A medium-size, dense-coated Spitz type working breed originating in north-eastern Siberia, the Siberian Husky (Russian: Сибирский хаски, Sibirskiy haski, "Siberian husky") is an active, energetic, and resilient breed whose ancestors were bred by the Chukchi of Northeastern Asia to pull heavy loads long distances through difficult conditions. Initially imported into Alaska during the Gold Rush the breed would prove itself to be not only a realiable sled dog but also a loving companion. This would lead to the dogs later spread throughout the whole of the United States and Canada. Today this breed is easily recogniziable for its thickly furred double coat, curly tail, erect triangular rounded tipped ears, and distinctive markings. The Siberian Husky has and is also known as the Chukcha, Chuksha, Husky, and Icee.
One of the oldest domesticated breeds of dog, the Siberian Husky traces its earliest ancestry to the harsh tundra of Siberia. Its dense coating and keen intelligence allowed the species to survive some of the harshest conditions on the planet. Genetic evidence suggests the common assumption (based on physical appearance) that the Husky is descended from the Wolf to be true: however the exact nature and time of the first breeding between feral Dogs and Wolves is unknown.
The "Genetic Structure of the Purebred Domestic Dog" an analysis first published in 2004 of DNA patterns amongst a variety of breeds, however, does show conclusively that the Husky is actually part of a much larger family of Wolf descended dogs from a variety of regions, Central Africa (Basenji), the Middle East (Saluki and Afghan), Tibet (Tibetan Terrier and Lhasa Apso), China (Chow Chow, Pekingese, Shar- Pei, and Shi Tzu), Japan (Akita and ShibaInu), and the Arctic (Alaskan Malamute, and the Siberian Husky). The same study hypothesizes that early pariah dogs originated in Asia and migrated with nomadic human groups both south to Africa and north to the Arctic, with subsequent migrations occurring throughout Asia. This movement of nomadic tribes to the Arctic with the first of their Dog/Wolf hybrids may well be the genesis of the Siberian Husky.
The first known people to utilize the Siberian Husky were the Chukchi tribe; a group who relied upon both sea mammal hunting and reindeer herding for survival. Living on the Chukotka Peninsulafor over a thousand years (on the Western most edge of Siberia; where the Russian side of the ice bridge that once linked Asia and North America lies), the Chukchi found the Husky useful as sled-dogs, watch dogs and for herding reindeer. The hardy breed of dog lived for centuries with the Chukchi tribe, the latter’s practical breeding cycle for the dog accounting for its near physical perfection.
The Siberian Husky arrived in America in 1908 to both ridicule and controversy. Russian fur trader William Goosak imported a pack of Siberian Huskies to use in the 1909 All Alaska Sweepstakes (a dog-sled race of some 408 miles with a 10,000 prize). Goosak’s competitors, used to using larger dogs in racing, mocked his selection – some going as far as to dub the Huskies “Siberian Rats”. The race, though, soon changed their minds; with Goosak’s team (led by Danish Sailor Louis Thurstrop) finishing a strong third. Some contend Goosak’s team was actually winning the race, but so many bets against the team had been made his winning would break the Bank of Nome, so Goosak was bribed into allowing two other teams to pass him.
After the 1909 All Alaska the Siberian Husky became a mainstay on the dog-sled racing stage; cementing their reputation in the 1910 race when three teams of dogs collected from Siberia by Fox Maule Ramsay (a competitor in the 1909 race who had been supremely impressed by the Huskies performance) came in 1st, 2nd and 4th – with the 1st place team shattering the all-time speed record for the race. Soon nearly all teams in all competitions were comprised of Huskies, and the “rats from Siberia” had a new home in America.
In 1925 a diphtheria epidemic struck Nome. The only remedy was 600 miles away; the city was forced to create an impromptu relay system of dog-sled teams to get the life-saving remedy and bring it back. The team that completed the last leg of the perilous run and brought the much needed medicine to Nome was driven by Gunnar Kaasen with his famous lead dog, “Balto”. To commemorate the heroism of the dog and his kin who had performed so admirably in the “Serum Run”, a statue of Balto was erected in Central Park in New York, baring the inscription “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”. Though Balto serves to commemorate the valiant work of all the Huskies involved, many believe the most important dog in the relay was “Togo”, the leader of Norwegian Leonhard Seppala’s sled team. After having run all day through a blizzard to meet carrying the needed serum on the eastern shore of the Norton Sound, Seppala and Togo immediately turned around and made the perilous run back through the night; a marvel of survival and dedication.
The Serum Run was not to be the last example of Husky heroism in the United States. In 1930, the same year the American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed, the Soviet Union ceased the export of any further Huskies. Three years later Navy Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd used teams comprised of more than 50 Huskies in an expedition called “Operation Highjump”, a 16,000-mile exploratory run around the coast of Antarctica. Their versality, tenacity and strength proved by the Serum Run and operation Highjump, Huskies made their way into the United States Military; serving in World War Two in the Army's Arctic Search and Rescue Unit of the Air Transport Command.
While Huskies were proving their worth in the most dangerous of conditions, they continued to dominate the world of dog sled racing. Though recent years have seen a rise in competition from the larger Alaskan Malamute, the Husky continues to hold its own, and has also gained popularity in the sport of skijoring (where anywhere from one to three dogs pull a skier) and in the world of hiking.
