TO PLACE THE KENNELS of Alec Belford and his son Charlie (Laconia, NH) accurately within the Seppala milieu is something of a challenge. They made crucial contributions, yet they never founded a major bloodline of their own as Wheeler, Shearer, Frothingham or McFaul did. In a way the Belford operation can with justice be said to have been central to the development of Seppala strain, and in a way it was largely peripheral. The Belfords were certainly "in on the ground floor" -- the photo above of their dog yard in 1932 already shows some crucial animals. The Belfords had a very complex interaction with the Wheeler kennel, so Byzantine in its complexity that probably nobody but the Belfords has ever understood it accurately. The dogsledding career of Charles "Sonny" Belford lasted from the early 1930s well into the 1970s. Yet who ever heard of a "Belford bloodline"? From time to time in the history of Seppala sleddogs the Belford name surfaces, with a crucial interaction here, a strategic individual dog there. Yet many of the Belford dogs are unfamiliar names to all of us, and throughout the Belford history there have been "Alaskans" running right alongside the Siberians. What was an "Alaskan" in 1932, you well might ask, long before Keith Bryar and Roland Lombard started bringing Alaskan village dogs out of the interior into New England Sled Dog Club territory? I cannot answer that question -- one such animal is in the photo above, and Charlie Belford identifies him as an Alaskan.
So to attempt to trace the course of Belford père et fils
in detail from 1929 through the 1970s is really somewhat beyond the
scope of this small article. But we cannot fail to mention their
crucial contributions to Seppala sleddog history, although the account
may well sound a bit disjointed. Perhaps the most accurate statement
I could make would be to say that a majority of the crucial Seppalas of
the 1930s passed through the Belford Kennels or raced in Belford teams,
though very few of them are known to us through Belford breeding.
The unregistered Poland Spring male NUTOK (by OLAF ex NAN), for example, was purchased by Alec Belford, but he is familiar to us today as the sire of PEARL sold by Mrs. Ricker to Harry R. Wheeler; NUTOK obviously sired PEARL before he was sold to Alec Belford. NUTOK was bred at Belfords' kennel to the Poland Spring bitch MONA (by SMOKY ex DUSHKA), but just one pup survived and was never registered. NUTOK then passed on to other hands.
The best-known and most crucial Belford Seppala is undoubtedly NANNA. Belfords bred BELFORD'S WOLF (another Poland Spring dog by SMOKY ex TOSCA) to MONA in 1932, producing the white bitch NANNA, considered by Dr. Charles Belford as one of the finest Siberians he ever saw, as well as the white male NANKI who was Charlie's first leader. NANNA was sold by Alec to Wheeler, much to the distress of young Charlie. However, the sale of NANNA triggered an intense relationship with the Wheeler kennel that brought many fine Wheeler dogs into the Belford teams. The Siberia import brothers TSERKO and KREE VANKA raced on Alec Belford's team in 1935, for example.
SO MANY OTHER well-known dogs raced on the Belford teams that
it becomes bewildering. SAPSUK and UGRUK OF SEPPALA. VANKA
OF SEPPALA II ("Cossack"); FRITZ OF SEPPALA; MATTE and
BIJOU. BIJOU was bred to MONA, producing four fine pups that
raced on Charlie's team but were never registered, and were
sold when he went to college. KEGSTED passed through; so did
TONY OF FOXSTAND, and even the remarkable bitch SIGRID III
OF FOXSTAND, sold to Bill Shearer for a sum that financed
one year of vet college for Charlie! Charlie raced in the
World Championship at Laconia, NH, in 1936 and 1937, running
the first-string Belford team, before he went off to
college. Most of the dogs were sold during that hiatus.
Charlie graduated in 1943 from Middlesex University (now known as Brandeis) veterinary school, the same year in which he married his wife Barbara. But the war years produced a general suspension of sleddog activities, and the new Dr. Belford had in any event to establish himself in veterinary practice.
Following the war, he commenced getting a team together, making the rounds of racing kennels assembling a group of other people's second-string dogs. TESLIN, a Siberian, and MOLLY (1/4 Malamute) came from Doc Lombard; a couple of US Army Search and Rescue veterans from Jack Frost. The bonanza proved to be three Seppalas from Bill Shearer, MINKA, MAJIC and ZOAR, all out of N'YA N'YA OF SEPPALA; their sire was uncertain but could well have been POLARIS OF SAPAWE. Charlie says that MINKA was the best dog on that team and the finest Siberian he had ever driven.
