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Mackenzie River Husky

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The term Mackenzie River husky describes several overlapping local populations of arctic and subarctic sleddogs, none of which constitutes a breed. Most prominent and current of these are the sleddogs of Donna Dowling and others in the interior of Alaska. These dogs are described as standing 27 to 32 inches (61-81 cm) in height and weighing 70 to 125 pounds (32-57 kg). Usually long-coated, they are rangy, deep-chested and long-legged, built for heavy freighting in single file through deep snow. Their colours are the usual northern-dog range of black and white, shades of grey and sable, tan, or blonde.

Historically, the term has been variously applied to different dog populations in the arctic and subarctic regions of Alaska and Canada. Dogs from Old Crow, Fort McPherson, Arctic Red River, Porcupine River, Hay River and Mackenzie River regions, although distinguished by locals, were collectively termed “Mackenzie River” dogs by outsiders; crosses of these local freighting huskies with large European breeds such as St. Bernards, Newfoundlands, or Staghounds were sometimes called “Mackenzie River Hounds,” giving rise to great confusion surrounding the name. Some reference sources describe the Mackenzie River husky as a dog, used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, consisting of a mix of Inuit (Eskimo) dog, large European breeds, and wolf ancestry.

Currently Donna Dowling acts as a co-ordinator for Alaskan residents interested in breeding and preservation of the native arctic freighting dog. She describes the gene pool as capable of considerable variation, but states that the temperament is always guaranteed to be independent but “completely trustworthy with children, intelligent and eager to work.”

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