The Siberian Husky
The Siberian Husky (Russian: Sibirskiy haski, "Siberian husky") is a medium-size, dense-coat working dog breed that originated in north-eastern Siberia. The breed belongs to the Spitz genetic family. It is recognisable by its thickly furred double coat, sickle tail, erect triangular ears, and distinctive markings.
Huskies are an active, energetic, and resilient breed whose ancestors came from the extremely cold and harsh environment of the Siberian Arctic. Siberian Huskies were bred by the Chukchi of Northeastern Asia to pull heavy loads long distances through difficult conditions. The dogs were imported into Alaska during the Nome Gold Rush and later spread into the United States and Canada. They were initially sent to Alaska and Canada as sled dogs but rapidly acquired the status of family pets and show dogs.
Siberian Huskies share many outward similarities with the Alaskan Malamute as well as many other spitz breeds such as the Samoyed, which has a comparable history to the Huskies. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, usually with white paws and legs, facial markings, and tail tip. The most common coats are black and white, then less common copper-red and white, gray and white, pure white, and the rare "Agouti" coat, though many individuals have blondish or piebald spotting. Striking masks, spectacles, and other facial markings occur in wide variety. They tend to have a wolf-like appearance
The Siberian Husky's coat is thicker than that of most breeds of dogs, comprising two layers: a dense undercoat and a longer topcoat of short, straight guard hairs. It protects the dogs effectively against harsh Arctic winters, but the coat also reflects heat in the summer. It is able to withstand temperatures as low as -50 °C to -60 °C. The undercoat is often absent during shedding. Their thick coats require weekly grooming. Long guard hair is not desirable and is considered a fault.
The Siberian Husky has been described as a behavioral representative of the domestic dog's forebear, the wolf, exhibiting a wide range of its ancestors' behavior. They are known to howl rather than bark. If the dog is well trained it can make a great family pet. The frequency of kenneled Siberian Huskies, especially for racing purposes, is rather high, as attributed through the history of the breed in North America. They are affectionate with people, but independent. A fifteen-minute daily obedience training class will serve well for Siberian Huskies. Siberians need consistent training and do well with a positive reinforcement training program. They rank 45th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, being of average working/obedience intelligence. They tend to run because they were at first bred to be sled dogs. Owners are advised to exercise caution when letting their Siberian Husky off the leash as the dog could be miles away before looking around and realizing their owner is nowhere in sight. They are excellent "escape artists" as well and have been known to climb chain-link fences and find other ways of escaping a confined area. They also get bored easily, so playing with toys or throwing the ball at least once a day is essential. Failure to give them the attention or proper exercise they need can result in unwanted behavior, such as excessive howling, marking, chewing on furniture, or crying
The Siberian Husky, Samoyed, and Alaskan Malamute are all breeds directly descended from the original "sled dog." Recent DNA analysis confirms that this is one of the oldest breeds of dog. The term "husky" is a corruption of the nickname "Esky" once applied to the Eskimos and subsequently to their dogs.
Breeds descending from the Eskimo dog were once found throughout the Northern Hemisphere from Siberia to Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Labrador, and Baffin Island.
With the help of Siberian Huskies, entire tribes of people were able not only to survive, but to push forth into terra incognita. Admiral Robert Peary of the United States Navy was aided by this breed during his expeditions in search of the North Pole.
Dogs from the Anadyr River and surrounding regions were imported into Alaska from 1908 (and for the next two decades) during the gold rush for use as sled dogs, especially in the "All-Alaska Sweepstakes," a 408-mile (657 km) distance dog sled race from Nome to Candle and back. Smaller, faster and more enduring than the 100- to 120-pound (45 to 54 kg) freighting dogs then in general use, they immediately dominated the Nome Sweepstakes. Leonhard Seppala, the foremost breeder of Siberian Huskies of the time, participated in competitions from 1909 to the mid 1920s.
On February 3, 1925 Gunnar Kaasen was first in the 1925 serum run to Nome to deliver diphtheria serum from Nenana over 600 miles to Nome. This was a group effort by several sled dog teams and mushers, with most of the run covered by Leonhard Seppala. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race commemorates this famous delivery. The event is also loosely depicted in the 1995 animated film Balto, as the name of Gunnar Kaasen's lead dog in his sled team was named Balto, although unlike the real dog, Balto the character was portrayed as half wolf in the film. In honor of this lead dog a bronze statue was erected 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 last Siberians were exported as the Soviet government closed the borders of Siberia to external trade. The same year saw recognition of the Siberian Husky by the American Kennel Club. Nine years later the breed was first registered in Canada. Today’s Siberian Huskies registered in North America are largely the descendants of the 1930 Siberia imports and of Leonhard Seppala’s dogs. Seppala owned a kennel in Nenana before moving to New England, where he became partners with Elizabeth Ricker. The two co-owned the Poland Springs kennel and began to race and exhibit their dogs all over the Northeast.
As the breed was beginning to come to prominence, in 1933 Navy Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd brought about 50 Siberian Huskies with him on an expedition in which Byrd hoped to journey around the 16,000-mile coast of Antarctica. Many of the dogs were trained at Chinook Kennels in New Hampshire. Called Operation Highjump, the historic trek proved the worth of the Siberian Husky due to its compact size and greater speeds. Siberian Huskies also served in the United States Army's Arctic Search and Rescue Unit of the Air Transport Command during World War II.
Siberian Huskies, with proper care, have a typical lifespan ranging from twelve to fifteen years. Health issues in the breed are mainly genetic such as seizures and defects of the eye (juvenile cataracts, corneal dystrophy, and progressive retinal atrophy). Hip dysplasia is not often found in this breed; however, as with many medium or larger-sized canines, it can occur. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals currently has the Siberian Husky ranked 148th out of a possible 153 breeds at risk for hip dysplasia, with only two percent of tested Siberian Huskies showing dysplasia. Siberian Huskies used for sled racing may also be prone to other ailments, such as gastric disease, bronchitis or bronchopulmonary ailments ("ski asthma"), and gastric erosions or ulcerations. Siberian huskies do not usually contribute to asthma attacks or respiratory problems.