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Desperate effort to save Sakhalin Laika from extinction on its native island

By Olga Gertcyk
03 November 2015

Only 7 dogs remain: is it enough to save the species? 

 Sergey Lyubykh, the first activist of Sakhalin Laika revival, and his dog sledge. Picture: Sakhalin Info

The ancient breed of sled dog - also known as Karafuto-ken - were noticed by Russian and Japanese explorers in Sakhalin which the native Nivkh people bred and use for winter transport. With big paws helping them run in snow, their muscular body allows them to drag over 70 kilograms of cargo, and they can cross long distances in a few days.

Karafuto-ken


Karafuto-ken


Karafuto-ken

 Their penchant for being fed on salmon is seen as the key to their almost catastrophic decline. Pictures: Sakhalin Info

They were used by explorers who travelled to Franz Josef Land, the conquerors of northern Alaska, and explorers of the South Pole. For example, several ledges pulled by this breed were used by Captain Robert Falcon Scott in Antarctica. 

Karafuto-ken


Karafuto-ken

 In the 1930s, the dogs were killed massively, starting a decline that now puts the breed in grave danger on the island. Pictures: Sakhalin Info, Boris Yellinsky

They were used in the Red Army due to their strength, stamina and brain. But their penchant for being fed on salmon is seen as the key to their almost catastrophic decline. 

The Soviet military found that feeding a Karafuto-ken was more expensive than feeding a horse. Soviet experts calculated that Sakhalin Laikas ate up to 4,000 tons of salmon a year, fish that could otherwise be exported. 

Karafuto-ken


Karafuto-ken


Karafuto-ken

 Sled enthusiasts are 'optimistic' they can revive the breed on Sakhalin. Pictures: Sakhalin Info, Boris Yellinsky

In the 1930s, the dogs were killed massively, starting a decline that now puts the breed in grave danger on the island. Despite this, sled enthusiasts are 'optimistic' they can revive the breed on Sakhalin.

Nikolay Chalin, a sled-sport enthusiast, said: 'We've already written to the governor and asked to give us a plot for a breeding station.' Dmitry Tretyakov, head of Wings of Sakhalin', said: 'We've already submitted papers to create a fund. The governor got interested in the breed.'

Comments (6)

I've read about these beautiful sled dogs and it would be a terrible shame if they became extinct in a few short years. I'm praying that this breed will make a comeback in a few short years and will no longer be close to the extinct. I hope that if this breed would be introduced to the United States someday when the breed has increased to several hundred or more, I would love to someday own a couple for a sled dog team. As a Christian, I believe that God will find a way to save these magnificent dogs from extinction.
Alexander D. Hyatt, McDonough, GA/USA
18/09/2018 09:02
1
0
I was named after a Greenland husky dog and feel very passionate about this cause. Best of luck!
Bjorn Netland, Port Gamble, Washington/USA
06/06/2017 02:33
1
0
how can you make sure they survive from extinction
Regards
Peter
peter, canada
03/06/2017 10:02
5
0
Far too many historic indigenous Sleddog breeds are declining into extinction. We need to step up and protect the Nordic Breeds who helped us to explore the most inhospitable places on the planet and are necessary to support the indigenous to maintain their cultures and allow them to continue to teach the generations to come.
Shelley Lawrence, Scotland, UK
01/06/2017 16:41
5
0
A beautiful breed, almost a cross between wolf and husky...why would these dogs be used for a multitude of benefits then slaughtered for fear of ebb to monetary resources. Surely salmon is not their only menu?
Carmen, Ireland
04/11/2015 06:26
13
0
WE NEED MORE DIMTRY'S IN THE WORLD -IT WOULD BE A MORE PEACEFULL PLACE
THANKS FOR CARING ABOUT A BEATIFUL BEED OF DOG
RICKY BREAUX, SOUTH LOUISIANA--U.S.A
04/11/2015 02:59
13
0
1

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