Siberian Husky Bloodlines: SEPPALA (The Harry R. Wheeler kennel)

SEPPALA KENNELS of Harry Roberts Wheeler, located at Gray Rocks Inn, St. Jovite Station, Québec, began around 1930 with the purchase of a breeding pair of sleddogs from the Poland Spring kennels of Leonhard Seppala and Elizabeth M. Ricker. By 1931 the Poland Spring operation had closed and Wheeler had acquired its core breeding stock including three recent Siberia import males. From then until 1950 the Wheeler kennel's output became of central importance to the development of the Siberian Husky breed. This kennel is given little attention in popular breed "history" accounts, yet it was of more importance than the Seeleys' Chinook Kennels which traditionally occupy the limelight.

Understanding early Siberian breed history is complicated by the fact that several early kennels, particularly the Poland Spring kennel and the Wheeler kennel, had no interest in either the show ring or in kennel-club registration for their working sleddogs. The bulk of the dogs produced by both these kennels were never registered. This fact must be kept constantly in mind when considering what happened during the first two decades of Siberian Husky breed history. The Wheeler kennel in all bred around 38 litters, but only registered a total of 65 progeny.

KINGEAK (by TOGO ex ROSIE) and PEARL (by NUTOK ex CZARINA) were Wheeler's initial pair. Their first litter, born 1 September 1930, made up the first Wheeler team. Of that litter only SMOKEY OF SEPPALA ever became registered -- but Canadian Kennel Club registration only became a reality in 1939, nine years after AKC breed recognition in the USA. In 1931 after Elizabeth Ricker met Kaare Nansen at a New Year's party in Saint Jovite, Wheeler acquired an undisclosed number of the key Poland Spring dogs and Ricker left for Europe. Of those, the important individuals that went on to contribute to CKC registered breeding were:

Later Wheeler also acquired the white bitch NANNA (by BELFORD'S WOLF ex MONA) from Alec Belford in New Hampshire. Wheeler and the Belfords thereafter exchanged team dogs frequently. Two unregistered males TONY and DON (sired by SMOKEY OF SEPPALA out of NANNA) went back to Belfords as part of the NANNA deal. It is important to realise that ALL Wheeler foundation stock came either from Leonhard Seppala sources or from direct Siberia imports by the Poland Spring kennel. The uncertainties of the Mike Cooney, Moseley Taylor, Eva Seeley or other common stock of the 1930s had no attraction for Harry Wheeler -- his dogs came from Leonhard Seppala origins, period.

Breeding within the Wheeler kennel seems to have been highly routinised. The same matings were repeated over and over again. Thus an ancestral pattern was formed quite early in the breed; it was a very narrow one in genetic terms. The Siberia import KREE VANKA was always mated to the female TOSCA and to no other. The daughters of that mating were often bred to TSERKO, another Siberia import. SMOKEY OF SEPPALA was frequently bred to NANNA, to SIGRID OF SEPPALA (by TSERKO ex DUSHKA), and to MOLINKA OF SEPPALA 2nd (by KREE VANKA ex TOSCA). KINGEAK OF SEPPALA 2nd (by KREE VANKA ex TOSCA) sired nine litters, four of them out of the same bitch, his granddaughter POLLY OF SEPPALA (by VODKA OF SEPPALA ex ILONA OF SEPPALA). To say the least, the Wheeler breeding programme was highly structured and eccentric. But the value of genetic diversity was not well recognised among dog breeders in the 1930s and 1940s.

To summarise the Wheeler foundation stock:

  • SMOKEY OF SEPPALA, male (sole registered progeny of KINGEAK and PEARL)
  • KREE VANKA, male Siberia import (bred always to TOSCA)
  • TSERKO, male Siberia import (bred to DUSHKA and KREE VANKA/TOSCA progeny)
  • DUSHKA, Poland Spring female (BONZO x NANUK)
  • NANNA, Belford female (BELFORD'S WOLF x MONA) (bred always to SMOKEY OF SEPPALA)

In terms of influencing other lines, what can be said, except that Wheeler lineage is now found behind virtually all registered Siberians? That can be said of no other bloodline of the 1930s. The NORTHERN LIGHT lineage failed. The Jacques Suzanne line was never anything but a bizarre footnote. KOMATIK lines survived but without achieving popularity. The Eva B. Seeley CHINOOK/WONALANCET/ALYESKA bloodline would scarcely have existed without the input from Wheeler stock, and had no influence on pure Seppala lineage. The same may be said for MONADNOCK, which relied heavily upon Wheeler lines through CHINOOK and COLD RIVER breeding. The FOXSTAND foundation mating was half-Wheeler, and Shearer added other Wheeler stock to that foundation. Virtually all Canadian bloodlines were founded on Wheeler breeding, one way or another. Despite the way in which authors like Michael Jennings dismiss the Wheeler kennel, there was no other bloodline so heavily influential in the formation of other descendant lines. Wheeler's SEPPALA KENNELS was the grand-daddy of them all.

To say "Wheeler" today is virtually the same thing as to say "breed foundation," whether we speak of registered Siberian Huskies or of the Seppala Siberian Sleddog. The Wheeler stock formed the basis for show bloodlines and racing bloodlines alike in the SH breed, with the Seeley's foundation mating always a minority percentage. In the case of the SSSD, the only addition to the Wheeler base was the Foxstand foundation bitch (out of identical Poland Spring lines), until the present-day addition of new Siberia import lineage. The Wheeler kennel's breeding was fundamental to both breeds.

SAMPLE PEDIGREE -- N'YA N'YA OF SEPPALA (Opens in a new window.)
SAMPLE PEDIGREE -- VOLK OF SEPPALA (Opens in a new window.)
SAMPLE PEDIGREE -- ZARINA OF SEPPALA 3rd (Opens in a new window.)
SAMPLE PEDIGREE -- BILKOFF OF SEPPALA (Opens in a new window.)
SAMPLE PEDIGREE -- Wheeler influence: FOXSTAND'S SHAMUS (Opens in a new window.)
SAMPLE PEDIGREE -- Wheeler influence: Izok of Gap Mountain (Opens in a new window.)
SAMPLE PEDIGREE -- Wheeler influence: Ch. Bonzo of Anadyr, CD (Opens in a new window.)