Though they originally made their fame in Alaska, few breeders currently operate in the state. Most modern Huskies are bred in New England. The modern Husky has essentially evolved into two different kinds: those used for practical purposes and those used for show. Once a subject of mockery in America, the Husky has become one of the most recognizable and popular breeds in the country.
Perhaps best known by the layman for their likeness to Wolves, Siberian Huskies are also highly recognizable by their thickly furred double coat, sickle tail, erect triangular ears, and distinctive markings.The dog's fur is usually black and white, gray and white, copper-red and white, or pure white. The breed often has white paws and legs in addition to unique markings on the face. The brush tail is covered by thick fur and is sometimes carried in a sickle-shaped curve over the dog's back. The Siberian Husky has triangular, erect ears and beautiful eyes that can be brown, hazel, blue, or a combination of these colors. Siberian Huskies have strong chests and backs, well-muscled upper thighs, and are known for being athletic, elegant dogs. Huskies range in size from from 20 to 23 ½ inches tall at the shoulder, and typically weigh between 35 and 60 pounds.
Huskies have a body shape that reflects their history in the field: compact and lithe with a distinct, apparently effortless gait. The head of the Husky carries almond shape eyes, triangular ears set high on the skull, which is slightly rounded on top and tapers from the widest point to the eyes. The muzzle is of medium length, the distance from the tip of the nose to the stop is equal to the distance from the stop to the occiput. The nose itself can be black in gray, tan or black dogs; liver in copper dogs; or may be flesh-colored in pure white dogs.
The Husky has a medium length neck which stands arched and erect when the dog is standing. This feature accents the deep and strong chest of the breed; the shoulders are never perpendicular to the ground, but sit angled slightly backward from the point of the elbow to the shoulder. The legs moderately spaced and parallel, and, when viewed from behind, the upper thighs should be well-muscled and powerful. Paws tend to be oval in shape with amble fur between the toes, and also boast tough, thickly cushioned pads. Huskies have a straight and strong spine with a level topline from withers to croup.
Siberian Huskies are widely regarded for both their strength and their intelligence. Thus a diligent trainer has an ideal candidate in a dog; one that learns new commands quickly, can perform a wide variety of actions and can adapt to almost any circumstance. By that same token, however, owners will find that, if left without mental stimulation, Huskies will bore and can become destructive on account of their size. Huskies do howl; though the trait can be manage with proper training. Though docile by nature, and not a highly territorial breed, Huskies can be predatory, and so before proper training care should be taken with the Husky around smaller animals both in and outside of the home.
Owing to their heritage as sled-dogs Huskies require a strong Alpha presence for proper control. Given that they are exceptional family dogs: loving, gentle and playful. Huskies do commonly seek to assert dominance, so constant vigilance is required. If trained from a puppy Huskies adapt extremely well to the home, and are welcoming of other animals. Coming from lines of sled-dogs means Huskies are also extremely social around other dogs, particularly other Huskies. While Huskies are familiar with the nature of interactions with each other (which can include playful nipping and wrestling), other breeds may interpret the playfulness as aggression. As with all breeds of dog it is up to the parents to ensure that play between larger dogs and smaller children or other dogs is closely supervised to prevent the dog from acting out if it is placed in a situation where the dog feels it is being hurt and/or needs to defend itself.
Surprisingly, given their size, Huskies do not require as much food as other dogs of the same size. They are excellent exercise companions, and will often be able to physically exceed the abilities of their owners. Though the Husky is extremely outgoing and rarely shy of people, they are also exceedingly loyal dogs – an owner need not fear the Husky will leave them for a faster runner.
The Husky’s superior intelligence does mean they are capable of inadvertent mischief: from opening crates and refrigerators to escaping the home. These behaviors can be prevented with proper training and equipment.
Though not known for demanding grooming, the thick coat of the Siberian Husky does require weekly brushing. The same thick coat also, naturally, sheds if not maintained – the soft undercoat of the Husky remains largely stagnant, but the coarser, longer hairs of the outercoat (which keep the animal warm in Arctic conditions) release easily.
Huskies are ardent cleaners themselves, and will tend to many of their own needs independently. Once a year they do shed their entire outercoat; this, though, does not happen all at once. If an owner notices an increase in the amount of hair removed during grooming, however, be extra attention may need to be paid to the coat in coming weeks.
Attention should also be paid to the Huskies nails, ears and teeth. Huskies tend to view grooming as a bonding exercise, and are willing participants in the activity. Owner’s may find that the process of grooming the dog serves as perfect time for bonding.
A properly cared for Siberian Husky can expect a life of twelve to fifteen years. The most common illnesses in the breed are mainly genetic; such as seizures and defects of the eye (juvenile cataracts, corneal dystrophy, and progressive retinal atrophy). The Husky is remarkably resilient to hip dysplasia: indeed the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals ranks the Siberian Husky ranked 148th out of 153 breeds at risk for hip dysplasia, with only two percent of tested Siberian Huskies showing dysplasia. Huskies used for sledding are open to a much wider array of maladies, including gastric disease, bronchitis or bronchopulmonary ailments (known to racers as "ski asthma"), and gastric erosions or ulcerations.
Siberian Huskies have also been reported to have the following problems: