Nothing beats the thrill of going on an authentic husky safari in the Lapland
Siberian Huskies are no strangers to hard work in a cold climate. These beautiful-looking creatures have a strong reputation. The breed has been around for centuries. They were introduced as working sled dogs by the Chukchi people in Eastern Siberia, Russia.
Stamina, strength and speed are key characteristics of these energetic dogs. Their standout qualities made them perfect for pulling sleds laden with supplies across vast areas of frozen landscape thousands of years ago. These same qualities now bring great enjoyment to today’s adventurers who want to try fast-paced dog sledding in Lapland.
It will come as no surprise that the hard-working husky became popular elsewhere in the world, including their arrival in Alaska during the early 20th century. Their dog-sledding talents made them invaluable to a traditional way of life that relied heavily on animal-powered transportation in rural areas.
Huskies on a Life-Saving Mission
Huskies are not just celebrated for their impressive sled-pulling power. They have a well-earned reputation as lifesavers, too. Their claim to fame came about in 1925 when teams of mushers and hardy huskies delivered life-saving medicine to the small Alaskan town of Nome during a deadly diphtheria outbreak.
Skilled mushers and teams of huskies battled through the snow, covering hundreds of miles to relay the medicine to the people of Nome. Fierce wintery conditions didn’t distract from the mission to save those who were desperate for the diphtheria anti-toxin serum. The successful mission made the headlines. People were impressed at the speed and endurance of these dogs. This incredible feat became known as the 1925 Serum Run to Nome.
Thanks to the success of the so-called “Serum Race” the Siberian huskies and mushers became famous overnight once the amazing story broke. Media attention raised the profile of huskies around the world.
Lead dogs Balto and Togo were recognized for their astonishing stamina and heroism. Togo was the lead sled dog for musher Leonhard “Sepp” Seppala while Balto led the team sled driven by Gunnar Kaasen.
It was a mushing relay to remember. The reason it has never been forgotten is because newsmakers and movie creators have drawn great inspiration from this true story.
The famous cartoon of Balto made him a much-loved household name. A statue of Balto is also a tourist favorite in Central Park, New York.
The recent movie “Togo” produced by Walt Disney features the daring feats of Togo and Leonhard Seppala on their rescue mission racing through the snow. This Hollywood tribute to huskies has continued to keep this beautiful breed of dog in the spotlight.
Bright Eyes and Big Personalities
When you go dog sledding in Lapland, you will know a Siberian husky when you see one. The handsome dogs have a striking wolf-like look. Their eyes are often a piercing ice-blue colour. However, sometimes they have different-coloured eyes, one brown and the other blue. This unusual stare also conveys a sense of their intelligent and lively personality.
The husky’s well-furred coat is also a distinguishing feature. It is made up of a thick undercoat that is layered with a shorter-haired top coat to keep them incredibly warm even in freezing temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius. The dogs thrive in an Arctic environment or other extreme wintery locations. Blizzards and bad weather are not a problem for them.
Speed and Stamina of Huskies
Huskies are fast. These endurance runners have great metabolism on their side when it comes to covering long distances at speed. This means you’re in for a thrilling ride when you book a husky safari in Lapland. Furthermore, huskies have a great temperament. You couldn’t ask for a friendlier dog to take your sledding through the snow. Their playful personality makes them a hit with kids. They have great fun being around people and naturally love to be part of a sledding team on a winter safari adventure.
Dogs need a lot of energy when they’re pulling a sled at top speed. Fortunately, Huskies are great at turning food into energy thanks to their super-efficient metabolism. For example, sled dogs competing in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race need around 12,000 calories per day. That’s similar to eating 24 Big Macs from McDonald’s. The dogs quickly burn this off and don’t carry extra weight. They weigh only about 20-27kg (45-60 pounds).
Humans can’t compete with this sizeable calorie consumption despite weighing around three times as much as a racing husky. Canine racers can burn 240 calories per pound of weight daily. In contrast, a professional athlete roughly burns around 100 calories per pound/daily.
10 Interesting Facts About the Siberian Huskies
- 1. Huskies are the original sled dogs
Indigenous people of Siberia bred huskies as a means to survive over three thousand years ago. The Chukchi’s nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle was dependent on accessing hunting ground that covered frozen expanses of Siberia. Selective breeding resulted in robust and reliable sled dogs. It was a smart solution to a transportation problem. The huskies didn’t disappoint their owners. These animals worked as a team and pulled together when light loads of supplies needed to be hauled across rough terrain in freezing weather conditions.
