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Amazing Alaskan Huskies

Amazing Alaskan Huskies at La Grande Odyssée Savoie Mont Blanc

The adrenaline rushes as mushers with teams of 14 dogs compete for an international sled dog race, spanning 900 kilometres in two weeks. The spectators watch the amazing dog-musher bond, where the musher commands his team of 14 dogs with his voice…here’s the story of La Grande Odyssée Savoie Mont Blanc from dream to reality.

La Grande Odyssée Savoie Mont Blanc is an international sled dog race spanning 900 kilometres in French Alps and Swiss Alps. La Grande Odyssée Savoie Mont Blanc is intended for mushers with teams of 14 dogs who are experienced in long- and middle-distance. The course takes the teams to 20 ski resorts in France. For each of the 10 stages, time-trialed (every two minutes) or mass (in parallel) starts bring thousands of spectators to the Savoie Mont Blanc region.

The race includes three completely independent encampments: one in the first week and two in the second week.

The journey…

Amazing Alaskan Huskies

Amazing Alaskan Huskies

First they were two… The journey of La Grande Odyssée Savoie Mont Blanc has been phenomenal and interesting. In 1998, Henry Kam (head – KTT, a hi-tech company) and Nicholas Vanier became friends. For many years, Henry had been supporting nature-adventure sporting events while Nicholas was preparing to cross Canada with his dogs and KTT was one of his partners. In 2002, Nicholas was preparing for the Yukon Quest, the legendary 1000-mile race linking the Yukon Territory to Alaska, when Henry asked, “Why don’t they have this in Europe?” Nicholas replied, “Because no one organises it.” The two decided to organise a similar race in Europe. Together they left for the Yukon Quest (between Maska and Yukon, it is a sled dog race of 1000 miles), Henry as a voluntary worker for the organisation. This was a ‘learning’ experience for them. The decision was made: La Grande Odyssée will be the greatest race Europe had ever known.

Then they were three… Dominique Grandjean, a well-known veterinary surgeon and a specialist in Huskies, with experience in organising races, joined the founder team. Three complementary expertises therefore came together: the champion’s expertise, knowledge of animals and marketing and organisational expertise.

Thus, it was decided that La Grande Odyssée would take place in the Portes du Soleil (Haute Savoie, France and Switzerland) and Haute Maurienne Vanoise (Savoie).

Then they became 20… In 2004, there were 16 French ski resorts and four Swiss ski resorts involved in creating 1000 km of routes, 90 percent located outside the skiable areas.

Then they were 500… On 7th January 2005, 18 best mushers in the world, representing 10 nations and accompanied by their 300 dogs, exceptional sports dogs and men, were in Avoriaz for the start of the first event. For organisational purposes, a team of 50 people had been created – more than 200 professionals and 250 Alpine huntsmen were involved. Some 20 partners offered their support, including Pierre & Vacances, the Ademe (French agency for the environment and energy management) and Eco-Emballages.

This first event was a great sporting, media and popular success, despite the numerous problems with organising any first event. It was confirmed: La Grande Odyssée, this great sporting event, matched the objectives of the Portes du Soleil (a ski-sports destination in Alps) and the Haute Maurienne Vanoise (a ski resort) in terms of image and values.

Then they were 1000… The second event in January 2006 had become the main theme for the winter communications strategy of the entire region. It enabled people to discover that the mountain is beautiful, that it can be used in a gentle and non-aggressive way and the values of authenticity, courage, and respect for the environment have a high educational value. La Grande Odyssée attracted more than 70,000 spectators and 1,000 people who were involved in this second edition.

What’s more? La Grande Odyssée became the medium for many ‘edutainment’ campaigns: 1,000 primary school children from Savoie were invited to take part in an educational project, conferences were organised to promote eco-citizen initiatives.

