|Other names||Karafuto Ken, Sakhalin Laika, Gilyak Laika|
|Origin||Russia and Japan|
|Dog (domestic dog)|
The Sakhalin Husky, (Japanese: 樺太犬, Russian: Сахалинский хаски), is the critically endangered sled laika from bred by the Nivkh people of Sakhalin Island and adjacent areas. While bred primarily as a sled dog, some Sakhalin Huskies were used for hunting bear. As of 2015, there were only seven of these dogs left on their native island of Sakhalin.
In 2011, there were only two surviving purebred members of the breed in Japan. The sole remaining breeder on Sakhalin, Sergey Lyubykh, located in the Nivkh village of Nekrasovka, died in 2012, but before his death he stated that there were no longer enough living specimens of the breed to allow for the genetic diversity necessary for continued breeding.
The body of the Sakhalin Husky is elongated, with a thick double undercoat. The tail is held straight, or slightly bent to the side. Sakhalin huskies come in black, red, and gray, and brindle. The Sakhalin Husky should imbued a sense of power due to its strong skeletal system and well-developed muscles.
Karafuto Ken breaks down as Karafuto, the Japanese name for Sakhalin and Ken, a Japanese word for dog; hence, this provides the breed's geographical origin. This breed is rarely used now; therefore, few breeders remain in Japan.
Explorers who went to Franz Josef Land, conquerors of northern Alaska, and South Pole explorers (including Robert Falcon Scott) used these dogs. They were utilized by the Red Army during World War II as pack animals; but that affair was short-lived after research proved that they were prodigious eaters of salmon, and not worth keeping.
Offshoots of the Sakhalin Husky are theorized to be the progenitors of longer-coated Akitas.
This breed's claim to fame came from the ill-fated 1958 Japanese research expedition to Antarctica, which made an emergency evacuation, leaving behind 15 sled dogs. The researchers believed that a relief team would arrive within a few days, so they left the dogs chained up outside with a small supply of food; however, the weather turned bad and the team never made it to the outpost.
Incredibly, nearly one year later, a new expedition arrived and discovered that two of the dogs, Taro and Jiro, had survived and they became instant heroes. Taro returned to Sapporo, Japan and lived at Hokkaido University until his death in 1970, after which he was stuffed and put on display at the university's museum. Jiro died in Antarctica in 1960 of natural causes and his remains are located at the National Science Museum of Japan in Ueno Park.
The breed spiked in popularity upon the release of the 1983 film Nankyoku Monogatari, about Taro and Jiro. A second film from 2006, Eight Below, provided a fictional version of the occurrence, but did not reference the breed. Instead, the film features only eight dogs: two Alaskan Malamutes named Buck and Shadow and six Siberian Huskies named Max, Old Jack, Maya, Dewey, Truman, and Shorty. In 2011, TBS presented the much-awaited drama, Nankyoku Tairiku, featuring Kimura Takuya. It tells the story of the 1957 Antarctica Expedition led by Japan and their Sakhalin Huskies.
The breed and the expedition are memorialized by three monuments: near Wakkanai, Hokkaido; under Tokyo Tower; and near Nagoya Port. Sculptor Takeshi Ando designed the Tokyo statues (he also designed the replacement Hachikō statute in front of JR Shibuya Station), which were removed, likely to be placed at Tokyo's National Institute of Polar Research.
Few sources provide the names of the 15 Japanese sled dogs that were stranded, as well as the photos and descriptions of the Huskies. The names of the dogs, and their fates, are listed here:
Only 7 dogs remain: is it enough to save the species?