The word “husky” is said to originate from a reference to indigenous Eskimos who were also known as huskies or their nickname “Esky”. This in turn was used for their dogs.
- 2. They excelled at the dog races
Siberian huskies made a great first impression at the All Alaska Sweepstakes Race in 1909. Although they didn’t win that year, they attracted a great deal of attention for their high-speed performance covering challenging terrain. From then on, teams of Siberian sled dogs continued to wow local spectators with their winning streak at competitive dog sled races. Dog sledding in Lapland gives you a sense of the thrill of a race.
- 3. Huskies earned hero status
Meet the dog sledding heroes. Around 150 huskies set off on a rescue mission to the remote town of Nome in 1925. The inhabitants had been threatened by an outbreak of diphtheria and needed an anti-toxin serum to save lives. Unfortunately, the serum was stored in a hospital over 700 miles away. The train could only take the medicine so far. The huskies took up the challenge and covered hundreds of miles to complete the mission.
- 4. Their thick fur is like a down jacket
Everyone needs a warm coat in sub-zero temperatures, especially when you go dog sledding in Lapland. Fortunately, huskies have not one but two coats to keep them warm. Their short-haired undercoat helps to trap warm air against their body to keep out the chills. The longer overcoat is water-resistant and acts as an extra protective layer against the harsh elements. Cold noses are not a problem either. Huskies wrap their furry tails around their faces while they sleep.
- 5. Huskies love company
Huskies are always pleased to see you. Their affectionate, friendly personalities make them great companions and they are loyal too. Think of them as a furry best friend. However, these redeeming qualities don’t make them ideal guard dogs. They are more likely to lick a burglar than bark at one!
- 6. Huskies have great energy reserves
If you take a husky safari in Lapland, don’t worry about the dogs getting fatigued. Huskies can run long distances without getting tired. They can do this by regulating their metabolism. Their fat-burning secrets lie in their ability to draw energy from outside of their muscles. Husky legs can run for miles without needing to rest.
The incredible metabolism of huskies and their impressive calorie intake mean you can run the dogs for multiple miles each day and they won’t fatigue easily. Give them food and sleep and they’ll deliver optimum performance. It has been noted that when dogs compete in more than one professional race in the season, they keep getting faster and perform better. It is a fatigue-proof winning formula. Sleep, race, repeat!
- 7. These dogs love adventure
Huskies have bundles of energy. If you don’t keep a close eye on them they could make a great escape. Don’t expect them to laze about like a lap dog. It is in their nature to race around and explore outdoors.
- 8. They have great learning skills
Smart and beautiful is an accurate description of a Siberian husky. Their intelligence and quick learning skills made them indispensable to the Chukchi people of Siberia who first trained them to pull sleds. If you take a self-drive husky safari in Lapland, you will notice how carefully the dogs pay attention to your commands.
- 9. You will hear them howl like wolves
When huskies like to make themselves heard, there are more likely to howl than bark. This is how they communicate. Although huskies are domesticated dogs, they do share similarities with wolves and not just in looks. The distinctive howl sounds like a wolf in the wild. Howling is a survival instinct. When the wolf is separated from his pack, a howl cuts through the wild much better than a sharp, brief bark.
- 10. Piercing blue eyes are their signature look.
You can’t fail to notice a husky’s startling blue eyes. Their famous blue stare stands out against their thick double-layer coat. However, some huskies have bi-coloured eyes or brown eyes.
The enduring popularity of a dog sled race
Dog sledding is still popular. Finnmarksløpet is Europe’s longest sled dog race and it is held once a year in March. The course is 1,200km (745 miles) long with 160 teams taking part. This involves more than 1500 energetic dogs entering the race. The starting line is in Alta and the route crosses Finnmark to Kirkenes before looping back to Alta.
Finnmarksløpet is a non-stop race from start to finish
It is full speed ahead from the start. However, rest breaks are allowed at designated checkpoints. Even super-fit huskies need a moment to catch their breath. The winning team usually takes around five days to complete the race, although this depends on the weather.
