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Siberian Husky

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Siberian Husky
Husky L.jpg
Black and white Siberian Husky
Other namesChukcha[1]
Common nicknamesHusky
Height Dogs 21–23.5 inches (53–60 cm)
Bitches 20–22 inches (51–56 cm) [3]
Weight Dogs 45–60 pounds (20–27 kg)
Bitches 35–50 pounds (16–23 kg)
Coat Thick double coat
Color All colors from black to pure white, and including many differing colors and markings
Litter size 4–8 puppies
Life span 12–14 years[4]
Kennel club standards
FCI standard
Dog (domestic dog)

The Siberian Husky is a medium-sized working sled dog breed. The breed belongs to the Spitz genetic family. It is recognizable by its thickly furred double coat, erect triangular ears, and distinctive markings, and is smaller than the similar-looking Alaskan Malamute.

Siberian Huskies originated in Northeast Asia where they are bred by the Chukchi people of Siberia for sled pulling, and companionship.[2] It is an active, energetic, resilient breed, whose ancestors lived in the extremely cold and harsh environment of the Siberian Arctic. William Goosak, a Russian fur trader, introduced them to Nome, Alaska, during the Nome Gold Rush, initially as sled dogs to work the mining fields and for expeditions through otherwise impassable terrain.[2] Today, the Siberian Husky is typically kept as a house pet, though they are still frequently used as sled dogs by competitive and recreational mushers.[5]


The Siberian Husky was originally developed by the Chukchi people of the Chukchi Peninsula in eastern Siberia.[6] They were brought to Nome, Alaska in 1908 to serve as working sled dogs, and were eventually developed and used for sled dog racing.[7][8] In 2015, a DNA study indicated that the Siberian Husky, the Alaskan Malamute and the Alaskan husky share a close genetic relationship between each other and were related to Chukotka sled dogs from Siberia. They were separate to the two Inuit dogs, the Canadian Eskimo Dog and the Greenland Dog. In North America, the Siberian Husky and the Malamute both had maintained their Siberian lineage and had contributed significantly to the Alaskan husky, which was developed through crossing with European breeds.[8]

Several Arctic dog breeds, including the Siberian, show a significant genetic closeness with the now-extinct Taimyr wolf of North Asia due to admixture. These breeds are associated with high latitudes - the Siberian Husky and Greenland Dog, also associated with arctic human populations and to a lesser extent, the Shar-Pei and Finnish Spitz. There is data to indicate admixture of between 1-3% between the Taymyr wolf population and the ancestral dog population of these four high-latitude breeds. This introgression could have provided early dogs living in high latitudes with phenotypic variation beneficial for adaption to a new and challenging environment. It also indicates the ancestry of present-day dog breeds descends from more than one region.[9]



Sable female Siberian Husky

A Siberian Husky has a double coat that is thicker than that of most other dog breeds.[10] It has two layers: a dense, finely wavy undercoat and a longer topcoat of thicker, straight guard hairs.[11] It protects the dogs effectively against harsh Arctic winters, and also reflects heat in the summer. It is able to withstand temperatures as low as −50 to −60 °C (−58 to −76 °F). The undercoat is often absent during shedding. Their thick coats require weekly grooming.[10]

Siberian Huskies 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, grey and white, pure white, and the rare "agouti" coat, though many individuals have blondish or piebald spotting. Some other individuals also have the "saddle back" pattern, in which black-tipped guard hairs are restricted to the saddle area while the head, haunches and shoulders are either light red or white. Striking masks, spectacles, and other facial markings occur in wide variety. All coat colors from black to pure white are allowed.[11][12][13][14] Merle coat patterns are not permitted by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and The Kennel Club (KC).[11][15] This pattern is often associated with health issues and impure breeding.[16]


Red and white Siberian Husky with heterochromia
Dark grey and white male Siberian Husky with blue eyes
Light grey and white Siberian Husky with brown eyes

