Light -- Dominant Bloodline in 1930
THE EARLIEST AND LARGEST single bloodline group is that headed by Judge Julien A. Hurley of Fairbanks, Alaska, whose Northern Light Kennels registered the first two dozen or so AKC Siberian Huskies. No fewer than 84 dogs are accounted for by the Northern Light bloodline group; moreover, it should be noted that even Lorna B. Taylor, whose 19 entries are credited to the Seeley bloodline group, actually bred her prized foundation bitch TOSCA OF ALYESKA to NORTHERN LIGHT LITTLE BEAR -- five of those 19 entries come from that mating! It should begin to be quite obvious now that the most dominant and widespread bloodline group in 1930 was the Northern Light lineage. The Seppala bloodline was second in the breadth of its distribution, though not in number of registered animals, largely because Seppala Kennels seemed to take a jaundiced view of registration, both the Poland Spring original and its St. Jovite successor!
Oliver R. Shattuck of Alton, New Hampshire was an experienced dog man before the Siberians came along. His Pointsetter Kennels was well known for its gundog breeding, and Shattuck was a skilled dogsled builder! Well before Siberian breed recognition in 1930 he had acquired Siberian bitches AMMORO and RIGA from Seppala Kennels in Poland Spring, as well as a Seppala male TEX purchased from the Gunnar Kaasen tour team, and had begun breeding. He began to acquire stock from Julien Hurley and by November 1929 had already bred one litter from NORTHERN LIGHT KOBUCK and NORTHERN LIGHT LASKA. He continued to acquire and breed Northern Light stock after breed recognition.
To these facts must be added another significant dimension. In the early bench show history of the breed, the Northern Light bloodline was not at all an obscure sideshow. The first bench show Champion of the breed -- an honour that must have been hotly contested among the early fanciers -- was CH. NORTHERN LIGHT KOBUCK, owned by Shattuck. KOBUCK was a white Siberian with brown eyes. Another Shattuck Siberian, KOBUCK's daughter POLA (also white I believe), came close to becoming the first female Champion as well, but died still lacking one point for her bench title. (Viral diseases such as distemper took a heavy toll of dogs in those days, when every dog show and race brought a strong risk of infection and there were no preventive vaccines.) Shattuck's dogs regularly won over the dogs of the Seeleys, Dean Jackson, and others, creating a long-standing prejudice in the Seeley camp against white Siberians. As late as the mid-1960s there was still agitation for adding all-white coat colour as a disqualification to the breed standard, coupled with great discrimination against whites in conformation classes.
Seppala Bloodline -- A Rising Force in the 1930s
THE SEPPALA BLOODLINE was represented just prior to breed registration mostly by Seppala Kennels at Poland Spring, Maine, run by Elizabeth M. Ricker in partnership with Leonhard Seppala. When A. K. C. registration came about, Sepp and Liz Ricker paid it little heed. The Poland Spring kennel in its heyday contained a population of some 160 sleddogs. Out of all the animals housed there, only eight were ever A. K. C. registered. Registration in those days was probably considered mostly an adjunct to dog shows; certainly Seppala and Ricker did not value it very highly.
As dogs were disseminated from Seppala Kennels, the Seppala bloodline came to be represented by other kennels whose focus was mainly on working or racing sleddogs. Best known of these were the successor Seppala Kennels of Harry Roberts Wheeler at Grey Rocks Inn in St. Jovite Station, Quebec, the Cold River Kennels in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, and William L. Shearer III's Foxstand Kennels in Boston, Massachusetts. But the earliest breeders and racers of Seppalas apart from Sepp and Ricker were the Belfords père et fils.
