Siberian Huskies - Breed Introduction
The Siberian Husky is best known as a sled dog, though it is smaller and lighter than other sled dog breeds. The Siberian Husky may also be referred to as the Arctic Husky, but should not be confused with the Alaskan Husky, a more competitive breed, which has surpassed the popularity of the Siberian for sled racing events.
Siberian Huskies are very popular in the United States and Canada. Given their sled-dog heritage, they make great companions for those who engage in cross-country skiing or ski-joring, a sport in which the dog is harnessed to the skier.
Siberian Huskies are approximately 20 to 24 inches (51 to 61 centimeters) in height and weigh between 35 and 50 pounds (16 to 23 kilograms).
History of Breed
The Siberian Husky is thought to have been developed more than 3,000 years ago, by the Chukchi people of northeast Asia, who needed dogs with a lot of endurance to pull sleds over their extended hunting grounds and herd reindeer.
Siberia is considered its country of origin (hence, the breed’s name), and it is a descendant of spitz stock. Because of the dogs’ geographic isolation, the breed was kept very pure until the 1900s. It has been theorized that 19th-century fur traders came upon these dogs in their dealings, and subsequently imported them to North America, where Alaskans began using them for sled racing.
In 1909, the dogs competed for the first time in the All-Alaska sweepstakes race, which covered 408 miles between Nome and Candle. The dogs gained further notoriety when, in 1925, teams of huskies raced 340 miles to Nome, Alaska, to deliver a critically-needed antibiotic to the townspeople, who were plagued by diphtheria.
The townspeople erected a statue in the dogs’ honor in Central Park. The heroic reputation of Siberian Huskies was furthered during World War II, when the dogs served as valuable members on the United States Army’s search-and-rescue teams.
Color and Coat
Siberian Huskies sport a medium-length double coat. The outer coat consists of coarse, straight hairs, while the hairs of the undercoat provide a soft, fluffy layer of insulation. Siberian Huskies shed their undercoat twice a year or with the change of the seasons, a process commonly referred to as “blowing the coat.”
The breed is available in a full range of shades from black to white, with a variety of black or white markings.
Personality and Temperament
Siberian Huskies are elegant and dignified, yet lively and outgoing. The are gentle and friendly with nearly everyone, and make very pleasant companions. The Siberian Husky is not a one-person dog.
The Siberian Husky isn’t well suited to the tasks required of a watchdog. The breed seldom barks, and is friendly by nature. Siberian Huskies have another vocal means of communicating, however. They’re communal howlers, much like wolves, and they’re also known to yodel, howl, or “whoo” when trying to engage another in play or back-talking to their companions.
Free-spirited and highly independent, Siberian Huskies have a tendency to roam and must be carefully supervised. It’s important to remember that these dogs were bred to run with great speed and stamina.
If they take off, humans can forget about catching them on foot. Furthermore, they’re unlikely to return home when they finally stop running. Adding to this dilemma is the fact that the Siberian Husky is a Houdini in his own right – the consummate escape artist. They’re avid diggers as well as runners.
Athletic and tireless, these dogs are very trainable. They need rigorous exercise on a daily basis – about two hours’ worth.
Siberian Huskies are good with children, and, not surprisingly, will happily pull a youngster in a wagon or on a sled. They also enjoy the company of other canines, but the compatibility to other animals ends there. They cannot be trusted with farm animals, small domestic pets, or cats (think flying fur).
Siberian Huskies need active owners, and thrive in country and suburban environments.
Siberian Huskies have compact, muscular bodies. They are slightly longer than they are tall. They have medium-sized, triangular, erect ears that should be parallel to each other when the dog is alert.
Their noses are black, liver, or flesh-colored, or streaked with pink. Their brush tails are carried in a sickle curve over the back, and most Siberian Huskies have a white tip on the end of their tail.
The Siberians’ most distinctive feature may well be their eyes. Almond-shaped, they can be brown, light brown, hazel, blue, black, amber, or green. Light blue eyes are characteristic, but are not completely dominant from a genetic standpoint.
Siberian Huskies may be “bi-eyed,” having one brown or hazel eye and one blue eye, or “parti-eyed,” having blue eyes with another color mixed in the iris of one or both eyes.
This is one of the few breeds for which different-colored eyes are allowed in the show ring, and the Siberian Husky is one of only a handful of breeds to commonly display blue eyes.
Typical Health Concerns
Siberian Huskies are hardy, and have no major health concerns. They may have cataracts or other eye problems.
Siberian Huskies are fuel-efficient, consuming less food than other dogs of comparable size and activity levels. They can become obese if they are overfed or under-exercised.
They require some fish oil in their diet, primarily for their coats and nails, which will otherwise become brittle. Sardines and flaxseed oil are both recommended for meeting this requirement.
Siberian Huskies should be brushed or combed when their fur starts to clump. Grooming of the coat is particularly important for those dogs who like to play in water, because the risk of developing fungal infections is greater when the undercoat gets wet.
Bathing is usually unnecessary because their coats shed dirt. Siberians shed profusely when shedding seasons come around.
Country of Origin
As their name implies, Siberian Huskies originated in Siberia (Russia).
Average Life Span
The average life expectancy of the Siberian Husky is 10 to 14 years.