The Siberian Husky is a medium-sized working dog that comes from Eastern Russia (also known as Siberia), having traditionally been put to work for sled dog racing and for adventure trekking. They have enjoyed recent popularity as house pets due to a strong presence on television and in pop culture.
History of the Siberian Husky breed
Siberian Huskies was first bred in Siberia, and then later brought over as working dogs (sled dogs) to Alaska, which was at the time part of Russia. The breed name “Husky” is thought to be related to the word “Eskimo,” referring to people from the Siberian and Alaskan regions. “Husky” is a bastardization of “Esky” or “Huskimos,” both of which were terms used to refer to Eskimos by travellers in the region.
The term “Husky” typically refers to the Siberian Husky breed of dog. This breed of dog, in their capacity as sled dogs, was able to help many nomadic Eskimo tribes navigate new lands and survive the harsh terrain. Later, as racing dogs in Alaska, they conquered the sport of dog sled racing, besting many other breeds despite being newcomers to the sport.
The Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute and Samoyed are all descended from the same sled dog predecessor. The Siberian Husky was formally recognized by kennel clubs in the 1930s. They have remained popular working dogs due to their relatively compact size and consistent speed, having also served in the United States army during World War II.
Appearance of the Siberian Husky breed
The Siberian Husky is a medium-sized dog breed weighing 35-60 pounds (16-27 kg) and standing 20-24 inches (50-60 cm) tall. They have a double-layered coat, composed of a thick, wooly undercoat and a wiry topcoat, built to protect against harsh temperatures during winter, but also to reflect heat during the summer. The most common color of coat is black, red, gray and white, with white paws, faces and tails. They have a striking resemblance to wolves.
Their eyes are brown, black or a striking blue; sometimes each eye is of a different color (known as heterochromia). Their noses are black, tan or reddish, sometimes lightening significantly in color in response to the weather (known as “winter nose”). They have furry tails that further protect them from the cold during winter.
That being said, Huskies were bred in colder temperatures and have adapted to thrive in colder environments. They generally do not adapt well to tropical climates as they are given to overheating somewhat easily. If you and your Husky live in a warm environment, don’t forget to provide him shade and adequate water throughout the day.
Personality of the Siberian Husky breed
The Siberian Husky is athletic, intelligent, energetic and easily adapts to its environment, probably owing to the changes in locality during the evolution of this breed. They have a strong hunting instinct, and an equally strong herding instinct, in that they feel the need to belong to a pack (whether a pack of other hunting dogs, or a family they could consider their “pack”). Owners should be careful not to leave them alone for prolonged periods, as they tend to become anxious when separated from their “pack” family.
Despite these primitive instincts remaining strong in the breed, proper (and early) socialization and obedience training is quite effective in keep the hunting instinct at bay, allowing them to peacefully co-exist with other animals under one roof. Similarly, the Siberian Husky is at ease with small children and can be trusted around them.
They are a high-energy breed, whether it be indoors or outdoors, but especially outdoors, and owners should ensure their yards have a high fence to prevent the Husky from leaping over it. (Some have claimed that Huskies can jump over fences as high as 6-8 feet!) An intelligent and independent (read: stubborn) breed, they are likewise fond of digging to make tunnels and are otherwise skilled at finding paths to their intended destination.
Caring for the Siberian Husky breed
Grooming. Huskies shed their entire coat twice a year, accompanying changes in season (spring & fall). This means owners can expect a LOT of shedding and will require daily brushing of their coat during this shedding period. The rest of the year they shed little and will get by on once or twice a month baths and once a week brushing of their coat to prevent matting. They will also require brushing of teeth at least once a week, and trimming of their nails at least once a month.
Feeding. A Siberian Husky that engages in a moderate amount activity per day will need 2-3 cups of (dry) dog food each day, which is best divided into two meals per day (1-1.5 cups of dry dog food twice a day).
Exercise. It bears repeating here that this breed is a high-energy breed. The Siberian Husky was bred as a working dog, and they may not be happy snoozing indoors all day. They will need plenty of daily exercise (at least 1-2 hours a day), including long walks, runs and hikes. This dog will be a good match for owners that are athletic and love the outdoors.
Health. Huskies are generally a healthy breed and have an average lifespan of 12-15 years. The main diseases to watch out for are genetic eye diseases such as early onset (juvenile) cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy and corneal dystrophy. Siberian Huskies that engage in sled racing may be at risk for diseases of the aerodigestive tract, specifically bronchitis (“ski asthma”) or stomach ulcers.
They don’t suffer from joint (hip or elbow) dysplasias as frequently as many other dog breeds do, but, as with all medium-sized dogs, there is a chance they will develop this condition.
In popular culture
The Siberian Husky has gained sudden popularity in the past few years due to a stronger presence in popular culture, notably in the TV series Game of Thrones and in the Twilight films. Sadly, they are being abandoned in “record numbers” in the United States and elsewhere as their owners realize that they are difficult to care for and require committed owners. They were the 12th most popular dog breed in the United States in 2017.