The Siberian Husky – More than meets the eye!
With its intense eyes, soulful howl, and seemingly endless endurance, the Siberian Husky has earned its reputation as a tough working breed. But there’s more than meets the eye, because the Siberian has a softer side— a sweet disposition and affectionate nature. It’s an uncommon combination, but this breed is anything but average.
The Siberian Husky known as the Arctic Husky, the Siberian Dog, the Siberian Chukchi, the Chukchi Sled Dog, the Chukch, the Husky or simply the Sib, is a well-known sled-pulling dog in the harsh Siberian tundra. They came to America in the early 1900s and quickly became one of the most popular breeds among Alaskan dog mushers.
The husky is smaller and faster than the Malamute and capable of going much greater distances at higher speeds.
The Siberian Husky is naturally outgoing and friendly, typically not traits well-suited to watchdog or guarding tasks. He also is uniformly independent and has a strong desire to roam.
Siberians are prone to communal howling, although they rarely bark otherwise. They are pack animals and prefer the company of people and other dogs, although Sibs tend to view smaller dogs and cats as prey.
The mature male Siberian Husky stands 21 to 23½ inches at the withers and weigh 21 to 28 kilos. Bitches stand 20 to 22 inches at the withers and weigh 16 to 23 kilos.
Their coat is dense, double and medium in length. They shed seasonally, and profusely, but they are extremely clean dogs and typically lack a doggy smell.
Sibs can be any color ranging from black to pure white, with a number of striking markings commonly seen, especially on the face.
The Siberian Husky is an arctic breed with striking blue or brown eyes – or one eye of each color. The skull is medium sized and is proportionate to the body, slightly rounded on top and tapering from the eyes forward.
The muzzle is medium length and with, tapering gradually to the tip which is neither completely round nor completely square.
The nose is black for gray dogs, tan for black dogs, liver in cooper dogs, and can be flesh-colored in white dogs. Some dogs have a nose with pink streaks, referred to as “snow nose.”
The ears sit high atop the head, are triangular in shape with slightly rounded tips that should point straight up in the air. The back is long and straight.
The Husky’s tail is covered in thick fur and is a fox-brushed shape. It is carried over the back in a sickle curve when the dog is alert, and trails when the dog is relaxed.
The coat comes in many colors including various shades of gray and silver, sand, red, and black-and-white, often with striking markings on the head that are not found in other breeds.
Size and Weight
The ideal height for adult male Siberian Huskies is from 21 to 23.5 inches at the withers. For females, the ideal is from 20 to 22 inches at the withers. The weight of the individual dog should be in good proportion to the height, but typically males should weigh between 21 and 27 kilograms and females should weigh 16 to 23 kilograms. Huskies are slightly longer than they are tall.
Coat and Color
The Siberian Husky sports a thick double coat of medium-length hair. The undercoat is dense and sort and the top coat is made up of straight guard hair. The coat shed’s heavily year round, and twice a year the dog will blow his entire coat.
Huskies come in many colors and patterns, many are unique to the breed. Regardless of color, they usually sport white paws, legs, faces and tail tips. The most common Husky colors are black and white, gray and white, copper and white or pure white.
Huskies are heavy shedders – they lose hair year round. Shedding is especially heavy twice per year as they seasonally blow their coats. Dogs in cooler climates typically shed less than dogs who live in warm areas.
Brush your Husky once per week at a minimum to help keep shedding under control and prevent mats from forming, daily brushing is required during shedding season.
Siberian Huskies are odor free, naturally clean animals who, like cats do, will clean themselves on a regular basis. This means that it’s only necessary to bathe a Siberian Husky as needed.
Check the ears on a weekly basis for signs of infection, irritation, or wax build up. Cleanse regularly with a veterinarian-approved cleanser and cotton ball. Brush the teeth at least once per week to prevent tartar buildup and fight gum disease. Additionally, nails should be trimmed once per month if the dog does not wear the toenails down naturally.
The Sib was developed in the isolated Yakutsk region of extreme northeastern Siberia by the Chukchi people, specifically to be an endurance sled dog as it was their only mode of transportation. These semi-nomadic people needed a dog that was capable of traveling great distances at moderate speeds, pulling well-loaded sleds in chilling conditions while expending a minimal amount of energy. It was the Chukchi’s custom to castrate all but the best lead dogs, to promote genetic improvement across the generations. Moreover, when the dogs were not working with the men, they were cared for by the women. This, in turn, brought them in close quarters with children, and only non-aggressive, well-tempered males and females were favored. They bred only the best of the best, without cross breeding to other breeds, and kept their pedigrees pure for at least 3000 years.
