|Six-year-old Alaskan husky|
|Country of origin||United States (Alaska)|
|Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)|
The Alaskan husky is a type, or a category of dog. It is not considered a pure breed because there is no preferred type of and no restriction as to ancestry; it is defined only by its purpose, which is that of a highly efficient sled dog. The Alaskan Husky is a blend of various Nordic breeds, chosen particularly for skills such as pulling and team player abilities. Specializations in type exist within the category, such as freighting dogs (Mackenzie River husky, Malamute), sprint Alaskans (Eurohound), and distance Alaskans. Most Alaskan Huskies have pointy ears and a tail that curls over their backs, meaning they are in fact classified as a spitz-type dog. Their life span is to 10 or 15 years.
The Alaskan Husky does have a unique genetic signature of microsatellite-based markers that are more consistent than those found in Malamutes or Siberians.
The Alaskan is the sled dog of choice for world-class dog sled racing sprint competition. None of the purebred northern breeds can match it for sheer racing speed. Demanding speed-racing events such as the Fairbanks, Alaska Open North American Championship and the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous are invariably won by teams of Alaskan huskies, or of Alaskans crossed with hounds or gun dogs. Hounds are valued for their toughness and endurance. Winning speeds often average more than 19 miles per hour (31 km/h) over three days' racing at 20 to 30 miles (32 to 48 km) each day.
Alaskan huskies that fulfill the demanding performance standards of world-class dogsled racing are extremely valuable. A top-level racing lead dog can be worth $10,000–$15,000. Alaskans that fail to meet the performance standards of the musher who bred them often go on to be sold to less competitive mushers, allowing them to continue to run.
Alaskan Huskies (at least those used for speed racing) are moderate in size, averaging perhaps 40 to 60 pounds (21 to 25 kg) for males and 35 to 48 pounds (17 to 19 kg) for females. Some of them superficially resemble racing strains of the Siberian husky breed (which is part of the Alaskan husky genetic mix), but are usually smaller and leaner with a more pronounced tuck-up.
Color and markings are a matter of total indifference to racing drivers; Alaskans may be of any possible canine color and any pattern of markings. Eyes may be of any color and are sometimes light blue. Coats are almost always short to medium in length, never long, and usually less dense than those of northern purebreds; the shorter coat length is governed by the need for effective heat dissipation while racing.
In very cold conditions, Alaskans often race in “dog coats” or belly protectors. Particularly in long distance races, these dogs often require “dog booties” to protect their feet from abrasion and cracking. The qualities of hardiness and climate resistance which are prevalent in breeds such as the Siberian husky and Canadian Inuit Dog are subordinated in the Alaskan husky to the overriding consideration of speed. On long-distance races, they require considerable care and attention on the trail at rest stops.
In Alaska and other extreme northern regions, they are occasionally killed by moose in the winter. Infrequently, during desperate times of long cold-snaps and deep snow, moose (in search of non-existent winter browse of willows and mountain ash) are drawn into human areas by the attractive scent of fresh straw used as bedding for dogs. True to their wolf ancestors, huskies tend not to back down from such encounters and an angry moose can easily stomp and kick several dogs, causing severe injuries. Most moose/husky encounters occur during runs when a musher accidentally startles a moose on a trail. Most of the time moose avoid fights, but in cases of deep snow when escape is difficult, a moose may confuse a sled team for a wolf pack and counterattack. Normally, moose are aware that huskies are domesticated, tethered and not a threat and will frequently bed down adjacent to sled dog kennels in order to use the huskies as sentries who will alert the sleeping moose of approaching wolves.
Sled dogs tethered in far northern forests may be attacked and killed on their stakeouts by wolves when other prey is unavailable. However, this is rare. Professional dog sled racers often surround their lots with high fences to prevent wildlife attacks. More important is a low fence to keep out diseased rodents which can infect dogs by carrying parasites. Alaskan huskies also dislike hot weather conditions due to their thick double coat.