Alec and his boy Charles Belford (known then as "Sonny") had an importance in the early history of the breed that was much greater than the scant number of dogs their breeding programme is known to have produced. An amazing number of the important dogs of the era passed through the Belfords' hands, ran on their team, were bought and sold by them. KREE VANKA, TSERKO, SIGRID III OF FOXSTAND, NANNA, BELFORD'S WOLF, SAPSUK OF SEPPALA, VANKA OF SEPPALA 2nd, the Serum Run dogs MATTE and BIJOU -- these and more besides were owned or driven by the Belfords. Their contribution to the early history of the breed is poorly understood today because they did not leave behind a large body of stock with their name clearly labelling it.
The Belfords supplied Harry Wheeler with the crucial bitch NANNA (whose actual sire and dam were BELFORD'S WOLF and MONA, not the "Wolf" and "Nan" erroneously published in CKC studbooks and perpetuated in pedigree services). The deal resulted in a string of Wheeler dogs coming to (or passing through) the Belford kennel in the 1930s. The Poland Spring kennel had provided Wheeler with KINGEAK and PEARL in 1930. In 1931 they were followed by core dogs from the Poland Spring kennel, MOLINKA, TOSCA, DUSHKA, BONZO, KREE VANKA, TSERKO and VOLCHOK; Elizabeth Ricker then remarried and went to Europe with her new husband Kaare Nansen. Seppala returned to Alaska, but Wheeler, the Belfords and "The Duchess" Rose Frothingham and her daughter Millie Turner remained, along with William L. Shearer III of Boston, Massachusetts, to represent the Seppala contingent solidly in New England well into the 1950s. The importance of Turner and Shearer is not evident from the records of the 1930s; they were just getting started as the 1940 decade turned.
The entire Seppala group appear to have kept Eva B. Seeley at arm's length for the most part. Bill Shearer bought two of the Seeley foundation litter, bred a litter or two from them, then discarded the Seeley stock and literally started his bloodline all over again when he acquired the coveted SIGRID III OF FOXSTAND from Sonny Belford at a price equivalent to a year's college tuition. SIGRID III was bred to the Turner leader "Cossack" -- CH. VANKA OF SEPPALA 2nd -- and the Foxstand bloodline continued from that foundation mating. Turner once bred a bitch to CH. WONALANCET'S BALDY OF ALYESKA, but there seems to have been little interaction apart from that. Wheeler had nothing to do with Seeleys -- but the Seeleys avidly made use of Wheeler-bred males that were sold to other New Englanders! Without the contributions of WOLFE OF SEPPALA, SAPSUK OF SEPPALA, and CH. VANKA OF SEPPALA 2nd, (as well as the non-Wheeler Seppala males BELFORD'S WOLF and SEPP 3rd), the Seeleys would have been reduced to inbreeding endlessly from their first foundation mating, as Jacques Suzanne did.
Jacques Suzanne of the Lake Placid Club in New York was sui generis, an eccentric lone wolf who kept his special bloodline to himself, apparently sharing it only with one other breeder, Jack S. Hagy of Elmira, New York, though he sold Everlyn Washburn one female. He began his breeding with a single pair of sleddogs, POLAIRE and DARKA, of unknown provenance; he inbred on that single mating for many decades thereafter, routinely breeding brothers and sisters.
Margaret Dewey herself was, like Jacques Suzanne, one of the Lake Placid group of dog drivers. She was the daughter of Melville Dewey, founder of the Lake Placid Club. Her bloodline was a curious mix of Poland Spring, Wheeler, Seeley and early Demidoff lines grafted onto early unregistered stock of undocumented origin, some of it apparently grandprogeny of TOGO. She would appear to have been an independent non-partisan in the early scheme of Siberian dog-politics.
In those days no one had a "lock" on the Siberian Husky market, small and new though it was. The dominant Northern Light bloodline, although it was the largest single lineage group, accounted for only 34 per cent of the total number of the group we are analysing. The Seeley group accounted for only 25 per cent (leaving out Lorna's 5 Northern light crosses from both groups). The Seppala group, hardly 14 1/2 per cent. The Suzanne group, less than 12 1/2 per cent. The Komatik group, about 6.9 per cent.
There was much stronger bloodline diversity in those days!