Then they were 1,000 and 1! In October 2006, the Savoie Mont Blanc brand name was chosen for the national and international promotion of all the tourist destinations of Savoie and Haute Savoie in summer as well as winters: 110 ski resorts, as well as the lakes, open spaces and national parks.

The concept

The dogs running this race are the most endurant animals in the world. They can run for hours, at a high speed in cold weather, but to reach this level, it requires great breeding, accurate training, feeding and most importantly the building of a strong bond between the dogs and the musher (man driving the sled). It is very important to notice that the musher drives his team only by his voice. He holds no leash or whip. The only link between the dogs and the musher is the voice. The dogs in front of the team learn many commands (direction, pace, etc) that they follow when asked by the musher. So, it’s only the trust and the love that the dogs have for their mushers who make them run.

There is no other sport than Mushing (name of dog sledding sport) where man and dogs can share the effort so much. It’s really the ultimate activity for those who want to share an adventure with their best four-legged friends.

Who can participate?

The majority of the dogs running La Grande Odyssée Savoie Mont Blanc are Alaskan Huskies. The breed is still evolving as the mushers are still breeding the best dogs to increase the capacities of these dogs to run for a long time speedily in cold weather. No other dogs can stand the performances of the Alaskan Huskies. On the musher’s side, the men and women running La Grande Odyssée Savoie Mont Blanc are true athletes as they need to help dogs to travel 750 km of mountain trails in 11 days of the race.

The awards

There is a 54,000 Euros purse shared by the Top 10. The special awards include Best Dog Care (to the musher who has shown the best care to his dogs all along the race); Rookie of the Year, Best Ranked Musher (among those who are running the race for the first time); Sportsmanship Award; Best Siberian Husky Team; Best Climber; Fastest Team on the Three Longest Uphills of the Race; Friendliest Musher (chosen by the staff); Friendliest Dog (chosen by the veterinarian team); and Red Lantern (last musher to finish the whole race).

Quick Facts about Sled Race

The race: Timed competition of teams of sled dogs who pull a sled with the dog driver or musher standing on the runners. The team completing the marked course in the least time is judged the winner.

Popular in: Arctic regions of the United States, Canada, Russia, and some European countries.

Types of sled race: Sprint (4 to 25 miles/day), mid-distance (100 to 300 miles), and long-distance (300 to more than 1,000 miles).

First sled race: All-Alaska Sweepstakes in 1908

First heroic expedition of sled dogs: Dog team of Alaskan postal service carried vaccines for a small town in Northwest Alaska, Nome in 1929 to save the residents from Diptheria, where even aircrafts could not fly due to harsh weather conditions.

Breeds: Earlier, all kinds of breed were used for sled race, including Saint Bernard. But, gradually Siberian huskies took over as they are faster and can withstand the harsh climatic conditions.

Major sled races: Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska; Ivakkak in Nunavik, Quebec; La Grande Odyssée in French Alps; and Yukon Quest from Fairbanks, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon one year then Whitehorse, Yukon to Fairbanks, Alaska the next.

Care for K9: Like all athletes, the Siberian Husky is also prone to twists, joint sprain, muscle tears, sore soles, stress diarrhoea, etc. Mushers take special care of their sled dogs. They are fed a high-energy nutritious diet and they are kept in shape all the year round. Mushers learn how to massage their pooch’s feet so that they can help them when the need arises. They also make them learn basic commands and are taught how to work as a team. All these dogs are well groomed as well and are regularly taken for their health check-ups to their vets.
Did you know?
Radek Havrda from Czech Republic is the only musher who has won the race two times, which is an amazing feat.

Next race
Next La Grande Odyssée Savoie Mont Blanc race will be held from 11th to 22nd January 2014.

(Annabel Kam is Responsable Communication et Relations presse at La Grande Odyssee Savoie Mont Blanc, Montreuil, France).

Siberian Huskies : angelic beauties

With your Siberian Husky pal, you are bound to experience amazement, joy, love and companionship. You can enjoy wonderful conversations everyday with this bosom pal of yours. A perfect companion we can vouch for!