March is a good time in Northern Norway for husky racing
The weather in Finnmark starts to improve in March with temperatures starting to rise, although it has been a bitterly cold -40°C on occasion. Fortunately, this is not the norm and temperatures can rise to around 1-°C on a good day at the races.
Racing through the snow
Pulling a sled over a vast distance in a competitive race is tough work. However, the huskies are built for speed and endurance even when covering the toughest terrain. A responsible musher always looks out for his team. If a dog shows signs of slowing up, it is invited to hop up on the sled until he’s ready to race again.
Huskies are ready for action when it is time for the world’s longest dog sled race in Alaska, USA. It is called the Iditarod Trail. Teams of dogs and mushers set off along the 1,510km (938 mile) trail from Anchorage to Nome. The checkpoints are sometimes adjusted according to the weather, which means the exact length of the race can vary year to year. The longest race recorded was 1,668 km (1,049 mile).
It is not a race for the faint-hearted. Blizzards and treacherous icy conditions are not uncommon throughout the race. Wind chill can dip to -100°F (-73°C). Each team is made up of 12 to 16 dogs. The rules state that there must be at least 6 dogs pulling the racer’s sled across the finishing line.
One of the popular dog sled races in Finland is the Gold Rush Run in Tankavaara. It highlights the thrill of racing through Lapland wilderness. It came about in 2014 when many races were cancelled at the time due to poor weather conditions. However, planners and organizers decided that the Tankavaara area could host a race at short notice (2 weeks!). Permission to use an old track was granted. The name of the race “Gold Rush Run” was a tribute to the history of the original Gold Rush days. It might have been planned at the last minute but the race was a great success. It is now a regular event.
More about mushing
The term “mushing” describes a sport or any transport powered by dogs. It is a physically demanding activity for the dogs especially in extreme weather but huskies rise to the challenge. If you book a husky safari in Lapland, you have the option to have a “musher” join you on the sled. Or you might feel confident enough to guide the dogs yourself.
It is said that the origin of the word “mush” is associated with the voyageurs of New France who used the word “Marche!” meaning “go.” This was the command for the team to start pulling.
There is also the term “dryland mushing”. This refers to the non-snow dog-powered sport. It is all the fun of dog sledding just without the snow! High-performance wheeled carts are designed with the driver given the option to either sit or stand while the dogs are racing along. This sport keeps winter sled dogs in peak physical condition in between the official snow racing season.
Dog sledding in Lapland is a team effort
Teamwork is what makes dog sledding such a success. The dogs are given titles according to their position relative to the sled. For example, there are lead dogs, swing dogs and even wheel dogs. The positioning of the dogs in the team depends on their personalities, strengths and abilities. For example, lead dogs show great confidence and initiative. They are responsible for steering the team and they set the pace for the rest of the dog team. There can be a single lead dog or two dogs can lead the team.
Swing dogs are positioned behind the lead dogs. The job is to “swing” the rest of the dogs behind them whenever there is a turn on the trail. Team dogs go between the wheelers and the swing dogs to bring extra running power to the sled. Wheel dogs are positioned closest to the sled. They are chosen for their calm and steady personalities. These dogs don’t startle easily. As a result, they are unfazed when running close to the fast-moving sled.
Full-grown male huskies usually reach their full height of 54-60cm (21-24ins) at 12 months. They weigh around 20-27kg (44-60Ilbs). Female huskies tend to be 50-56cm (50-56cm) in height and 35-50Ilbs (16-23kg). Their life span can be up to 14 years. The average size of a husky litter is around 6 puppies.
The Alaskan Husky
This type of husky is typically a blend of various Nordic breeds. This can be influenced by the breeder’s preference for qualities in a sled dog. This includes pulling skills, working abilities and team player qualities. There are different types of sled dogs including sprinters and long-distance runners and huskies that have been specifically bred to pull heavy loads. The strengths and abilities of Alaskan huskies make them the ideal choice for winning professional dog sled-races. In particular, sprint-racings are won by Alaskan huskies. Winning sprint race speeds can average almost 31km/hr (20 miles per hour over 3 days. This is covering up to 48km (30 miles) per day.
GOING HUSKY SLEDDING AT LEVI
There are around 500 dogs at the kennels near Levi. There are some incredibly fast runners among them. Some compete at international dog-sledding competitions, including the Gold Rush Run in Tankavaara, Lapland. Many race winners are owners of husky kennels in Levi.
