The Siberian Husky – The Domesticated Sled Dog

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siberian husky dog breeds sled sledge

Introduction To The Husky

The Siberian Husky is an average or medium-sized dog in the working-class family. The dog breed belongs to the Spitz genetic family. It is recognisable by its thickly furred doubled coat, upright triangular ears, and distinguishing markings. It is shorter than a very similar-looking canine, the Alaskan Malamute.

Siberian Huskies began in Northeast Asia where they are bred by the Chukchi people for sledge-pulling, guarding and friendship. It is an active, lively, resilient breed, whose forebears lived in the frigid and unrelenting climate of the Siberian Arctic.

William Goosak, a Russian fur merchant, introduced them to Nome, Alaska through the Nome Gold Rush, originally as sledge dogs.

siberian husky dog breeds sled sledge

Lineage

The Husky is one of the worlds oldest domesticated and working-class dogs. It also possesses one of the oldest genetic strains on the planet.

The Siberian Husky was originally bred by the Chukchi people of the Chukchi Peninsula in eastern Siberia. They were taken to Nome, Alaska, in 1908 for sledge-dog racing.

In 2015, a study using several genetic markers showed that the Siberian Husky, the Alaskan Malamute and the Alaskan husky share a confined genetic relationship between them and were linked to Chukotka sledge dogs from Siberia.

They were separate to the two Inuit canines, the Canadian Eskimo Dog and the Greenland Dog. Inside North America, the Siberian Husky and the Malamute both had sustained their Siberian lineage.

They had contributed significantly to the Alaskan husky, which revealed evidence of crossing with European breeds constant with this breed being produced in post-colonial North America.

siberian husky dog breeds sled sledge

What Do Huskies Look Like?

Coat

A Siberian Husky has a dual coat that is thicker than that of most different dog breeds. It has two layers: a thick undercoat and a longer topcoat of short, erect guard hairs. It protects the dogs efficiently against harsh Arctic winters, and also reflects warmth in the summer.

It can endure temperatures as deep as −50 to −60 °C (−58 to −76 °F). The undercoat is often missing during shedding. Their thick coats need weekly grooming.

Siberian Huskies appear in various colours and patterns, ordinarily with white paws and legs, distinct facial markings, and tail tip. The most frequent coats are black and white, then less usual grey and white, copper-red and white, pure white, and the rare or uncommon “agouti” coat.

However, many individuals possess blondish or piebald spotting. Some other individuals likewise have the “saddleback” pattern. Black-tipped guard hairs are limited to the saddle area while the head, haunches and shoulders are both light red or white.

Beautiful masks, spectacles, and other facial markings happen in a wide variety. All coat colours from black to pure white are permitted. Merle coat patterns are not allowed by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and The Kennel Club (K.C.). This pattern is often connected with health problems and impure breeding.

Eyes

The American Kennel Club defines the Siberian Husky’s eyes as “an almond appearance, reasonably spaced and set slightly obliquely.” The AKC breed norm is that eyes may be brown, blue or black; one of any or particoloured are satisfactory (complete is different colours in the eyes, either within the same eye or both eyes).

These eye-colour mixtures are deemed acceptable by the American Kennel Club. The different colours do not alter the vision of the dog.

siberian husky dog breeds sled sledge
Siberian Husky with different coloured eyes

Nose

Show-quality dogs are favoured to have neither pointed nor square noses. The nose is black in grey dogs, tan in black dogs, liver in copper-coloured dogs, and maybe light tan in white canines. In some examples, Siberian Huskies can display what is called “snow nose” or “winter nose.” This form is called hypopigmentation in animals. “Snow nose” is permissible in the show ring.

Tail

Siberian Husky tails are densely furred; these dogs will regularly curl up their tails over their faces and noses to give additional warmth. As portrayed above in the image, when curled up to sleep, the Siberian Husky will cover its nose for extra warmth, frequently referred to as the “Siberian Swirl”.

The tail should be expressive, carried low when the dog is relaxed, and curved skyward in a “sickle” shape when excited or engrossed in something.

siberian swirl husky tail curled up
The Siberian swirl – Husky with tail covering nose to keep warm

Size

The breed standard symbolises that the breed’s males are ideally within 20 and 24 inches (51 and 61 cm) in height at the withers and weighing among 45 and 60 pounds (20 and 27 kg).

