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Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 6 months ago

Leonhard Seppala


Leonhard Seppala (1877 - 1967) was a Norwegian emigrant who went to Alaska during the Nome Gold Rush seeking employment and adventure. In 1913 he was given charge of fifteen puppy and female Siberian sleddogs by his employer Jafet Lindeberg. Originally these dogs were intended as a gift to explorer Roald Amundsen who intended an expedition to the North Pole. Admiral Peary got there before the Amundsen expedition got started, so the dogs stayed with Seppala. He trained them and entered the 1914 All-Alaska Sweepstakes, but had such difficulties that he failed to finish the race.

The next three years were a different story! The All-Alaska Sweepstakes of 1915, 1916 and 1917 were all won by Leonhard Seppala and the 1917 running was the last time the classic race was run. But Seppala's dogs were not primarily racing dogs anyway. They were everyday winter transportation for passengers, for mail, for freight, for emergencies. In one winter alone (1916) Seppala claimed to have travelled a total distance of seven thousand miles by dog team. He imported Siberian dogs himself and developed his own bloodline of Siberian sleddogs.

Seppala eventually became arguably the most famous dog driver of all time. His career in Alaska culminated in 1925 with the Nome Serum Drive, in which he travelled the greatest and most difficult distance of a dogsled relay to deliver a supply of diphtheria antiserum when the City of Nome was stricken by a midwinter epidemic. Newspaper publicity following that exploit resulted in a tour of the U.S.A. with an Eskimo handler and 44 dogs starting in 1926 from Seattle, Washington, and finishing in January 1927 in Poland Spring, Maine, with an arranged dogsled challenge race with Arthur Walden, founder of the New England Sled Dog Club.

Seppala's victory over Walden resulted in the establishment of Seppala Kennels at Poland Spring and the spread of Leonhard Seppala's Siberians in New England, as well as contributing to the pressure for A.K.C. recognition and registration of the Siberian Husky as a purebred dog breed. The Poland Spring kennel lasted for less than five years, but it was crucial in the development of the Siberian bloodline that carries Seppala's name to this day. When Seppala turned the core Poland Spring dogs over to Harry Wheeler circa 1931, his bloodline carried on from that point without him. Seppala returned to Alaska and experimented with Siberian/Malamute crosses, living in the Fairbanks area. He retired to Seattle, Washington, in 1946; while living there he lent his name to the Bow Lake Kennels of Earl L. Snodie, but his glory days were long since over by then; the Bow Lake dogs seem to have been largely seen as a senile aberration of the man whose dog teams were once acknowledged as the best in Alaska. He died in Seattle, in 1967.


External links:


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