A Japanese Husky-Type Dog: The Sakhalin Husky

Last Updated on December 22, 2021 by Marco

The Sakhalin Husky sometimes referred to as the Japanese Husky, or the Karafuto Ken is an extremely rare sled dog breed that is almost (if not already) extinct.

This Japanese-type Husky dog is native to the island of Sakhalin, which is Russia’s largest island and lies north of Japan, hence the name ‘Japanese Husky’.

Let’s take a look at this fascinating and extremely rare dog breed. Please note that this article will refer to the Sakhalin Husky, also known as the Karafuto Ken, simply as the Japanese Husky.

The History Of The Japanese Husky

This animal’s Japanese name refers to the fact that it is a dog – ‘ken’ is ‘dog’ in Japanese. They were developed by the Nivkh people, who were indigenous to Sakhalin island.

These dogs made a great contribution to the exploration of both Alaska (Franz Josef Land), and the South Pole, under Robert Falcon Scott.

In 1958, a Japanese research expedition to Antarctica had to be evacuated, and the explorers left 15 Japanese Huskies behind with a small amount of food, with the intention of going back for them. They never made it. One year later, the explorers went back and astonishingly discovered two of the dogs alive, called Taro and Jiro. Taro went back to Japan and lived at a university until his death in 1970. His body was stuffed and put on display, and can still be seen today at the Natural Museum of Nature and Science. Jiro lived out his days in Antarctica, dying in 1960.

The Japanese Husky was used by the Red Army in World War II for their strength, stamina, and intelligence, but this did not last long because it was found that they ate too much salmon. In fact, this is one of the reasons why this breed declined; they were simply far too expensive to feed. Sadly, this led to mass culling of the Japanese Husky during the 1930s, when it was discovered that huge profits could be made exporting salmon. 

Some people believe that the Japanese Husky is the ancestor of the Akita Inu, which is another Japanese spitz-type dog breed (although with a longer coat.) 

Appearance Of The Japanese Husky

The Japanese Husky is quite a large dog. They have thick coats of medium length, that come in the colors of black, russet, biscuit, and cream, and any combination of these.

They have pointed ears, a pointed snout, and a long bushy tail. Their eyes are brown or blue. The Japanese Husky is an attractive-looking dog with a somewhat wolf-like appearance. You can see in their eyes and their expression that they are tough and intelligent dogs.

They have big paws and muscular bodies, which helps them to pull cargo over snow.

The Full Grown Japanese Husky

Male Japanese Huskies can grow as tall as 22 to 25 inches at the shoulder, with females measuring between 21.5 to 24 inches in adulthood. Adult Japanese Huskies weigh between 66 to 88 pounds.


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Lifespan Of The Japanese Husky

The Japanese Husky can live for 12 to 14 years if cared for correctly. 

Japanese Husky Puppies

The litter size of the Japanese Husky is usually 1 to 7 puppies.

Japanese Husky Care

This is an extremely high-energy dog breed and therefore needs a great deal of vigorous daily exercise. They would be perfect for dog sled racing since this is what they have been bred for. The Japanese Husky can pull up to 155 pounds in weight across the snow, and cover long distances in just a few days.

In order to achieve these amazing physical feats, this dog needs a good quality high protein diet that is rich in essential vitamins and minerals – like salmon.

The Japanese Husky Personality And Suitability As A Pet

It is said that this dog would make a good family dog because whilst they are boisterous, they love children and would not hurt them. They make good family dogs because they are loyal to their owners. The Japanese Husky is an active and hard-working dog, with an independent streak. This dog breed needs vigorous daily exercise.

What Does The Future Hold For The Japanese Husky?

In 2011, it was reported that there were only 2 of these dogs left in all of Japan.

In an article that was published by The Siberian Times in 2015, it was reported that there were only 7 left on Sakhalin. This is the most up-to-date information there is about this breed. 

In this article, a man named Nicolay Chalin said that he had written to the governor of Sakhalin, asking permission and land to set up a breeding station. The governor was keen on the breed, according to the article.

The one and only last remaining breeder of the Japanese Husky (Sergey Lyubykh), who owned the 7 dogs, said before he died in 2012 that there was not enough genetic diversity left in these 7 dogs to start a breeding program. It is unknown what happened to his 7 dogs after he died.

The Japanese Husky In Film

There have been a few movies made about the Japanese Husky.

One of these films is a 1983 Japanese release called Antarctica, and it documents the ill-fated 1958 Japanese expedition to Antarctica, and the fates of the 15 Japanese Huskies that got left behind, including the lives of Jiro and Taro (who were brothers in real life.) These dogs had been left chained up, and 7 died in their chains. The rest broke loose and went missing, apart from the two brothers (who were born in Antarctica.)

The 2006 American survival drama 8 Below covers the same story but fictionalizes it, and the sled dogs used in the movie are actually Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies.

In Conclusion

The Japanese Husky is very close to extinction, if not already extinct. This is very sad, considering the contribution that they made to human exploration efforts in Antarctica and Alaska. At least we have ways of remembering them, such as the preserved body of Taro in Japan, and films that recount the Japanese expedition to Antarctica in 1958. Who knows, perhaps whoever took over the ownership of the remaining 7 Japanese Huskies at least used them in cross-breeding programs so that some of their genes live on.

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