The Alaskan husky is generally a healthy dog. Some strains are prone to genetic health problems similar to those found in purebred dog breeds. These may include PRA, hypothyroidism, etc. Dogs with a congenital deformation of the larynx, termed "wheezers", occasionally occur. This disorder typically causes the dog to make a wheezing noise when breathing. The defect is suspected to be genetically linked. Theories of common exterior traits among "wheezers" abound, but are conflicting and undocumented. Because Mushers have selectively bred Alaskan Huskies to not be picky eaters, Alaskan Huskies are prone to be garbage eaters in urban settings. This tends to cause frequent stomach and bowel issues in the urban Alaskan.
The life span of the Alaskan husky is usually between 10 to 15 years.
The base of The Alaskan husky sled dog in Alaska and Canada is the Native Village dog. The Interior Village dog is a leggier, rangier and taller dog that the coastal Eskimo Village types. Many mushers prefer the true husky dogs that they call: "Villagey", and although there are no pure native dogs left, some dogs still throw back to those looks. These fully domesticated dogs arrived with paleo Indians and Eskimos thousands of years ago. Today, Alaskan Sled dogs may be hound crosses, husky types, or a combination of both. They also range in size and build depending on the use of the dog, such as for racing or for working. A working sled dog may be 50 to 80 lbs or a racing sled dog may be 35 to 60 lbs for a male or female. The old-time village dogs were indeed bred to imported Siberian dogs and also more recently to European dogs.
Racing sled dogs vary greatly in type, and may be anything from a purebred pointer or hound to the modern Eurohound, a sprint dog that is unmatched for winning sprint races and is a predominantly black-colored combination of husky and German Shorthaired Pointer. There are also distance dogs which can race from 50 to 1,000 miles, and mid-distance dogs which race from 20 to 250 miles. Sled dogs are a combination of bloodlines developed by and best suited to the mushers who run them. Many of them retain the much-sought-after thick, beautiful coat, balanced bodies, and tough feet of other northern breeds. Yet many others have too much hound or pointer for the northern climate and must wear booties and coats and sleep in heated barns. Many dogs are both racing and working dogs and are small and tough. Some are larger, depending on the type of work.
Alaskan Huskies tend to vary greatly in personality as much as in color and appearance. However, generally speaking, the Alaskan Husky is a very affectionate dog, bred to cuddle with other dogs as much as with people. The Alaskan puppy will often walk right up to a strange dog and attempt to instigate a cuddle session. They are incredibly athletic and keeping up with the Alaskan Husky energy level is a demanding task. These dogs are not suited to an urban apartment lifestyle as they need a constant source of exercise, and due to their amazing endurance, never seem to get tired. Alaskan Huskies, like Siberian Huskies, tend to wander. They are loyal insofar as they know who their pack is, but with their incredible speed and fierce independence, the Alaskan will not stick close when off-leash. The Alaskan Husky is an adventurer and is usually very comfortable with car rides and breaking out of old routines. Alaskans tend to "jump up" on people. Alaskan Huskies are generally very good with other dogs and gentle with people. They are ferocious eaters and can be food fixated. These dogs are happy to live outside as much as inside with their owners, but don't leave an Alaskan outside in a manicured lawn; these huskies love to dig.
The coat of Alaskan Huskies tends to be self-cleaning like that of an Alaskan Malamute or a Siberian Husky, so it needs only infrequent bathing and doesn't tend to stink. Alaskan Huskies have a shedding season in the spring and unlike Siberians, Malamutes or German Shepherds, they don't tend to leave huge amounts of hair around the house all year long. They tend to be relatively bright dogs, though a somewhat "goofy" husky is not an anomaly. There is no fence too high for Alaskan Huskies; they can jump up to 6 feet from a sitting position. Swimming is not their strongest quality, but they tend not to show any resistance or fear of water and can be trained or encouraged to be active swimmers. They don't take to retrieving naturally. Due to the inclusion of sight-hound in their genetic make-up, Alaskans can have very good vision and a strong nose. They are gifted and passionate hunters and tend to show these qualities at a very young age. Alaskans can be seen hunting anything from deer to minnows with varying success. Bred as sled dogs, they also love to run.
- "Alaskan Husky Breed Info". Vet Street. Retrieved 2014-07-22.
- "Alaskan Huskies". huskytraining.net. 2009-05-03. Retrieved 2010-05-15.