The Sakhalin Husky, also known as the Karafuto-Ken (樺太犬), is a breed of dog used as a sled dog.
Appearance This breed is a spitz type related to other Japanese dogs, and considered to be a precursor to the Akita Inu. The size varies between 56 cm and 66 cm at the withers with a weight range from 30 kg to 40 kg. The ears are small, pointed, sometimes slightly tilted forwards or sometimes falling. This breed comes in many colours, including but not limited to russet-red and black. The hair is fine and thick, with an undercoat of very dense hair, similar to the hair of the Greenland Dog.
History 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 used rarely now; therefore, few breeders remain in Japan. As of 2011, there were only two surviving pure bred members of the breed, which never recovered from the ill effects of World War II.
Antarctic expedition This breed's claim to fame came from the ill-fated 1958 Japanese research expedition to Antarctica, which made an emergency evacuation and was forced to leave 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 the 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 2006 film, 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 and six Siberian Huskies. In 2011, TBS presents the much waited 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 in a monument near Wakkanai, Hokkaido, a monument under Tokyo Tower, and a monument near Nagoya Port.
The Sakhalin Huskies of the 1957-1958 Japanese Expedition Few sources provide the names of the fifteen Japanese sled dogs that were stranded, as well as the photos and descriptions of the huskies. The names of the dogs are listed here: 1. Riki: Seven-year-old male with light gray coat and white markings, leader of the team. (Disappeared) 2. Anko: Three-year-old male with brown coat and white streak on chest. (Disappeared) 3. Aka: Six-year-old male with dark gray coat, has a tendency to pick fights with other team members. (Deceased) 4. Kuma from Monbetsu: Five-year-old male with black coat, white socks, and white chest, sometimes served as lead dog. (Deceased) 5. Kuma from Furen: Five-year-old male with black coat and ripple of white on chest. Father of Taro and Jiro. (Disappeared) 6. Pesu: Five-year-old male with brown coat, black mask, and black ears, almost resembles a Belgian Tervuren. (Deceased) 7. Goro: Four-year-old male with black coat and white stripe on face, almost resembling a collie. Served as wheel dog of the team. (Deceased) 8. Deri: Six-year-old male with gray coat and black saddle. (Disappeared) 9. Pochi: Four-year-old male with light-brown coat and a ravenous appetite. (Deceased) 10. Moku: Four-year-old male with black coat and white socks on front feet. (Deceased) 11. Jakku: Four-year-old male with black-and-white coat, almost resembling a collie. (Disappeared) 12. Kuro: Five-year-old male with black coat and white markings on face, muzzle, chest, and legs. (Deceased) 13. Shiro: Three-year-old male with snowy-white coat, sometimes served as lead dog. (Disappeared) 14. Taro: Three-year-old male with black coat. Son of Kuma from Furen and older brother of Jiro. (Survived) 15. Jiro: Three-year-old male with dark brown coat, a ripple of white on chest, and white socks. Son of Kuma from Furen and younger brother of Taro. (Survived)