Pulling the sled all day long on polar ice is not a task for just any dog. That’s what makes the Siberian husky so special. It is a tough-looking dog with a distinct personality and a very warm and loving heart.
Did You Know?
Although not a descendant of wolves, this dog is also colloquially called the Siberian wolf dog or the Husky wolf dog. Other nicknames are Sibe, Husky, and Icee.
The Siberian husky is one of the oldest breeds of dogs. It is a descendant of the Chukchi sled dogs, just like the Samoyed and the Alaskan malamute, which makes these breeds relatives of the husky. The Chukchi tribe, who lived in the northeastern part of Siberia, first started to selectively breed the Siberian husky as a sled dog and to herd reindeer. In 1908, the breed was taken to Alaska to compete in the All-Alaska Sweepstakes, a 408-mile race of dog-pulled sleds.
The popularity of this breed increased after the year 1925, when the diphtheria epidemic struck the village of Nome Alaska. The antidote that was necessary to cure it was 600 miles away in the town of Nenana. Many teams of these sled dogs together made the journey and back, covering small distances each, bringing the serum with them. The two dogs that were especially commended for their efforts were Huskies named Togo and Balto. Togo ran the most distance of the journey, while Balto was the one who made the final leg of the journey and brought the antitoxin to Nome Alaska.
The people of New England were the ones that took over the selective breeding of the Siberian husky. This breed was officially recognized by the AKC in 1930, and the first Siberian Husky Club of America was started in 1938.
Physical Description: This is a medium-sized breed. The height is normally between 21 to 24 inches (53 to 60 cm) for the males and between 20 to 22 inches (51 to 56 cm) for females. Males may weigh not more than 45 to 60 pounds (21 to 27 kg), and females may weigh not more than 35 to 50 pounds (16 to 23 kg).
Coat: The coat of this dog is thick, with a very dense undercoat and a longer top coat. The coat can tolerate temperatures as low as -58 to -75°F (-50 to -60°C). It also reflects heat during summer and can alter itself to help the dog adapt to the rising temperature.
Coat colors are numerous, and also come in patterns. Colors can be black-and-white, gray-and-white, copper-and-white, and pure white. Agouti and piebald patterns are also found. Except for the Merle pattern, the AKC allows all coat colors from complete black to pure white.
Eyes: The eyes are almond-shaped, moderately spaced apart, and come in colors such as brown, amber, glassy blue, dark blue, or green.
▶ Sometimes, either one or both the eyes can have both blue and brown colors in each (partially colored), which is called partial heterochromia.
▶ One eye can be blue and the other brown, which called complete heterochromia.
Nose: The nose color differs according to the coat color. It is black for a gray coat, tan for a black coat, liver for a copper coat, and a lighter tan for a white coat.
Tail: The tail is thick, bushy, and curved, but not so much as to touch the back, and does not deviate to any one side.
Attributes: This dog is intelligent, affectionate, playful, gentle, alert, and very loyal. Thus, it is neither suitable nor useful for guarding. It does not bark, but rather howls like a wolf. It loves children and also other people. Its extremely loving and tolerant nature makes this dog suitable for children. However, it is also an independent, resourceful, and intelligent breed. Thus, training a husky can be a bit difficult.
As a Pet: It is not a suitable breed for first-time dog owners, as it needs a firm owner who can establish himself/herself as the alpha dog or leader of the pack. This is because the husky is a thorough pack animal. An owner who becomes even a little lenient and lets the dog take over may be pushed around a little by his/her pet. Hence, this breed needs guidance so that it does not get carried away.
Behavioral Problems: These include its tendency to attempt escape. Thus, if you have a yard, then it must have a fence that is at least 6 feet high and also a few feet below the ground because this dog loves to both jump as well as dig! It may jump over the fence or dig a hole in the ground and escape from under the fence.
Also, keep smaller pets such as rats or hamsters away from this dog, as all the training in the world may be compromised, and the smaller animal will be pursued. Also, do not let your husky off the leash except in a fenced yard, as this dog also has the tendency to take off running.
Exercise: This breed needs considerable exercise daily, otherwise it will get bored, destructive, and will find creative ways to pass time, which includes escaping, digging, and the like. Daily jogs or brisk walks are needed except when the weather is hot. The exceptional and unique temperament of this breed makes it a wonderful sled dog and even a suitable therapy dog.
▶ This breed is more suitable for a house that comes with at least a moderate-sized yard, but it can also be kept in an apartment if it has been accustomed to it since puppyhood and if sufficient amount of daily exercise is provided.
▶ The dog will love to run and play around in the fenced yard in cooler weather, but will need a cool indoor atmosphere, and if possible, an air-conditioned environment in the warmer seasons.
Grooming and Shedding
▶ This breed requires regular grooming; at least a few times a week if it is not possible daily.
▶ The coat sheds twice a year, and it sheds quite heavily. During the shedding season, the grooming session must be carried out more frequently than other times.
▶ The average lifespan of a husky is 12 to 14 years. This breed is not very susceptible to hip dysplasia like other medium-sized breeds, but an individual dog can be affected by it.
▶ Other health concerns of this breed include juvenile cataracts, corneal dystrophy, canine glaucoma, and progressive retinal atrophy. Ectopy and zinc responsive dermatitis are also likely to affect this breed. Sled dogs can contract bronchitis, gastric diseases, and ulceration.
▶ This breed requires less quantity of food. Thus, overfeeding must be strictly avoided as it will only make the dog obese and lead to a host of health problems.
▶ This breed is believed to be more than 3,000 years old.
▶ A husky is fast, and can reach speeds of 30 mph.
▶ This dog loves to lick people!
▶ Unlike other medium-sized breeds like Labradors or Golden Retrievers, this breed has ears that stand up.
▶ This dog can travel distances of more than 100 miles every day.
▶ There is a bronze statue of the dog hero Balto at the entrance of New York’s Central Park.
▶ A male husky that is more than 23.5 inches tall is disqualified as per the AKC breed standards.