The Siberian Husky has gained more mainstream popularity in the past decade or so, as pets. They’ve always been impressive, with their unique appearance, interesting history, and vocal personality. But there’s more to this very old Arctic breed.
From Siberia to Nome
First of all, the Siberian Husky is one of the oldest dog breeds out there. They are believed to have originated with the nomadic Chukchi tribe in Siberia, perfectly adapted to the sub-zero conditions. Used mainly for transportation, they provided quick travel by pulling sleds in packs over deep snow and long distances. They weren’t just functional dogs, though ― we know that the Chukchi treasured them as pets. In fact, they often slept inside with the children to keep them warm. An interesting thing about the Siberian Husky is that they don’t need to eat much, as they’ve been bred for harsh conditions. Sometimes this means little access to food, and so they don’t need as many calories each day as most other dogs.
Thanks to the isolation of the Chukchi, they managed to maintain the purity of their sled teams for many generations. The Siberian Husky was imported to Alaska in 1908, and they were used as sled dogs during the Gold Rush. Famously, a sled team made a 658-mile run to Nome, Alaska, in just five and a half days, back in 1925. This was to deliver a lifesaving serum to treat a diphtheria outbreak. The lead dog for the last leg of the trip, Balto, had a statue erected in his honor in Central Park, New York City. It still stands today.
The Siberian Husky continued to be imported from Siberia until 1930, when the Soviet Union closed the borders. While today’s North American Siberian Husky differs a bit from the ones back in Siberia, they continue to thrive, and maintain many of the wonderful breed qualities. The Siberian Husky was officially recognized as a breed by the AKC in 1930, and by the Canadian Club in 1939.
Size and appearance of the Siberian Husky
There’s something playful and alert about a Siberian Husky. They’re easy to confuse with their cousin, the Alaskan Malamute, but the Malamute is bigger and has a curled tail. They’re also stronger than the Husky, as the Husky is designed for speed, rather than strength. The Siberian Husky stands 20-24 inches tall, with a strong body and thick coat. They’re perfectly adapted for harsh conditions and cold weather, with a straight top coat and a dense, soft undercoat. It can shed quite a bit, though ― make sure to keep a brush and a vacuum cleaner on hand.
The Siberian Husky is pretty good at keeping themselves clean, and often don’t have that typical dog odor. In fact, they clean themselves kind of like a cat does. When it comes to coat colors and markings, there are a few to choose from. From black to pure white, with colored markings on the body, including grays, reds, and coppers. The eyes of a Siberian Husky are often quite striking, and they can be brown, blue, or even both. Heterochromia is more common in Huskies than in other breeds. Their distinctive masks only add to their unique appearance.
Temperament and personality
Anyone who has met a Siberian Husky can testify to jst how much character they have. For one thing, they’re vocal. It’s not unusual for a Siberian Husky to come off as quite the drama queen, as they howl and yodel and make all kinds of noises in between. Basically, expect a surprisingly conversational companion. The Siberian Husky is a hard worker, but also loves to have fun, both of which are traits that can be challenging for those who are unprepared. A Husky definitely isn’t for novices, and they demand a strong leader and a firm set of rules. They prefer being in packs, and with that comes the need for a good pack leader.
As they are pack types, the Siberian Husky is well-suited for family life. They make for terrible watchdogs, though, as they’re way too friendly for the job. They also need a lot of space. Being high-energy, athletic dogs, they need to be challenged and entertained. Not to mention, they’re excellent escape artists with a strong prey drive, so secure running room is a must.
Things to consider
Their beauty and intelligence have made the Siberian Husky an increasingly popular breed, but this tends to lead to people getting one without knowing what it entails. Many don’t take into consideration the personality quirks and high demands of a Siberian Husky, and end up with an unruly dog that they might even get rid of altogether. In other words, maybe check shelters if you’re looking for a Husky of your own, as there are many who might need a forever home. If you want a puppy, tracking down a reputable breeder is definitely worthwhile, and you might just find the right dog for you.