There are daily dog safaris at Levi. The shortest safari is about 2km. If you have more time, you can book a full-day safari of 30-40km to maximize your dog-sledding experience. When the days get longer in springtime, there are opportunities to sign up for a two-day husky sled-drive safari. This promises a great mushing experience.
Huskies are not just available for winter activities. You can spend time with these fun and friendly dogs in the summer months, too. How about hiking with a husky? It is great fun and the dogs make excellent companions on a long-distance trek.
When it starts to get colder in autumn, you can book a time to help the dogs' owner to train their huskies for the winter months. To avoid disappointment, please remember to book the visits to the kennels in advance.
About our excursion to the husky kennels and husky safari
Our guide will share some interesting facts about huskies as we drive from Levi or Rovaniemi to the kennel. The transfer time is only about 10 to 25 minutes, depending on the kennel’s location.
One of the most popular husky destinations in Levi belongs to the famous Finnish musher Reijo Jääskeläinen. This excursion takes you to one of the oldest husky kennels in Finnish Lapland. During the tour you will be introduced to Siberian huskies of different ages, arctic fox, brown fox, tundra wolves, mixed dog-wolfs, spitz and the cutest little puppies.
After meeting the dogs, it is action time. You will take off on a husky ride with a professional musher. You’ll be seated in a sleigh, which can take 2 adults and a child. The musher will stand behind you on the runners. This gives you the best possible view of the surrounding landscape and you’ll also get a feeling that dogs are pulling you at their own discretion.
The track goes through the beautiful winter forest and lake sceneries. After the ride you will meet the kissing reindeer Taika. You will also have plenty of opportunities to take photos with the dogs.
Then it is time for some welcome refreshments. You’ll be invited into the warm Laplander’s hut where you can sit around the fireplace and enjoy a warm drink and a snack – famous Finnish grilled sausage. You will also have a chance to visit a hall of fame of the owner, watch a movie about husky life and stock up on local souvenirs.
Choose your husky safari in Lapland experience
Do you want to have a go at driving the sled yourself? We offer self-driven (or self-guided) husky safari experiences in one of the 3 kennels located 20-25 min drive from the pick-up place. There are several programs with different track length from 5 to 40 km.
Approximate safari times are: 5/7 km: 20-30 minutes; 10 km: 30-45 minutes; 20 km: 1.5-2 hours; and 35-40 km: 3-4 hours.
Safari time varies, as it always includes a stopover and it is dependent on the weather conditions. During the stopover, musher and passenger can change places. This gives both adults turns at driving a sledge. Usually, one sledge can take max. 2 adults + 1 child (under 7-year-old or 2 adults + 2 small children (3-5-year-old).
The decision about seating is taken by the host who will take into consideration the participant’s weight, height etc. to ensure a well-balanced sled.
All kennels owners are professional sport dog mushers who have specially trained Arctic-Alaskan breed huskies. There are over 50 dogs in each kennel, including some Siberian huskies and puppies.
If you sign up for a self-drive husky safari in Lapland, you will get instructions and tips on driving (mushing or guiding) the dog sledge on your own. Once you feel confident about driving the sled, the safari can begin. The track goes through the forest and there is also a beautiful open hilly area to explore.
After the exhilarating ride, the host will welcome you inside a cozy teepee where you can warm up around the open fire and enjoy some well-earned refreshments. During this relaxing downtime, the host will chat with you about life with the dogs and answer any questions you may have about dog sledding and its traditions.
Note: please take off your gloves/mittens when patting the huskies. They love to play with gloves and often chew them enthusiastically! Don’t be afraid of the dogs, even though they might jump up to greet you with enthusiasm. They are friendly creatures who love to get your attention. Although it is tempting to give them a snack, we ask you not to feed the dogs because too many treats will spoil their appetite.
Book your HUSKY SAFARI in Rovaniemi, Lapland
This action-packed outdoor activity is a memorable way to explore the local trails through forests and winter wonderland.
You can book husky tours and activities directly from Scandinavian Travel Group. Follow the booking instructions online or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. One of our friendly travel agents will be in touch. Alternatively, call/WhatsApp/Viber +358 400 514 530.
There is also a great range of other snow-fun activities you can enjoy on your visit to Lapland. Scandinavian Travel Group offers the following and more:
For more information, take a look at the tour information on our website or contact us directly for more details about all our tours.