SUPERDOGS: JEFF KING

Jeff King can arguably be called on of the winningest mushers in the world. His victories include not only the Iditarod in 1993, 1996, 1998, and 2006, but also over two dozen first place finishes in races all across Alaska, including one of his favorites, the Kuskokwim 300. Jeff has also completed the Yukon Quest 7 years in a row from 1984-1990, winning once. During the past 20 years, Jeff has logged more than 100,000 miles on a dog sled. His most recent accomplishments are a pair of very close and hotly contested second places in this year’s Iditarod and All Alaska Sweepstakes. I was able to visit Jeff’s operation and photograph these amazing dogs shortly afterwards. Enjoy. GSSalem. 8 years old. Male. 58 lbs. (Kanga x Yuksi). He is the finest sled dog I’ve ever driven. A combination of tremendous speed and an unfaltering committment to go faster and farther. I can’t say enough good things about him. He is an absolute lover when he’s around me, but he is a bit growly around other dogs—kind of a macho dude. Clearly the best dog in 2006, he had a couple of injuries in 07 & 08, but he is really doing well this year. We are doing back to back 50’s and is looking real good. He is a perfect gee-haw leader and has unbelievable power, fantastic feet, and perfect angulation. He seems like he could be in lead every minute of his life, it doesn’t bother him at all, in fact he doesn’t seem comfortable back in the team. Sometimes I have to hand feed him during a long race. One of the top moments of my life was going through Aniak, in the Kusko 300 with him in lead as a 2 year old. He was screaming to go 200 miles into the race. Charlie Boulding’s wife asked me, “How do you do it?” I said, “I don’t know.” We left there shooting up a rooster tail of snow. He also led a good share of the Iditarod in 2006. I remember passing Swingley on the Unalakleet River. Salem had his head down in a full out driving lope 700 miles into the race.Yuksi. 14 years old. Male. 58lbs.Born in Susan Butcher’s kennel. I first leased him as a 2 year old, from my handler, Brian Imus who arrived to work here with this pup. I spent $9,000 between leasing him from my handler, and buying him. He is by far the most expensive dog I own, and worth every penny. He has been retired for 10 years. He was fairly delicate, mainly wrist injuries. My development with these new harnesses would have helped him out. He was extremely hard driving. One of his parents is from a guy in Two Rivers, Alaska who won the Iditarod 5 times, and the other from Susan’s kennel. The bloodlines go back to the early 80’s. He was born in Susan’s yard. Of all the females I bred to him, his characteristics are the one that come out. He is deep chested with lots of lung power and drive. An endearing growl as communication permeates all of his offspring. Many people mistake it for aggression, but it is more like purring from a cat.Bronte Female. (left) 51 lbs. Dickens Female. (right). 55 lbs. 6 year old littermates out of Demi bred to Yuksi. Key spectacular leaders right up through this past racing season including Iditarod and All Alaska Sweepstakes. Both are natural, willing leaders and are affectionate, sleeping bag warmers and easy keepers. Neither dog has ever been dropped from a race since they were born. They ran the Serum Run in 2003, and have made the main team ever since. Their mom, Demi, is one of my best brood bitches at 10 years old. She is from a great litter of 12 out of Saunderson’s Victor. The guy I got them from was getting out of dogs. Out of the litter of 12, five made my team. Klarney Female. 49 lbs. She is out of Spaniel bred to Salem. She is the most exciting 3 year old on my team last race season. She led at least 1/2 of the Iditarod and the Sweepstakes. Klarney exceeded my wildest expectations as a sled dog. She has tremendous appetite and drive and is also a fun life-loving dog. Dublin Male. 55 lbs. Littermate to Klarney (left). Dublin is more like a machine to Klarney’s brains. The other dogs used to picked on him and bit off his tail when he was 8 months old. It is amazing how different these litter mates are as far as mental capacity. He is all sled dog. He runs in just about every position including lead. He will run anywhere if you point him in that direction, but I think he is a little mentally challenged. He is less affectionate and more mechanical than his sister. He is pretty stoic.Ross Male. 52 lbs (Jodi x Yuksi). 