Females are more petite, growing to within 19 to 23 inches (48 to 58 cm) tall at the withers and weighing 35 to 50 pounds (16 to 23 kg). The people of Nome called Siberian Huskies, “Siberian Rats” due to their volume of 40–50 lb (18–23 kg), versus the Alaskan Malamute’s proportion of 75–85 lb (34–39 kg).

siberian husky dog breeds sled sledge

Behaviour

How To Look After A Huskie As A Pet

The Husky regularly howls rather than barking. They have been reported as escape artists, including digging beneath, chewing through, or even jumping over fences and barriers.
As the Siberian Husky had been raised in a Chukchi family environment and not left to fend for food themselves, they could be trusted with kids.

The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) lists the breed as good with children. It also states they display high energy indoors, have specific exercise needs, and maybe damaging “without proper care”.

Siberian Huskies have high prey energy due to the Chukchi permitting them to roam free in the summertime.

The dogs hunted in packs and preyed on wild cats, birds and game, and squirrels, but with instruction can be trusted with other small pets and animals. They would only return to the Chukchi settlements when the snow reappeared, and food became scarce. Their hunting impulses can still be observed in the breed today.

A 6 ft (1.83 m) fence is highly recommended for this breed as a domesticated pet. However, some have been identified to overcome barriers as high as 8 ft (2.44 m). Electric pet fencing may not be adequate.

They need the constant company of people and other dogs, and their need to feel like part of a pack is powerful.

siberian husky dog breeds sled sledge

Husky Health

A 1999 ASPCA paper shows the ordinary life span of the Siberian Husky is 12 to 14 years. Health problems in the breed are mainly genetic, such as seizures and deficits of the eye which can include juvenile cataracts, corneal dystrophy, progressive retinal atrophy, canine glaucoma and congenital laryngeal paralysis.

Hip dysplasia is not usually found in this breed; nevertheless, as with many medium or larger-sized canines, it can happen. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals currently has the Siberian Husky ordered 155th out of a possible 160 breeds at danger for hip dysplasia. Only two per cent of examined Siberian Huskies showing dysplasia.

Siberian Huskies used for sledge racing may also be predisposed to other ailments, such as gastric disease, bronchitis, bronchopulmonary ailments (“ski asthma”) and gastric erosions or ulcerations.

The History Of The Siberian Husky

Sledge dogs bred and managed by the Chukchi were believed to have gone extinct or died out, but Benedict Allen, writing for Geographical magazine in 2006 after touring the region, described their survival.

chukchi
Chukchi Tribe

His description of the Chukchi breeding practices suggests selection for obedience, endurance, amiable disposition, and sizing that allowed families to support them without undue hardship. With Siberian Huskies, Eskimo societies were able to move into new territories.

Dogs from the Anadyr River and encompassing regions were imported into Alaska from 1908 (and for the next two decades) throughout the gold rush for use as sledge dogs, particularly in the “All-Alaska Sweepstakes,” a 408-mile (657-km) length dog sledge race from Nome to Candle, and back.

Smaller, faster and more lasting than the 100- to 120-pound (45- to 54-kg) freighting dogs than in everyday use, they immediately dominated the Nome Sweepstakes. Leonhard Seppala, the leading breeder of Siberian Huskies, engaged in competitions from 1909 to the mid-1920s.

nome sweepstakes sled competitions history
Nome Sweepstakes 1915

On February 3, 1925, Gunnar Kaasen was leading in the 1925 serum run to Nome to deliver diphtheria serum from Nenana, more than 600 miles to Nome. This was a group venture by several sledge-dog teams and mushers, with the greatest (264 miles or 422 km) and the most dangerous and impeding segment of the run covered by Leonhard Seppala and his sledge team lead dog Togo.

The historical event is depicted in the 2019 film Togo. It is also loosely depicted in the 1995 animated film Balto, as Gunnar Kaasen’s lead dog’s title in his sledge team was Balto. Nevertheless, unlike the real dog, Balto the character was depicted as half wolf in the film. In honour of this lead dog, a bronze statue was raised at Central Park in New York City. The plaque upon it is inscribed:

“Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dogs that relayed antitoxin six hundred miles over rough ice, across treacherous waters, through Arctic blizzards from Nenana to the relief of stricken Nome in the winter of 1925. Endurance · Fidelity · Intelligence.”

In 1930, the exportation of the dogs from Siberia was stopped. The same year saw the acceptance of the Siberian Husky by the American Kennel Club. 9 years later, the breed was first registered in Canada.