Keen, friendly, alert and mischievous are the apt words to describe a Siberian Husky. Equally appealing is their graceful and smooth gait. A thing of beauty is a joy forever and Siberians really live upto it. They are beautiful not only in their looks but also in their disposition. 

“Their eyes, in my opinion are limpid pools of sparkling, coloured beauty. Perhaps having the Siberian Husky’s eyes as an inspiration, contact lenses of different shades are in vogue with the human beings,” adds Yash of Yashbans Kennels, a reputed breeder of Siberian Husky.

Journey down the lane

Dog breed profileBelieved to have originated with Coastal Chukchi tribes of the east-Siberian peninsula, Siberian Huskies are one of the oldest breeds of dogs. They were imported from Anadyr River and surrounding regions into Alaska to be used as sleddogs, especially in the All- Alaska Sweepstakes, a dogsled race from Nome to Candle and back. These dogs are still used in Iditarod Trail Sled Race, a race over 1150 miles of the roughest, most beautiful terrain Mother Nature has to offer in Alaska.

The famous ‘Eight Below’ movie by Walt Disney portrayed eight sleddogs, six of which were our beautiful Siberian Huskies. The movie shows how these intelligent, courageous dogs fight to make it through the most unforgiving winter. Both dogs and their parents make a remarkable journey of grit, endurance and belief to find one another again in a spectacular but perilous land.

Bask in their beautiful looks

One look at a Siberian Husky and you are bound to think that he is a perfect picture of balance, power, agility and endurance. He is a medium sized, moderately compact working dog, quick and light on his feet, fast moving and extremely graceful. Other characteristic features include dense coat, erect ears and a brush tail.

His face is expressive, friendly and even mischievous. His almond-shaped eyes are placed slightly slanted upwards. And when it comes to the colour of their eyes, they can be varied – all shades of brown or blue, or one of each, or particoloured. His ears are medium size, triangular, and set close and high on head. His well furred tail is like that of fox and set just below the level of the topline. A Siberian Husky carries it over the back in a graceful, sickle curve. “A trailing tail is normal when the dog is in repose,” tells Yash.

The Siberian Husky comes in a variety of colours, from black and white to pure white. “He has striking head markings, a cap like mark or spectacles, which is a typical feature of this breed. Breeding these wonderful dogs is challenging and exciting as they come in so many colour variations and wonderful eye colours,” adds Yash.

The average height of the males is 21-23 inches while that of females is 20-22 inches. The males weigh around 20-28 kg while females weigh between 15 and 23 kg.

Lovely disposition

The Siberian Husky’s affectionate nature, gentle behaviour, friendly disposition and loyalty make him a great pet and an excellent companion. “The best quality of them as an animal is the affection and the love that they want to give. Being gentle dogs, they make safe companions to children and the elderly,” tells Yash.

If you want somebody to talk to, a Siberian is a perfect choice. “He seldom barks, but is talkative and can keep conversations going on and on,” laughs Yash. “It is a marvellous experience to live with these amazing, high spirited, intelligent dogs. I have had many breeds over the last three decades and though each breed has had its individual characteristics and attitude, the Siberian Husky in my opinion, surpasses all of them. I have this habit of talking to my pets and though I find it very rewarding to have responses with a bark or a wag of the tail, it is indeed thrilling to have a dog who can actually reply to you in various tones and keep a conversation going.”

A Siberian is highly intelligent with an eager disposition. He is a willing worker. However, he is not much of a guard dog. He has great stamina and sustained power for long distances. He would like to run and run and play.

Living : a pleasure with a Siberian Husky

A Siberian Husky is very gentle and affectionate with clean habits. He is extremely adaptable to live in the house as a pet and companion. “He is neither too small nor too big to own. He is of the right size to live in a house as well as an apartment,” tells Yash.

