The Siberian Husky
The Siberian Husky is a medium-size, dense-coat working dog breed that originated in north-eastern Siberia. The breed belongs to the Spitz genetic family. It is recognizable by its thickly furred double coat, sickle tail, erect triangular ears, and distinctive markings.
Huskies are an active, energetic, and resilient breed whose ancestors came from the extremely cold and harsh environment of the Siberian Arctic. Siberian Huskies were bred by the Chukchi of Northeastern Asia to pull heavy loads long distances through difficult conditions. The dogs were imported into Alaska during the Nome Gold Rush and later spread into the United States and Canada. They were initially sent to Alaska and Canada as sled dogs but rapidly acquired the status of family pets and show dogs. Because of their efficiency as a working breed, most huskies are bred to be able to withstand long work days on little amounts of food. They can travel up to 40 miles per day.
The Siberian Husky, Samoyed, and Alaskan Malamute are all breeds directly descended from the original “sled dog.” 2004 DNA analysis confirms that this is one of the oldest breeds of dog. The term “husky” is a corruption of the nickname “Esky” once applied to the Eskimos and subsequently to their dogs.
Breeds descending from the Eskimo dog or Qimmiq were once found throughout the Northern Hemisphere from Siberia to Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Labrador, and Baffin Island.
With the help of Siberian Huskies, entire tribes of people were able not only to survive, but to push forth into terra incognita. Admiral Robert Peary of the United States Navy was aided by this breed during his expeditions in search of the North Pole.
Dogs from the Anadyr River and surrounding regions were imported into Alaska from 1908 (and for the next two decades) during the gold rush for use as sled dogs, especially in the “All-Alaska Sweepstakes,” a 408-mile (657-km) distance dog sled race from Nome, to Candle, and back. Smaller, faster and more enduring than the 100- to 120-pound (45- to 54-kg) freighting dogs then in general use, they immediately dominated the Nome Sweepstakes. Leonhard Seppala, the foremost breeder of Siberian Huskies of the time, participated in competitions from 1909 to the mid-1920s.
The Siberian Husky’s coat is thicker than most other dog breeds, comprising two layers: a dense undercoat and a longer topcoat of short, straight guard hairs. It protects the dogs effectively against harsh Arctic winters, but the coat also reflects heat in the summer. It is able to withstand temperatures as low as -50 to -60 °C (-58 to -76 °F). The undercoat is often absent during shedding. Their thick coats require weekly grooming. In hot areas a husky’s coat can naturally change so the dog can adapt to hot temperatures.
Siberian Huskies come in a variety of colours and patterns, usually with white paws and legs, facial markings, and tail tip. The most common coats are black and white, then less common copper-red and white, grey and white, pure white, and the rare “Agouti” coat, though many individuals have blondish or piebald spotting. Striking masks, spectacles, and other facial markings occur in wide variety.
The American Kennel Club describes the Siberian Husky’s eyes as “an almond shape, moderately spaced and set slightly obliquely.” The eyes of a Siberian Husky are ice-blue, dark blue, amber, or brown. In some individual dogs, one eye may be brown and the other blue (complete heterochromia), or one or both eyes may be “parti-colored,” that is, half brown and half blue (partial heterochromia) All of these eye-color combinations are considered acceptable by the American Kennel Club.
Show-quality dogs are preferred to have neither pointed nor square noses. The nose is black in gray dogs, tan in black dogs, liver in copper-colored dogs, and may be flesh-colored in white dogs. In some instances, Siberian Huskies can exhibit what is called “snow nose” or “winter nose.” This condition is called hypopigmentation in animals. “Snow nose” is acceptable in the show ring.
Siberian Husky tails are heavily furred; these dogs will often curl up with their tails over faces and noses in order to provide additional warmth. The tail should be expressive, held low when the dog is relaxed, and curved upward in a “sickle” shape when excited or interested in something. It should be symmetrical, and not curved or deviated to the side; nor should it ever curl so much as to touch the back.
The breed standard indicates that the males of the breed are ideally between 21 and 23.5 inches (53 and 60 cm) tall at the withers and weighing between 45 and 60 pounds (20 and 27 kg). Females are smaller, growing to between 20 to 22 inches (51 to 56 cm) tall at the withers and weighing between 35 to 50 pounds (16 to 23 kg).
The Husky has been described as a behavioral representative of the domestic dog’s forebear, the wolf, exhibiting a wide range of its ancestors’ behavior. They are known to howl rather than bark. If the dog is well trained when it’s young, it can make a great family pet. The frequency of kenneled Siberian Huskies, especially for racing purposes, is rather high, as attributed through the history of the breed in North America. They are affectionate with people of all ages.
A fifteen-minute daily obedience training class will serve well for Siberian Huskies. Siberians need consistent training and do well with a positive reinforcement training program. They rank 45th in Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs, being of average working/obedience intelligence. They tend to run because they were at first bred to be sled dogs. They were historically bred to be working and companion animals by the Chukchi people, and should always be gentle in nature. The Chukchi people use Siberian huskies to look after their children.
Siberian Huskies are highly intelligent, which allows them to excel in obedience trials, though many clubs would like to keep the Husky’s instinct by doing sled-racing. However, because of their intelligence, they can easily become bored and may stop listening to commands. Many dog trainers usually attempt to avoid this behavior by keeping them busy with new activities. Also due in part to their intelligence, Siberian Huskies tend to be very observant of the actions of people around them and have been known to mimic common household activities such as turning on lights with their paws and opening doors with their teeth. Some undesirable behaviors they can exhibit include opening refrigerators (and eating the food inside), climbing fences or digging tunnels in the backyard to escape. These behaviors can be prevented if the dog is given enough activity to occupy it. Huskies require both mental and physical stimulation for optimum health.
Huskies, with proper care, have a typical lifespan ranging from twelve to fifteen years. Health issues in the breed are mainly genetic, such as seizures and defects of the eye (juvenile cataracts, corneal dystrophy, canine glaucoma and progressive retinal atrophy) and congenital laryngeal paralysis. Hip dysplasia is not often found in this breed; however, as with many medium or larger-sized canines, it can occur. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals currently has the Siberian Husky ranked 155th out of a possible 160 breeds at risk for hip dysplasia, with only two percent of tested Siberian Huskies showing dysplasia.
Siberian Huskies used for sled racing may also be prone to other ailments, such as gastric disease, bronchitis or bronchopulmonary ailments (“ski asthma”), and gastric erosions or ulcerations.
The Siberian Husky can be a handful, watch it in action and learn how become the teacher before you plan to adopt one, or if your currently having issues with one, how to make changes. Below is a video with the Dog Whisperer and a Siberian Husky.