The American Kennel Club describes the Siberian Husky's eyes as "an almond shape, moderately spaced and set slightly obliquely." The AKC breed standard is that eyes may be brown, blue or black; one of each or particoloured are acceptable (complete is heterochromia). These eye-color combinations are considered acceptable by the American Kennel Club. The parti-color does not affect the vision of the dog.[17]


Show-quality dogs are preferred to have neither pointed nor square noses. The nose is black in gray dogs, tan in black dogs, liver in copper-colored dogs, and may be light tan in white dogs. In some instances, Siberian Huskies can exhibit what is called "snow nose" or "winter nose." This condition is called hypopigmentation in animals. "Snow nose" is acceptable in the show ring.[10][18]


Female Siberian Husky curled up to sleep with her tail warming her nose

Siberian Husky tails are heavily furred; these dogs will often curl up with their tails over their faces and noses in order to provide additional warmth. As pictured, when curled up to sleep the Siberian Husky will cover its nose for warmth, often referred to as the "Siberian Swirl". The tail should be expressive, held low when the dog is relaxed, and curved upward in a "sickle" shape when excited or interested in something.[10]


The breed standard indicates that the males of the breed are ideally between 20 and 24 inches (51 and 61 cm) tall at the withers and weighing between 45 and 60 pounds (20 and 27 kg).[19] Females are smaller, growing to between 19 to 23 inches (48 to 58 cm) tall at the withers and weighing between 35 to 50 pounds (16 to 23 kg).[10] The people of Nome referred to Siberian Huskies as "Siberian Rats" due to their size of 40–50 lb (18–23 kg), versus the Alaskan Malamute's size of 75–85 lb (34–39 kg).[20]


The Husky usually howls instead of barking.[21] They have been described as escape artists, which can include digging under, chewing through, or even jumping over fences.[4][22][23]

Because the Siberian Husky had been raised in a family setting by the Chukchi and not left to fend for themselves they could be trusted with children.[24] The ASPCA classifies the breed as good with children. It also states they exhibit high energy indoors, have special exercise needs, and may be destructive "without proper care".[4]

Siberian Huskies have a high prey drive due to the Chukchi allowing them to roam free in the summer. The dogs hunted in packs and preyed on wild cats, birds, and squirrels, but with training can be trusted with other small animals. They would only return to the Chukchi villages when the snow returned and food became scarce. Their hunting instincts can still be found in the breed today.[25]

A 6 ft (1.83 m) fence is recommended for this breed as a pet, although some have been known to overcome fences as high as 8 ft (2.44 m).[23] Electric pet fencing may not be effective.[23] They need the frequent companionship of people and other dogs, and their need to feel as part of a pack is very strong.[26]

The character of the Siberian Husky is friendly and gentle.[27] The Husky cannot be used as a hunting or guard dog. Due to the peculiarities of their psyche, dogs have no aggression towards humans or other animals at all. In addition, the dog often shows independence, which is a disadvantage for service dogs.[28] Attempting to teach Siberian Huskies aggressive behavior can lead to mental problems in the dog. It can be dangerous for the owner, because the Siberian Husky is a big and strong dog.[29] The dog is intelligent, but can be stubborn because of its independence, impulsivity and inattention.[30] To achieve obedience it is necessary to start training at an early age.

Siberian Huskies were ranked 77th out of 138 compared breeds for their intelligence by canine psychologist Stanley Coren.[31] However, the rankings in Coren's published work utilized only one of three defined forms of dog intelligence, "Working and Obedience Intelligence", which focused on a dog's ability to follow direction and commands in a direct context, specifically by trial judges in a controlled course setting. The Siberian Husky's work as a sled dog, with minimal active direction from a driver, and a driver's reliance on the dogs to make their own decisions in poor conditions, likely utilizes the other two forms, "Instinctive Intelligence" and "Adaptive Intelligence" to a much greater extent, making their ranking on this list possibly misleading.