CHARLIE DID BETTER than anyone expected racing his pick-up team, and the three dogs from Shearer were at the heart of his success. The leader TESLIN went back to Lombard eventually, to be replaced by the famous TIMMIE OF GATINEAU. In 1950 Charlie acquired OTTO OF GATINEAU and BRUNO OF GATINEAU from Donnie McFaul, who was dispersing the Gatineau stock at that time, just subsequent to his purchase of the Wheeler kennel stock. Both dogs came from a litter by Donnie's old leader NICKO OF GATINEAU out of STARINA OF GATINEAU, born 3 June 1949. Bill Shearer also had two males, TIMMIE OF GATINEAU and TEDDY OF GATINEAU, from the same litter and was having training difficulties with them. In summer of 1951 Shearer sold the pair to Charlie, who straightened them out and found he had his next bonanza in TIMMIE, who ran single lead on his racing team until the dog was retired in 1960. There are many photos still in existence showing the Charles Belford team with this striking white dog at single lead. TIMMIE OF GATINEAU is found in Seppala pedigrees today through LYL OF SEPSEQUEL; he was her great-grandsire.
Other Seppalas known to have been owned or raced by Belford in the
1950s or early 1960s are: FOXSTAND'S KING, FOXSTAND'S EGYPT,
FOXSTAND'S REBA, BELFORD'S MAC, BELFORD'S JALAPER, BUZZ OF
SEPPALA, NIKI OF SEPPALA. BELFORD'S NEWT, TIMMIE OF
GATINEAU's son out of FOXSTAND'S EGYPT, became an excellent
command leader, replacing his sire in 1960. Charlie also
raced NEWT's littermates BELFORD'S MAJIC II, DOTTIE, JAN,
MINX and GUSSLY.
Another famous Seppala that passed through the Belford kennel was FOXSTAND'S GEORGIA! Acquired from Shearer, Charlie bred her to FOXSTAND'S RUDOLPH in 1952, producing BELFORD'S JALAPER, who ran on the Belford team before going to Donnie McFaul, probably in 1957 or 1958. JALAPER sired MAQUOIS OF SEPPALA, who became the main stud dog for J. M. McDougall's Malamak Kennels. (BELFORD'S JALAPER and his son MAQUOIS OF SEPPALA are found in today's Seppala pedigrees through the Markovo foundation bitch FROSTFIRE ANISETTE.) FOXSTAND'S GEORGIA (born 6 November 1948) was sold to McFaul in 1953; she became a key McFaul brood bitch in the 1950s.
ALL THROUGH THE 1950s and early 1960s Charlie Belford raced Siberian teams, gaining a reputation as a major competitor on a par with Doc Lombard and Keith Bryar. Finally in the 1960s the Alaskan village dogs began to show up in eastern racing, spearheaded by the importation of BRANDY by Keith Bryar and of RING and NELLIE by Lombard. In order to compete, Belford was forced to move with the times and switch to Alaskans as well. In 1964, 1965, and 1966 he won the Laconia, NH, World Championship event, with some Siberians still on his team. His racing career lasted into the 1970s.
ALEC AND CHARLIE BELFORD, as relatively little-known as they are today compared to Wheeler and Shearer, had an incredible number of fine Seppalas pass through their kennel and race on their teams. It seems astonishing that they somehow fell short of forming a strong continuing pure Seppala bloodline in the way that most of the other major Seppala kennels did. Certainly it was not because no breeding was done. However, the exigencies of élite level racing competition do tend to impose constraints, and one supposes that these acted more strongly on the Belford kennel than they seemed to do on most of the others, who either never chose to compete quite that single-mindedly, or else passed their careers in the more easy-going racing environment that prevailed in the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s. Chance, too, plays a major part in determining which bloodlines happen to survive. Today the Seppala Siberian Sleddog feels the absence both of the Belford stock whose lineage might have survived but did not, and of the major bloodline that that lineage might have and should have become.(Photos from The Belford Collection, courtesy Elsie Chadwick, Siberian Husky Archives)