“Although Siberian is generally non-aggressive and gets along with other breeds of dogs quite well, but if he is attacked, he will not take things lightly,” tells Yash.

The Siberian Husky loves to live in a cool place and they should be given plenty of water to drink at all times.

Bringing home a Siberian bundle of joy

The Siberian Husky is one of the easiest breeds to maintain. “Just make sure that your puppy is from a reputed breeder, has had all his initial vaccinations, has been socialized at the breeder’s place and has a balanced diet,” tells Yash.

Start their training at an early age itself. Pups normally have the habit of jumping on people and this should be discouraged in the beginning itself. Besides this, just love and affection will make him a pleasure to own.

Pretty up your Siberian

Though he has a dense coat, he does not have a doggy odour. Start your Siberian’s grooming schedule at an early age itself so that he will learn to enjoy this experience and this way, the bond between you and your puppy grows stronger. “He is generally a very clean dog, so he rarely needs a bath. Put him on a grooming table and brush him everyday with a slicker brush and a pin brush, if necessary,” tells Yash. As they have a dense coat, it is difficult to make out if they have ticks or fleas or any infection, which can get aggravated over some time. Hence regular brushing is necessary so that you can detect any problem with your Siberian Husky at an early age itself.

“Since the Siberian loves to dig, make sure you wipe his paws everyday with a clean, moist towel before you bring him indoors. His nails need to be seldom clipped if he is an outdoor dog. If he is an indoor dog, then make sure you clip his nails or file them, once in every two months,” she adds. “As these are extremely clean animals, I sometimes simply watch in fascination and amazement at the way they groom themselves, especially by licking and cleaning their dirty paws after their playing. They are just like cats!” To clean his teeth and gums, give him chews to gnaw on, or else you might have to brush his teeth regularly with a doggy toothpaste.

The Siberian Husky sheds his coat profusely but VERY, VERY RARELY. If he is on a healthy diet and has a clean coat, without any fungal or bacterial infections, he rarely sheds. “In my personal experience, I find my Siberians only shed their coat once they have had a litter and extremely rarely at other times,” adds Yash.

Play time = work outs

As per Yash, there is no laid down rule as to how much exercise you should give your Siberian Husky. “Once your puppy is about a year old, you could take him for walks, run with him, play with him, till you get exhausted and tired,” she adds. “The game that the Siberians love to play is only CATCH ME IF YOU CAN! They will come near you, tease you, and the moment you try to get hold of them, they will dodge and slip away and boldly just stand a few feet away, with that mischievous look, saying once more CATCH ME IF YOU CAN!” tells Yash.

Health : not an issue

“They are very hardy dogs and I am sure if responsible, breeders take up the task of promoting and popularizing this breed in India, we would not come across any genetic problems, especially that of hip dysplasia which most working dogs unfortunately face today, due to irresponsible breeders and owners,” tells Yash.

A word of caution

“Since the Siberian Husky loves to dig and climb, make sure that they are kept in escape proof enclosures. Never ever make the mistake of letting them loose to play in parks or open areas. You will have to wait endlessly for them to return back to you,” tells Yash. “So, if you think that the Siberian Husky is the right breed for you, as it is for me, go ahead and get yourself one of these magnificent, beautiful friends,” concludes Yash.

(Yashodhra runs one of India’s most reputed and successful kennels called Yashbans Kennel in Bangalore, for almost three decades now. She has been a proud recipient of top awards like the ‘Breeder of the Year’, ‘Dog of the Year,’ and ‘Reserve Dog of the Year.’ Yashbans Kennels has now expanded from Breeding Kennels to Boarding Kennels and Grooming Parlours, all with world class facilities. She can be contacted at Yashbans Farm, Kyalasanahalli , Off., Hennur Main Road, Bangalore – 560 077, Ph: 28465321/ 65639548/ 98440 58080/98863 12691, email ; Yashbans@gmail.com, Website : www.yashbans.com)

-Yashodhra