A 1999 ASPCA publication shows the average life span of the Siberian Husky is 12 to 14 years.[4] Health issues in the breed are mainly genetic, such as seizures and defects of the eye (juvenile cataracts, corneal dystrophy, canine glaucoma and progressive retinal atrophy) and congenital laryngeal paralysis.[32] Hip dysplasia is not often found in this breed; however, as with many medium or larger-sized canines, it can occur.[33] The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals currently has the Siberian Husky ranked 155th out of a possible 160 breeds at risk for hip dysplasia, with only two percent of tested Siberian Huskies showing dysplasia.[34]

Siberian Huskies used for sled racing may also be prone to other ailments, such as gastric disease,[35] bronchitis or bronchopulmonary ailments ("ski asthma"),[36] and gastric erosions or ulcerations.[37]

Modern Siberian Huskies registered in the US are largely the descendants of the 1930 Siberia imports and of Leonhard Seppala’s dogs, particularly Togo.[38] The limited number of registered foundational dogs has led to some discussion about their vulnerability to the founder effect.[39]


Dogs from the Anadyr River and surrounding regions of Eastern Siberia 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,"[11] 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 Sweepstakes race. Leonhard Seppala, the foremost breeder of Siberian sled dogs of the time, participated in competitions from 1909 to the mid-1920s with a number of championships to his name.[40]

On February 3, 1925, Gunnar Kaasen was the final musher 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 the longest (264 miles or 422 km) and most dangerous segment of the run covered by Leonhard Seppala and his sled team lead dog Togo. The event is depicted in the 2019 film Togo and is also loosely depicted in the 1995 animated film Balto, as the name of Gunnar Kaasen's lead dog in his sled team was 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[40]

In 1930, exportation of the dogs from Siberia was halted.[26] The same year saw recognition of the Siberian Husky by the American Kennel Club.[11] Nine years later, the breed was first registered in Canada. The United Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1938 as the "Arctic Husky," changing the name to Siberian Husky in 1991.[41] Seppala owned a kennel in Alaska 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.[42]

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 he 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.[40] Siberian Huskies also served in the United States Army's Arctic Search and Rescue Unit of the Air Transport Command during World War II.[43] Their popularity was sustained into the 21st century. They were ranked 16th among American Kennel Club registrants in 2012,[44] rising to 14th place in 2013.[45] It is thought that the term "husky" which most kennel clubs adopted, is a corruption of the nickname "Esky" once applied to the Eskimo and subsequently to their dogs.[46]

Sled dogs that were bred and kept by the Chukchi tribes of Siberia were thought to have gone extinct, but Benedict Allen, writing for Geographical magazine in 2006 after visiting the region, reported their survival. His description of the breeding practiced by the Chukchi mentions selection for obedience, endurance, amiable disposition, and sizing that enabled families to support them without undue difficulty.[47]

Due to their high popularity combining with their high physical and mental needs, Siberians are abandoned or surrendered to shelters at high rates by new owners who do not research them fully and find themselves unable to care for them. Many decide on the breed for their looks and mythos in pop culture, and purchase pups from backyard breeders or puppy mills who do not have breeder-return contracts that responsible breeders will, designed to keep the breed out of shelters.[48]

Siberian huskies gained in popularity with the story of the "Great Race of Mercy," the 1925 serum run to Nome, featuring Balto and Togo. Although Balto is considered the more famous, being the dog that delivered the serum to Nome after running the final 53-mile leg, it was Togo who made the longest run of the relay, guiding his musher Leonhard Seppala on a 261-mile journey that included crossing the deadly Norton Sound to Golovin.[citation needed]

In 1960, the US Army undertook a project to construct an under the ice facility for defense and space research, Camp Century, part of Project Iceworm involved a 150+ crew who also brought with them an unofficial mascot, a Siberian Husky named Mukluk.[49]

