Breed of the Month: Siberian Husky

Siberian Husky

Description: Body: The body of the Husky is medium sized, compact, and strong. Head: The head is in proportion to the rest of the body. Triangular shaped ears sit high on the head. The nose comes in a variety of colors such as black, tan, and pink. Almond shaped eyes can be blue, brown, or both. Legs: Huskies have large paws to allow them to more easily run through snow and grip onto ice. Tail: The bushy tail is curved and held over the back. Coat: The Husky’s double coat is very thick, capable of aiding the dog in surviving temperatures lower than -50°F. The coat comes in a wide variety of colors. White, black, red, silver, grey, and, piebald are all common colors. The underside of the Husky is typically white.

History: The Siberian Husky is one of the worlds oldest dog breeds and was developed by the semi-nomadic Chukchi people of Siberia. The Siberian Husky’s superior capability to pull sleds long distances in low temperatures helped the Chukchi people survive in the harsh frozen region of Siberia.

The Husky’s reputation eventually spread to neighboring Alaska where Huskies were imported around 1900. Huskies first competed in the second annual All Alaskan Sweepstakes dog-sled race in 1909. The 408 mile journey started and ended in Nome, Alaska. Teams of Huskies, most notably those bred by Leonhard Seppala, helped win the Alaskan Sweepstakes race for the next decade.

In 1925, the city which hosts the famous All Alaskan Sweepstakes race, Nome, was stricken by a deadly diphtheria epidemic. The only doctor in the city of Nome was Curtis Welch. While Welch had on hand diphtheria antitoxin, it had expired the previous year and the latest shipment hadn’t arrived before the port was inaccessible to ships. Nearly 10,000 people in Nome and Native Alaskans outside the city were at risk of the epidemic.

To stop the epidemic, diphtheria antitoxin had to be delivered to Nome. At the time, air travel was a fairly new technology and was not yet suited for travel in such treacherous conditions. The primary form of communication and transportation, dog sleds, would be used to transport the serum 674 miles to the city of Nome. Twenty mushers and over one-hundred-fifty sled dogs took part in the journey to deliver the much needed serum.

Musher Leonhard Sappala traveled 91 miles with his lead husky, Togo. Musher Gunnar Kaasen, with his lead husky, Balto, traveled the final 53 mile leg of the serum run to Nome, Alaska. Kaasen and Balto received much fame and attention for delivering the serum and a statue was erected in the Central Park in New York City to honor Balto the following year.

Size: Males: 21–24 inches at the withers, weighing 45-60 pounds. Females: 20–22 inches at the withers, weighing 35-50 pounds.

Temperament:  Huskies are said to be good with children and good with other dogs in the house. However, they can be aggressive towards unfamiliar or visiting dogs. These dogs like to live in to live in a pack and are not ideal for apartment living, although if sufficiently exercised they could live in an apartment. The Husky needs plenty of mental and physical exercise to ward off destructive behavior. They require a calm and consistent pack leader who understands the behavior of Arctic dogs. They can be willful and may not listen to commands if the dog suggests they are more willful than their owner. As they are willful, they can be hard to housebreak. An owner of a Husky shouldn’t expect a good watch dog or guard dog as Huskies typically do not bark but, rather howl. Owners of Huskies typically have to install tall fences since Huskies are excellent escape artist and, once liberated, are prone to roam if off its leash. Huskies also like to dig if they become bored. Huskies can make a good jogging companion as long as the weather is not hot.

Grooming: The Husky doesn’t need to be bathed as frequently as most other dogs as the Huskies will groom themselves. Most Huskies only need bathing once or twice a year. It requires brushing once a month. The Husky sheds its coat twice a year, typically in spring and fall. This shedding can last as long as three weeks. During this time the Husky will need to be brushed daily.

Health:  While generally healthy compared to other breeds, the Husky may be more susceptible to progressive retinal atrophy. Huskies are also susceptible to juvenile cataracts and other eye issues. Conversely, Huskies have a very low chance of hip dysplasia. Of 160 breeds, Huskies rank 155th in the occurrences of hip dysplasia.

Exercise: The Husky has high energy and needs a daily pack walk or jog. These dogs were bred to be very active and must be given new activities to keep occupied.

Lifespan: About 12 to 15 years.

Trivia: The famous Huskies Balto and Togo were two of many famous dogs to participate in the Serum Run.