The Siberian Husky is a well-loved dog originating from Russia that belongs to the Spitz family, which is widely considered to be among the oldest of canine genetic families. Huskies are often thought to be the closest canine relatives to wolves, which can explain much of their stereotypical pack behavior. These sled dogs were originally bred by the Chukchi people of Siberia and used as working companions, particularly for pulling sleds and transporting the nomadic people. In the early 1900’s Huskies were brought to Alaska to aid in the gold rush, but the most well-known instance of sled dogs in America occurred in 1925, when a team of Huskies helped save an entire community by transporting life-saving serum during a diphtheria outbreak in Nome, Alaska. Although Balto received the glory for having been the final dog of the relay, it was actually Togo who performed the majority of the work, pulling the sled 91 miles through deadly conditions. In 1930 Siberia banned the exportation of Huskies into other countries in order to preserve the original blood lines, but the American Kennel Club recognized the breed that same year.
Siberian Huskies are hard working dogs driven by their prey drive and desire to roam. These characteristics, however, mean that Huskies must be well-exercised in order to avoid unwanted behaviors such as howling, chewing, digging, escaping, and causing general mischief. Dogs from this breed are often re-homed or left at shelters due to owners not having enough time to devote to the extensive exercise needs of these dogs. When properly exercised Siberian Huskies are wonderful additions to families and do well with children. They are not suitable for homes with small pets.
The most well-known quality of the Siberian Husky is its thick double-coat and sometimes pale eyes. Huskies are heavy shedders and require frequent brushing, especially when the seasons change and the dense undercoat is lost. Siberian Huskies are not particularly suited to warm climates as their coats function to help them withstand temperatures as cold as -76o F, but when properly acclimated they can adapt quite well. A variety of colors are admissible for the Husky coat, including black and white, copper and white, grey and white, all white, and aglouti. Huskies have striking eyes, with blue, brown, or a combination being allowed. In addition, Siberian Huskies are one of few breeds that can also have “parti-colored” eyes, meaning an individual eye is both blue and brown. Siberian Huskies are truly a medium sized dog, despite the appearance their coat gives them, weighing 45-60 lbs for males and 35 – 50 lbs for females.
Although Siberian Huskies were originally bred to be extremely resilient to disease, modern Huskies can suffer from a number of genetic ailments, particularly related to their eyes. Juvenile cataracts, glaucoma, corneal dystrophy, and progressive retinal atrophy are all relatively common. In addition, epilepsy is observed at a disproportionate rate. However, problems that commonly affect other breeds, such as hip dysplasia, are extremely rare. On average, Huskies tend to live 12 – 14 years.