Are there still huskies in Antarctica?

07 December, 2008

The huskies, Morrie and Ursa, at Mawson Station, in front of husky Arne.
The huskies, Morrie and Ursa, at Mawson Station, in front of husky Arne.
Image: Diana Patterson
Source: Diana Patterson

Question: Are huskie dogs still used in Antarctica? If not, when and why did their use cease?
 
Answer: No, the last huskies were removed from Antarctica in December 1993.

The first huskies taken to Antarctica were part of the British Antarctic Expedition of 1898-1900. Huskies are well suited to Antarctic conditions – they have thick, double-layered fur coats and, having been bred in Greenland and Labrador, they are used to working in ice, cold and wind.

Huskies are hard-working and loyal dogs. In Antarctica they were primarily used to pull sledges; when attached to a harness huskies are able to haul 50-90 kilograms each. Huskies were also a valued source of companionship for the people working in the isolated and lonely conditions of Antarctic bases.

In 1954 Australia set up its first permanent research base in Antarctica, the Mawson research station. Huskies were a continuous presence on this base for almost 40 years. Introduced species were banned in Antarctica in 1964. The ponies were removed at this time, but an exception was made for huskies because they were considered to be essential for transporting scientists and their equipment.

In 1991 Australia signed the Madrid Protocol which bans all non-indigenous species (except humans) in Antarctica and in December 1993 the last huskies were removed from the Mawson research station. The younger dogs were sent to Minnesota, USA, where they continued their working lives. The older dogs were sent back to Australia to enter retirement.

Many Antarctic researchers and support staff were deeply saddened by the decision to remove huskies from Antarctica. However, they could not dispute the reasons behind the decision. Introduced species have the potential to transmit diseases to the local fauna and motorised sledges had made working dogs all but redundant in Antarctica.

Two of these last older huskies, Morrie and Ursa, are now on display at the Melbourne Museum as part of our International Polar Year display.

Comments (11)

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olivia 1 September, 2009 13:31
what is the environmental impact that htey caused so that htey had to be removed?
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Discovery Centre 2 September, 2009 11:53

Hi Olivia, thanks for your question - I've referred your query to the Museum's Curator for Science Communication for his advice - we'll get back to you soon with some information.

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Discovery Centre 31 December, 2009 14:16

Hi Olivia, we have heard back from the Science Curator and he has advised that there were concerns about the huskies attacking penguins and introducing diseases.

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Susan 11 June, 2013 08:58
Why were the humans allowed to stay and not the huskies?
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natasha 31 March, 2014 22:38
because of this susan In 1991 Australia signed the Madrid Protocol which bans all non-indigenous species (except humans) in Antarctica and in December 1993 the last huskies were removed from the Mawson research station. The younger dogs were sent to Minnesota, USA, where they continued their working lives. The older dogs were sent back to Australia to enter retirement.
natasha 31 March, 2014 22:35
where can you hire huskies from :-)
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jye 28 May, 2014 10:31
tell me facts about huskies please pretty please
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Anthony 23 December, 2015 01:08
Huskies... danger to penguins and spread diseases... Humans... danger to the whole world. How is a petrol powered co emitting sled any better than a husky? I suppose my question is a little bit rhetorical but would love some feedback. Thanks Anthony
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Liz 17 December, 2016 16:24
I agree with Anthony. How is it that the ones responsible for the major part of the worlds pollution are allowed to remain. They are introducing trucks, giant boats that break the ice crust. I'm pretty sure the boats carry rats which can easily adapt to below temp. Where does all the human waste go? Do they carry all that trash back on the boats to their countries? What are humans doing on this continent, searching for oil, I presume...?
Joette 10 January, 2017 05:17
If the animals are brought there with all their shots before hand, then any further animals come from only those bred there, how would they be spreading anything to the indigenous animals? If no disease is brought in, and no further outside animals are brought in, then where would they get the disease to spread to the indigenous animals?
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Discovery Centre 10 January, 2017 09:28
Hi Joette! Dogs are vaccinated against diseases that are known problems for dogs. It doesn't render them entirely sterile in that they'll still have skin and gut flora (and possibly fauna!) that, whilst innocuous for a healthy dog from a populous area, could potentially be a dangerous pathogen for animals that live in a totally different and isolated place like Antarctica.
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