Howling Husky history

Undoubtedly Australians have strong connection to working dogs. Owner of Howling Huskys, Jake Greaves, is one of those passionate men who got attached to the original working breed, the Siberian Husky. Honestly, Howling Huskys has simply fuelled his passion for the sport and most importantly his love for dogs. Jake became involved in dog sledding in 2008 starting as a competitive racer where he became very passionate about this unique breed.  As the years went on, Jake realized that he loved sharing this amazing sport with people and began doing wheeled tours in the high country of Victoria and casually ran tours in the snow at Dinner Plain. In 2010 he established Howling Husky Sled Dog Tours and moved his tours to Mt. Baw Baw Alpine Resort, expanding to include Mt. Hotham in 2015 and Dinner Plain Alpine Village in 2016.

Jake started racing with only 2 dogs but soon extended his family to a team of 8 racing dogs. Jake was one of the first people in Australia to competitively race dogs in the 8 dog class.  Jake and his 8 dogs soon stepped away from racing to focus on running tours. With a background in dog training, Jake's love for animals extends beyond his own dogs and to the wellbeing of all huskies and Arctic breeds as they are often misunderstood.

In the past, Jake was highly involved with the rescue groups and would foster and rehabilitate those “trouble” dogs that couldn’t be placed into normal foster homes.  Jake would work with them until they were ready to be rehomed into a forever home. Subsequently, he came across a few special dogs whose forever home stayed with Howling Huskys. He now has 42 huskies that are rescues out of his 51 in total. Jake has a few special people who help with all aspects of the businesses, ensuring the dogs have the highest level of care and love they deserve. He couldn’t do it without these people especially his dedicated father, family and friends who continue giving him and his fur family ongoing love and support.

 Jake does extensive training with all dogs he encounters and loves to share his extensive knowledge of the breed. Howling Huskys pride themselves on the time and care given to their dogs. A unique attribute to Howling Huskys is once a dog becomes part of the pack it will live its' days out in the husky haven Jake has created for them. We do not rehome any of our retired dog or sell any of our puppies. In fact, these two groups of dogs work together as the retirees still love their job therefore help teach our young puppies or new rescues.

Jake also believes that his dogs should have equal opportunity. This meaning why only train for the sport for which they were bred. He shares a passion for dog sledding with his dogs but enjoys keeping their mind fresh by practicing other sports with them such as obedience training, dog high jump, scent practice, swimming, agility and some of them even enjoy the odd dance.  He loves watching the dogs’ minds at work. He believes doing these simple games makes his dogs perform even better in front of the sled as they have a profound passion to work but also know they get play time too.  

The dogs are kept active in summer by providing a number of different programs to keep them social and having fun. The dogs mainly put on thrilling demonstrations at places such as agricultural shows, pet expos, Christmas parties and weddings. They also become a support to children with reading difficulties in his program Howling Husky’s Story Tails, where children build confidence by reading to dogs. He also provides an educational program called Mini Musher Experience which is geared to youth groups and after school programs where children can meet the dogs and learn about the history of dog sledding and how all dogs were originally bred for a purpose. Jake always provides a dog safety lecture with all people who come in contact with his dogs as he believes it is always good to educate or remind people about being “dog safe”.

Jake has dedicated his life to his dogs and he couldn’t feel luckier to be following his dream – that is to receive more love each day from his beautiful dogs than most of us could imagine.

 

Siberian Husky History

12,000 to 15,000 years ago humans migrated from Siberia across the Bering Strait into North America with domesticated dogs accompanying them. For thousands of years in the far Arctic regions of the world man has used dogs for hunting, pulling cargo and transportation. Many researchers believe that without this relationship life would have been nearly impossible.

The first records of sleds indicate they were likely made of whale and caribou bones, frozen fish wrapped in animal hide, all tied together with sinew. Runners were built of moss and mud made smooth with a glazing of frozen water and even urine. Only a few different breeds of dogs were around at this time such as the traditional Inuit Dog, the Eskimo Dog of the coastal cultures and the Interior Village dogs of native Athabascan people. These dogs had been living happily in the northern part of North America for around 4000 years. The dogs would eat the animals their masters would harvest. The harnesses for the dogs were made of seal skin and bone. They had teams of three dogs pulling the sled with their master running out in front guiding the dogs.  

The popularity of dog “mushing” started to grow when the Russian explorers crossed the Bering Strait into current day Alaska. They found the native people of this area were well adapted and had great support from their dogs. The Russian pioneers quickly learned to use dogs to explore and brought new efficacy to the design of the sled and harness. They began hooking up their dogs in single file and trained the front dogs (now called lead dogs ) to respond to voice commands.  The lead dog's purpose was to guide the team in the direction the driver wanted it to go therefore the driver no longer had to run in the front of his dogs. 