At the start of the 20th century, Americans in Alaska started to hear about a superior sled dog in Northeastern Asia. By 1909, many Siberian Huskies were imported to Alaska by Charles Fox Maule Ramsay and others, coming from Siberia across the Bering Strait. The first Sib racing team competed in the grueling All-Alaska Sweepstakes Race that year and caused quite a sensation among sledding enthusiasts. Ramsay’s team was driven by John “Iron Man” Johnson and won the 400-mile race in 1910. Over the next decade, sled racing enthusiasts, especially the legendary Norwegian musher Leonhard Seppala, bred and raced Sibs, winning virtually all of the races in Alaska.
In 1925, a severe diphtheria epidemic swept the remote city of Nome, Alaska. Seppala and other sled dog drivers coordinated relays using their Husky teams to transport urgently needed antitoxin and other medical supplies more than 600 miles. This historic “serum run” quickly brought the Siberian Husky into the public’s attention across the United States.
Seppala and his team participated in invitational races in New England, and the breed’s unique capabilities and endearing temperament rapidly captured the respect of sportsmen and women nationwide. Even today, a statue of Balto, the lead dog of the team that took the last leg of the serum relay, sits in Central Park in New York City, dedicated to all dogs who participated in that heroic relay. T
The breed was accepted by the American Kennel Club in 1930. A number of Sibs were assembled at the Chinook Kennels in New Hampshire and used on the Byrd expeditions to Antarctica.
Siberian Huskies were used by the US military during World War II as part of its Arctic Circle search-and-rescue unit.
Today’s Siberian Husky
Retains it’s traits of being agile and athletic, smart and strong, gentle and versatile and almost tireless. It makes a wonderful family companion and is excellent with children and with strangers alike. It thrives in urban and rural settings, so long as its desire to roam can be effectively contained.
Finally, the Sib excels in the show ring as well as at many performance disciplines, of course including sledding.
The average life span of the Siberian Husky is 10 to 14 years. Breed health concerns may include crystalline corneal opacity, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, juvenile cataracts, osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), nasal depigmentation, oral eosinophilic granuloma, basal cell tumor, perianal gland adenoma, chronic superficial keratitis (pannus), Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada-like syndrome, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and von Willebrand disease.
According to the AKC Standard, the Siberian Husky “does not display the possessive qualities of the guard dog, nor is he overly suspicious of strangers or aggressive with other dogs.”
Their exotic, wolf-like appearance makes Huskies appealing to many people, and their even temperament, love of other dogs and indifference to strangers makes them ideal family dogs.
Huskies have a zest for life that is unmatched by few breeds. Every time a Husky is outside, it’s as if it’s his first time and well into adulthood Huskies play with the vigor of a puppy.
They may seem like a good family dog for first time dog owners, but Huskies can often be “too much dog” for a novice. They require extensive training and exercise in order maintain good behavior and only those with the time and energy to fully commit to a Husky should take on this breed.
But Husky owners agree, you get out of a Siberian Husky what you put into him, and these reliable dogs are worth the effort.
Siberian Huskies need a lot of vigorous activity in order to maintain health and happiness. Adopting a Husky means adopting an active lifestyle.
This breed enjoys long walks, hikes, jogs and bike rides. In the yard they can play fetch for hours, and some even like to play frisbee. Huskies will feel as though they died and went to heaven when at the dog park with other dogs to run, romp and wrestle with.
Their medium size makes Siberian Huskies appealing to apartment dwellers, but this is not the best living situation for a Husky.
They are rowdy and rambunctious well into adulthood and need plenty of room to move about.
Husky owners claim their dogs have the ability to perform at the top of their obedience classes, but when they come home they ignore everything they learned. They require firm leadership and 100% consistency when it comes to boundaries and rule enforcement.
Their expressive eyes are used to manipulate the softies of the house, so all family members must also be “trained” to be consistent with rules and leadership.
The popularity of the breed has led to indiscriminate breeding of the Siberian Husky. There are many dogs being born into blood lines with uneven temperaments.
When adopting a Husky, do extensive research on breeders. If you get your Husky from a rescue, the organization will provide you with as much information as possible.
Well bred Huskies should never be aggressive or overly shy and timid.
Huskies are notorious escape artists, managing to foil fences, screen doors, garages and other holding devices. Never leave your Husky unsupervised in the yard or with only a screen separating him from the wild blue yonder.