Northern Lights
Dog Sledding
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Northern Lights
Dog Sledding
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The Labrador Husky
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The Labrador Husky originated in the Labrador portion of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The breed probably arrived in the area with the Inuit people who came to Canada around 1300 AD. Although they were once very closely related to other Northern breeds, such as the Siberian Husky, they became isolated in Labrador. Their history of being bred with wolves does not mean that they are wolf-dogs, nor do they have any recent wolf ancestry. However, they still retain some of their wolf-like physical features.

Of all the northern dog breeds, the Labrador Husky is one of the rarest, with less than an estimated 50-60 purebred Labrador Huskies currently identified in Labrador.[citation needed ]. As a result, the breed is not well understood by many dog breeders. (Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labrador_Husky)
 
The Great Labrador Husky
Hoyles, S. (2017). (Reprinted from inside Labrador, pp. 60-64, by Samantha Hoyles, Summer 2017, Downhomer)

Scott Hudson has more than a dozen best friends. They may be a bit hairy, but they are loyal and committed. His 13 Labrador huskies are more than just his companions - they help him run his business.

As the owner of Northern Lights Dog Sledding in Goose Bay, Scott is working with the Labrador Husky Society to get this unrecognized breed of dog heritage animal status through Newfoundland and Labrador's Animal Health and Protection Act. He says it's the least they're looking for. They want to establish the cultural and historical significance of the Inuit dog tot he people of Labrador and prevent extinction of the breed.

This small population of husky breed is believed to be a sub-breed of the Canadian Eskimo dog - a recognized breed of the Canadian Kennel Club - which arrived here with the Inuit in the 1300s and has an important history, being used for travel, work and rescue until the adoption of the snowmobile in the 1960s.

"I guess the main thing would be the geographical isolation," says Scott of what sets this breed apart from other Northern husky breeds. "It wasn't uncommon as well, either intentionally or accidentally, for some to breed with the local wolf population."

Labrador huskies do have a distinct wolf look to them and rather than bark, this breed produces more of a howl. They have incredible stamina and can haul heavy loads for days. Historically, they would haul water, wood, food or people, and their ability to navigate safely through poor weather sets them apart, even today, from travellers by snowmobile.

The breed was not favoured for their looks, although they have a thick, attractive coat and striking eyes. They were then, and are often now, used as sled dogs. Scott says that through natural selection, survival of the fittest, isolation and wolf interbreeding, the dogs evolved into what we know today as the Labrador husky. The misunderstood breed is not a mix between a Labrador retriever and a husky, as the name may have people assume. It is a purebred breed native to coastal Labrador.

Scott and the committee secured the help of an undergrad student last year who spent two weeks with the dogs, studying their distinct characteristics. They have conducted a detailed study on the breed, funded by the Aboriginal Heritage Fund, talking to elders and current dog team owners, researching the complete history of the dogs and their uses as well as finding out how many of the breed remain. They have come to find that a mere 60-70 Labrador huskies exist today.

Weighing 60 to 100 pounds, these are not tiny pooches. Like wolves and other husky breeds, the Labrador husky has a thick double coat that consists of a dense, soft undercoat and longer, coarser overcoat. Although they shed considerably and consistently, they also shed their coat dramatically twice each year.

Although Scott has 13 dogs at the moment, he has owned between 50 and 60 throughout his lifetime. His operation is geared at tourism as he takes people into the bush by dog team. "They're not only going for a ride, but also learning about the breed," he says. From a one-hour trip to a three or four-day long- distance journey, Scott and his huskies give people looking for an adventure a run for their money. He says the longest trip he has taken customers on was a five-day trek where the dogs travelled 250 kilometres.

Scott and his dog team do a similar big trip every spring, working on a new portion of Labrador each year. The dogs have explored the terrain from Goose Bay to Rigolet, from Cartwright to Black Tickle, from Pinware to Blanc Sablon and from Labrador City to Fermont. Next spring the dogs will haul the sled from Churchill Falls to the Quebec border.

Scott grew up around Labrador huskies and dog sledding. "I grew up in a community where everyone had dog teams." he says of his roots in Black Tickle. "So I grew up with a real interest, desire, and respect for the dogs. When I moved from Black Tickle to Goose Bay, that part of the history was missing and I wanted to keep that part of my heritage."

"I've been doing it every day for 14 years and I haven't worked yet,"says Scott, whose first dog team ride was 25 years ago on Black Tickle harbour.

Scott has retired three dogs so far this year, one each to PEI, Halifax and St. John's. Britta and Tristan Pittman have two of Scott's retired dogs, Helliuk and Chance. Helliuk found her home through the help of the SPCA and when the couple was looking for a companion for her, they contacted Scott right away. They were so happy with Helliuk that they knew they would find a great dog from the same owner.

Now living the house-dog family life in Deer Lake, Newfoundland, the two Labrador huskies watch over their new team, a five-year-old boy and one-year girl. "Our dogs have adapted to being pets and love being part of a family," says Britta. "They are good with our children."

She says her favourite breed trait is their mild manner and how docile they are. "They are friendly giants who love everyone and everything. They would hold the flashlight for the robber." She adds that she is not a big fan of the shedding though. "They have a huge and thick coat that keeps them warm from the harsh, Labrador weather in the winter, but when it's time to shed a new coat, you could likely insulate a room with the combined fur." Both dogs were actually on the Labrador episode of "Survivorman" with their dog sled teams before they retired.

Scott is adamant about finding great homes like this for his retiring dogs. "We work very closely with the SPCA, which we're very proud of," says Scott, who was on the board of the SPCA with his wife and was once a cruelty investigator for the group. The couple fosters many larger dogs for the SPCA at their kennel. "We're trying to break down barriers between dog sledding and animal rights groups," he says of their close relationship.

It helps that Scott's dogs are people lovers. "In the winter months, our dogs meet 500 people in a season. They know more people than your average dog does," says Scott. "They are very well socialized and they have to be, doing what they do." Scott says he is working hard to break the thoughts of aggressive sled dogs.

This time of year, the dogs are taking it easy and socializing with each other in the kennel common area. Their conditioning begins again in October by running with the ATV.