Seppala Siberian Sleddog
(Leonhard Seppala Siberian Dog)
The Seppala Siberian Sleddog is a northern-type working dog breed, descended from the dogs bred by the legendary dog driver Leonhard Seppala in the early 1900s.
The breed owes its name to the legendary dog driver Leonhard Seppala, who bred the Seppala Siberians from dogs imported into Alaska from eastern Siberia. The Leonhard Seppala Siberian sleddogs became famous in Alaska for their domination of the All-Alaska
1917 and for their crucial role in the dogsled delivery of antiserum in the 1925 Nome diphtheria epidemic.
Tonya of Seppala and Lizaveta of Seppala
Photo by J. Jeffrey Bragg, SSSD
Later they became popular in New England when Seppala raced there and ran a kennel, in Poland Spring, Maine, in partnership with Elizabeth Ricker. The dogs of the Seppala-Ricker Kennel formed the foundation of the contemporary Seppala Siberian Sleddog.

The work of L. Seppala was carried on in the 1930s by Harry Wheeler, who used nine of the Seppala-Ricker dogs, including the last two Siberian imports, Tserko and Kree Vanka, for his closed breeding program.
Other key figures in the preservation of the Seppala Siberian were  J.D. McFaul and Shearer in the 1950s and 1960s.  Following McFaul's retirement in 1963, the strain more than once came close to extinction. 
In 1997 Bragg and others established the "Working Canine Association of Canada" (WCAC), a federally-chartered animal pedigree association for the protection of the Seppala Siberian sled dog. Up to that point the Seppala Siberian had shared a stud book registry with the Siberian Husky, although Seppalas had always been bred as a separate strain.
Its recognition by Agriculture Canada in 1997 gave it a separate, legitimate status of "evolving breed", thus protecting it against the risk of assimilation into the larger show-dog population. At the moment, dogs of this breed are not 'registered,' but considered a "breed under genetic renewal and development", readily distinguishable from all other registered breeds, both by their unique appearance and distinctive temperament. Their certificates of identification contain the same information as the registration certificates of a recognized breed.
Seppala Siberians tend to be more trainable than other sled dogs and more affectionate with their owners. Due to their long history of purpose-breeding respecting innate sleddog behavioral traits, Seppalas are usually more docile than other Northern breeds. Fighting with teammates or other dogs, tangling of lines, and quitting in harness rarely occur.
Seppalas are lighter in weight, with a leaner, less 'boxy' body and longer legs, compared to most Siberian Husky show dogs. Their body is usually longer than it is tall, but their height and weight vary considerably.  Their dense, smooth coats come in a variety of colours: jet black, pure white, and grey or brown in different shades. Color patterns may be spotted or solid with white chest, feet belly and legs. Reddish shadings may occur on the face, ears and limbs of black, grey or brown dogs.
Their medium-length Arctic-type coat is virtually weatherproof and usually requires no combing, brushing, or bathing (except when shedding).


Sled dogs
active, stable
Character and Temperament
Recommended Books
References and External Links:
The Seppala Siberian Sleddog Project
International Seppala Siberian Sleddog Club
International Seppala Association
See also:
Northern breeds
Many thanks to J.J. Bragg of The Seppala Siberian Sleddog Project for his very helpful remarks.
© The Canine Information Library 2005-2006.
Photos of Seppala Siberians reproduced by kind permission of J.J. Bragg.,
The Seppala Siberian Sleddog Project
Northern Breeds
(Complete Pet Owner's Manual.)
by Margaret H. Bonham
more information
Tonya of Seppala
Photo: J. Jeffrey Bragg, SSSD
Shakal iz Solovyev
(1992 Russian import)
Photo: J. J. Bragg, SSSD
Xspace of Sepala
Photo: J.J. Bragg, SSSD
River View's Sprite
Photo: J. Jeffrey Bragg, SSSD
Harry Wheeler (centre) with Tserko (extreme left) and Kree Vanka (extreme right)
Source: Seppala Siberian Sled Dog Project

© Chadwick, Siberian Husky Archives
The breed survived thanks to the Canadian breeding of J.J. Bragg's Markovo Kennels in the 1970s and the efforts of several other breeders who carried the pure Seppala breeding through the 1980s and 1990s.
Lyl of Sepsequel, a Seppala female of the 1960s whose enormous genetic influence on the breed can still be seen in today's Seppalas.
Photo: J. Jeffrey Bragg, SSSD
Tonya of Seppala at double lead with Sepalleo
Photo: J. J. Bragg, SSSD
Their ears are set close together, high on the head and are taller than those of other Northern breeds. The stop is less pronounced than that of Siberian Huskies. The tail is held high and curled over the back when alert. The eyes are amber, brown or blue. Heterochromia iridis (two different colored eyes) and Heterochromia iridium (different colors within the same iris) are common.
They show great reserve with strangers, but are too docile to be used as guard dogs. They can be excellent pets for an active person who understands the special needs of sleddogs, but can easily turn into escape artists if not receiving enough "people time" or left running loose and unattended.