In the mid 18th century to the early 19th century explorers, fur traders and missionaries slowly started traveling into this harsh climate of the great white north. They slowly began perfecting the equipment and efficacy so they could travel even longer distances. They began feeding the dogs food that was specially made for them and created leather harnesses that fit each individual dog. They also changed the design of the sled to wooden frames and steel runners.

When the gold rush happened  in Alaska and the Yukon Territory the dog sled world was changed forever.  With the rush came the high demand for dogs and sleds. Any dog that was between 75-150 pounds with a thick coat was cleared from the streets and found themselves on a journey north amongst the men who would train them to pull sleds though harsh condition anddeep snow.  When the first pioneers came across from Europe to settle in North America, they used the commands "gee" and "haw" (left and right) to direct their horses. They used the same commands to drive their dogs. They started manufacturing sleds in a toboggan style equipped with a "gee pole" (like a modern day brush bow) at the front to help steer the sled. Dog drivers still didn’t ride on the back of the sled.  Instead they would run behind or ski behind the sled.  Riding on the runners did not start until the sport of dog racing began.   

When bush planes were introduced to the far north, dog sledding no longer became the primary transportation method and a steady decrease in popularity took place. People no longer needed big strong dogs to pull heavy loads. People now wanted to get around quickly but still able to go long distances. Therefore the Siberian Huskies were introduced from Russia so they could have lighter faster sled dogs. In the 1800’s, people bred their big traditional sled dogs with smaller faster dogs.  These dogs are called Alaskan Huskies and will out run almost anything on four legs over great distances. These Alaskan and Siberian Huskies are now known for their tough feet, thick insulating coats (hollow hairs), strong heart and stubbornness. These dogs love pulling in harness and have the drive to run long distances.  After all, it’s in their genes.

 

Dog Sled Racing

The first recorded dog race was in the 1800's. In 1886, a winter carnival in Minnesota featured a dog sled race that still runs today - the Disney movie Iron Will is based on it. The Alaska Sweepstakes was the first official dog sled race and was from Nome to Crandel,  a distance of 408 miles or 656 kilometers.  The winner completed it in 119 hours. The following winter it was completed in only 74 hours. 

Dog sledding made history in 1925 when the break out of diphtheria occurred in Nome, Alaska. The villagers of Nome were icebound and inaccessible for many months of the year making it nearly impossible to get medicine to them. This race made international headlines and became known as the serum run - a "race against time". The serum run was 1085km through unforgiving wilderness and conditions.

The twenty mushers and their 150 sled dogs were tasked with relaying the diphtheria antitoxin to the town of Nome. There are monuments in Central Park, New York City and Norway to honor those brave mushers and dogs who took on this dangerous challenge. They managed to only take five and a half days to save the biggest town in North East Alaska and its surrounding communities from this awful epidemic. This is the historic story behind the modern day Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.  It now takes place from Anchorage to Nome in February each year. 

Racing has become very popular in the past 50 years. Nowadays sleds are made from carbon fiber and may be as light as 18 -20 kilograms (40-50 pounds). They have a quick changeable plastic runner that has little friction on the snow, making it easy for the dogs to pull. The gear used is designed for the health and safety of the dogs as well as for speed and durability.  Designing different types of harnesses help to distribute the load by pulling across the dogs entire body making it easier on the dogs. The use of bungee cords attached to the gangline is made to absorb shock therefore little strain happens when the sled comes to a sudden stop. The mushers now use advanced food designed for each dog’s specific needs in order to help them to perform at their best.

 

Sledding in australia

The great explorer Sir Douglas Mawson was the first person to dog sled in Australia. His team of Greenland Huskies were used during his expedition to Antarctica in 1911-1914. Mawson trained his huskies in the mountains of New South Wales in preparation for his long journey. Dog sledding in Australia has only gained popularity as a sport over the past 25 years. The sledding community is growing each year. Three snow-based races are held every winter: The Dinner Plain Sled Dog Challenge, Falls Creek Sled Dog Classic and the Baw Baw Dog Sled Dash are the three biggest events each year. There are many different sled dog sport associations around the country putting on different sledding events, most of which are dry land races. You can enter different categories such as 1, 4, 6 and 8 dog class. Skijoring is also expanding in the country. There is a skijoring class in the Dinner Plain Sled Dog Challenge. There a few brave Australian who venture overseas to enter sled dog races. Four Australians have attempted the Iditarod race, the most recent being Christian Turner who finished in 15th place at the 2015 Iditarod.