The United Kennel Club recognised the breed in 1938 as the “Arctic Husky,” replacing Siberian Husky’s name in 1991. Seppala maintained a kennel in Nenana before travelling to New England, where he became associates with Elizabeth Ricker. Both co-owned the Poland Springs kennel and started to race and display their dogs all over the Northeast.

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As the breed was starting to come to renown, in 1933 Navy Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd led about 50 Siberian Huskies with him on an expedition. He hoped to journey encompassing the 16,000-mile coast of Antarctica.

Many of the dogs were instructed at Chinook Kennels in New Hampshire. Called Operation Highjump, the historic trek confirmed the Siberian Husky worth due to its condensed size and incredible speeds. Siberian Huskies also worked in the United States Army’s Arctic Search and Rescue Unit of the Air Transport Command throughout World War II. Their popularity was maintained into the 21st century.

They were listed 16th among American Kennel Club registrants in 2012, rising to 14th place in 2013.

Due to their high popularity combined with their high physical and mental needs, Siberians are deserted or surrendered to shelters at high rates by new buyers who do not research them thoroughly and find themselves incapable of caring for the pups.

Many settle on the breed for their looks and mythos in pop culture and buy pups from backyard breeders or puppy mills who do not possess breeder-return contracts that qualified breeders have designed to keep the breed out of shelters.

siberian husky dog breeds sled sledge
Baby Huskies

Siberian huskies increased in popularity with the story of the “Great Race of Mercy,” the 1925 serum run to Nome, starring Balto and Togo.

Although Balto is considered the more famous dog that delivered the serum to Nome after running the final 53-mile leg, Togo performed the relay’s longest run, guiding his musher Leonhard Seppala on a 261-mile journey that involved crossing the deadly Norton Sound to Golovin. You can read more about Balto the Siberian Husky here.

In 1960, the U.S. Army initiated a project to build an under the ice facility for defence and space research, Camp Century, part of Project Iceworm included a 150+ crew who also brought with them an unofficial mascot, a Siberian Husky called Mukluk.

Huskies were widely used as sledge dogs by the British Antarctic Survey in Antarctica between 1945 and 1994. A bronze statue to all of BAS’s dog teams sits outside its Cambridge headquarters.

What Does Husky Mean?

It is believed that the term “husky” is a misrepresentation of the nickname “Esky” once referred to the Eskimo and consequently to their dogs.

People Also Ask

Are Siberian Husky a good family dog?

Huskies offer great pets for homes with children. They can be very patient and understand with children, but they should be supervised while around young children like all other dogs. This gets them used to other domesticated dogs and people, although they are also very tender to strangers.

Are Huskies aggressive?

AKC describes Siberian Huskies to not own the extreme characteristics of a guard dog. Neither are they unreasonably aggressive with other dogs or guests. In fact, a healthy Siberian Husky will welcome home any stranger or non-aggressive dog consistently.

Can You Keep Huskies In Warm Or Hot Climates

Siberian Huskies enjoy cold climates, usually found curled up in the yard with the wind blowing nearby them at full force. You can absolutely keep a Siberian in countries with warmer climates but will want to take extra care during the hot summer.

siberian husky dog breeds sled sledge

What’s bad about Siberian husky?

Most Siberian Huskies are friendly with other dogs, but they have a very high prey drive and may kill cats if not grown with them. Siberians should not be kept around rabbits, ferrets, or birds. Fencing must be high and strong, for they can be an escape artist, and once free, may cause some havoc with the local pets or wildlife. Although in some cases a well trained Husky can be friendly to all animals.

Do Huskies attack their owners?

Siberian Huskies do generally not attack humans. Yes, there are invariably exceptions, but the Husky typically has an amicable temperament about people. It should not grow aggressive unless provoked. Consequently, despite how ‘safe’ the particular breed of dog is considered to be – you should not leave children alone with them as with all dog breeds unless it is safe to do so. Huskys can also be quite protective of children if they are adequately trained.

Are Huskies hard to train?

Huskies are challenging to train due to their mix of intelligence and self-sufficiency. They are intelligent dogs, so they learn very quickly what you teach them. This implies as a Husky trainer, you have an extra barrier to overcome as opposed to many other dog breeds.

What is the difference between an Alaskan and Siberian Husky?

Appearance-wise, Alaskan Huskies are generally leaner in build than Siberians with a more pronounced tuck-up. Siberians commonly have blue or any mixture of blue and brown eyes, whereas Alaskan Huskies typically have brown eyes. Crosses in the Alaskan Husky and the Siberian Husky are titled Alaskan Amerindian Huskies.

Further reading

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