Meet the Man Saving Alaskan Malamutes

Joe Henderson thinks the Alaskan malamute is getting tender. An excessive amount of breeding targeted on the present ring and never sufficient on pulling heavy masses has made the once-burly sled canine dainty and cute.

“I’m anxious we’re dropping what makes these canine particular,” says Henderson, a 60-year-old diesel mechanic and resident of North Pole, AK, outdoors Fairbanks.

In a quest to maintain the breed from disappearing, in February Henderson set off on an unsupported, 800-mile sled canine journey with 22 malamutes, three sleds and greater than 3,000 kilos of pet food. His vacation spot: the Higher Colville River, a distant space of the Brooks Vary.

As of press time, he was nonetheless trekking. Henderson deliberate to achieve the stays of a 9,500-year-old village website, house to a number of the oldest proof of domesticated canine in North America—ancestor of the malamute. “It’s brutal nation,” he says. “Nobody travels up there in winter.”

If anybody can save the malamute, it’s Henderson. Virtually each winter since 1983 he’s accomplished a multimonth sled canine expedition. Working, snowboarding and snowshoeing beside the canine—Henderson by no means rides on the sled—he got here to understand how the Inuit of northern Alaska bred the canine to tug heavy masses within the deep snow and harsh circumstances of the Arctic. Moderately than the wiry sled canine most well-liked by racers, the best Alaskan malamute has massive oval paws for traction in tender snow, vast hips for leverage and massive bones to assist sturdy muscle tissue.

Angus Mill Pictures

“They’re like a Clydesdale horse,” he says.

It was once straightforward to seek out them in any northern Alaska village, however as snowmobiles changed sleds, the canine disappeared. On the identical time, Henderson observed most malamute breeders within the south had been deciding on for small and cute traits.

“Of the hundreds of malamutes within the present ring, only a few are able to Arctic journey,” he says. “The breed is threatened.”

That’s the place his expedition is available in. On his method to the Colville River, Henderson is documenting the attributes that allow the malamute’s distinctive capabilities. He hopes his efforts will persuade breeders to protect the breed’s particular traits.

“To lose a canine breed is like dropping part of our human heritage,” he says. “If Alaskan malamutes can’t pull heavy sleds in Arctic circumstances, then we lose a bit of the Inuit tradition.”

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