Huskies were extensively used as sled dogs by the British Antarctic Survey in Antarctica between 1945 and 1994. A bronze monument to all of BAS's dog teams sits outside its Cambridge headquarters.[citation needed]

In popular culture

Balto in New York City's Central Park (by Frederick Roth)

See also


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  2. ^ a b c "Siberian husky | breed of dog". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-02-28.
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  4. ^ a b c d Sheldon L. Gerstenfeld (1 September 1999). ASPCA Complete Guide to Dogs. Chronicle Books. p. 190. ISBN 978-0-8118-1904-6.
  5. ^ "Do many Siberian Huskies run the Iditarod? If not, why? – Iditarod". Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  6. ^ Fiszdon K, Czarkowska K. (2008). Social behaviours in Siberian huskies. Annals of Warsaw University of Life Sciences – SGGW. Anim Sci 45: 19–28.
  7. ^ Thomas, Bob (2015). Leonhard Seppala : the Siberian dog and the golden age of sleddog racing 1908-1941. Pat Thomas. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-57510-170-5. OCLC 931927411.
  8. ^ a b Brown, S K; Darwent, C M; Wictum, E J; Sacks, B N (2015). "Using multiple markers to elucidate the ancient, historical and modern relationships among North American Arctic dog breeds". Heredity. 115 (6): 488. doi:10.1038/hdy.2015.49. PMC 4806895. PMID 26103948.
  9. ^ Skoglund, P.; Ersmark, E.; Palkopoulou, E.; Dalén, L. (2015). "Ancient Wolf Genome Reveals an Early Divergence of Domestic Dog Ancestors and Admixture into High-Latitude Breeds". Current Biology. 25: 1515–9. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.04.019. PMID 26004765.
  10. ^ a b c d e "AKC Meet The Breeds: Siberian Husky". Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  11. ^ a b c d e "Get to Know the Siberian Husky", 'The American Kennel Club', Retrieved 29 May 2014
  12. ^ "FCI-Standard N° 270 - Siberian Husky" (PDF). Federation Cynologique Internationale (AISBL). January 2000.
  13. ^ "Siberian Husky Breed Standard" (PDF). Canadian Kennel Club. January 2016.
  14. ^ "Siberian Husky Breed Standard". United Kennel Club.
  15. ^ "Siberian Husky Breed Standard". The Kennel Club. February 2017.
  16. ^ "Coat Color Identification Guidelines & Statement on "Merle" Patterning in Siberians". Siberian Husky Club of America Inc. September 2018.
  17. ^ "American Kennel Club:Official Standard of the Siberian Husky" (PDF). American Kennel Club. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
  18. ^ "Common Husky Questions - Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain - Huskies UK". Archived from the original on April 4, 2012. Retrieved February 2, 2009.
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  24. ^ "History". My Husky. Retrieved 2016-03-16.
  25. ^ "Husky History". Retrieved 2016-03-16.
  26. ^ a b DK Publishing (1 October 2013). The Dog Encyclopedia. DK Publishing. p. 101. ISBN 978-1-4654-2116-6.
  27. ^ "Official Valid Standard Siberian Husky". Federation Cynologique Internationale. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
  28. ^ "15 Siberian Husky Secrets: 10 Breeders Give Their Best Advice to New Owners". Ready Set Puppy. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
  29. ^ "Are Huskies Dangerous Dogs?". The Smart Canine. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
  30. ^ "DRD4 and TH gene polymorphisms are associated with activity, impulsivity and inattention in Siberian Husky dogs". ResearchGate. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
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  32. ^ Monnet, Eric (2009). "Larageal paralysis" (PDF). AAHA/OVMA Toronto 2011 Proceedings. AAHA/OVMA Toronto 2011. March 24–27, 2011. Toronto, Canada. American Animal Hospital Association. pp. 443–445. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
  33. ^ "Your Siberian Husky: Its Hips and Its Eyes". Siberian Husky Club of America. Retrieved September 15, 2009.
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External links