3 years old. One of the “Friends” litter, the only one that stayed here. He made the Kusko 300 team last year at 3 years old, but didn’t go on Iditarod. He will probably make it this year. He is a great dog but I just didn’t have room for him. Ross is built for speed. He hasn’t been able to show us his stuff yet in Iditarod, but we think he will soon. He has a perfect build, perfect gait and a tireless work ethic. His littermates: Phoebe is leading a distance team, Monica is in Juneau, Chandler did the Serum Run and Rachel is with a vet in Fairbanks. UConn Male. 54 lbs. (left). Berkeley Female. 49lbs. (right) 4 year old littermates. They are out of Lassen bred to Salem. Both parents are Yuksi offspring. You call this part of the magazine Superdogs and these guys are just that: real superdogs. They finished Iditarod at 2 years old in 2006 on my winning team. They have ran every race since. Berkley would run every day, every run in lead, she loves it, drives very hard. On my Takotna to Cripple straight runs, she is my common denominator. If I want to go fast Berkley is in lead. Call Male. 52 lbs. (left). Deets Male. 52 lbs. (right). 5 year old littermates out of Jenna x Yuksi. If I was on my death bed and wanted entertainment, these are the two I would choose to have come and visit. Jenna was a Golden Harness Iditarod leader from my 1996 winning team, and these are her offspring. Deets likes to lead and be in the front half of the team. Call will run anywhere but lead. If you let Call loose, he is liable to knock you down like a linebacker. He just bowls into you with a giant smile on his face. Some littermates of these guys are doing really well in sprint racing in northern California. Spaniel Female. 50 lbs. 7 years old. She is out of Kintle (Salem’s littermate) bred to Moose (littermate of Demi and Jodi). Spaniel had a short racing career with me. When she was 2 she made the Iditarod team but didn’t finish. The next year she finished but didn’t make the team after that. She ran with me at the Kusko 300 many times. Her pups continue to produce for me. Spaniel is a little shy, which is uncharacteristic for my team. I let her run loose in the yard most of the time. She is a genetic cornerstone to our kennel. Claire Female. 48 lbs. 5 years old. (Jenna x Yuksi). She has the intelligence of her mother with tons of speed. She is a bit delicate and a finicky eater, and that has been the reason she hasn’t been on the main team in big races. She has the speed and talent to keep up with anyone. She was in the winning Kusko team, but didn’t make the top 16 for Iditarod. If they would let me take 17, she would have been the one.Angus Male. 60 lbs. 7 years old. Out of Jersey bred to Moose (littermate to Demi and Jodi). Angus is just an incredible, big, strong, fun workhorse. He was neutered to help him maintain weight. He runs mainly in the back of the team–not the fastest dog in the team by any means. He’s one of the 2 dogs I dropped last year in White Mountain. I had every intention of catching Lance so I dropped him because I knew I needed to go faster than I was going. He is an unbelievable stud, but his personality is not as bright as some of my others. He loves his job, doesn’t fight, very easy on the line when we stop. He is not a loper, really only has two gaits: a trot or pace. Sussex (left) Male. 51lbs. Charles Male. 55 lbs. 4 year old littermates (Spaniel x Yuksi) Charles ran great right from the start as a pup, but Sussex took a little longer to get going. Actually he was on the “for sale list” as a yearling. Both lead, and both were on the Iditarod and Sweepstakes teams this year. Charles is very friendly. He has so much enthusiasm he is like a bull in a china shop, but Sussex is more reserved. These kinds of dogs are just so much fun to be around. Exuberance is not necessarily a criteria of mine with dogs, but I want them to be volunteers. There is no draft in my kennel.Viper (left). Male. 55 lbs. Maverick (right). Male. 50 lbs. 4 year old littermates out of Jodi bred to Yuksi. Jodi is Demi’s sister. Both made my Iditarod team at 2 years old. They finished the 2005 race and were in the 2006 winning team. Viper, at 2 years old lead from Shaktoolik to Koyuk. They are not born leaders, but can be “trail” leaders for 100’s of miles. My daughter Tessa has picked Viper as her dog and wants him when he is retired. Maverick doesn’t like the excitement of hookups and the chaos, but the further we go the calmer he gets. Both of these guys have gaits that are water smooth, very fluid. They’ve never been hurt and have never been in a fight. Viper is the all around good guy and has no bad manners.

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