Siberian Husky

Introduction | History & Health | Temperament & Personality | Breed Standard

Siberian Husky

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Introduction

The Siberian Husky, which has also been known as the Arctic Husky, the Siberian Dog, the Siberian Chukchi, the Chukchi Seld Dog, the Chukch, the Husky or simply the Sib, has been a preeminent sled-pulling dog for centuries in the harsh Siberian tundra. It came to America in the early 1900s and quickly became one of the most popular breeds among Alaskan dog mushers. The husky is the supreme sled dog – smaller and faster than the Malamute and capable of going much greater distances at higher speeds. The Siberian Husky is naturally outgoing and friendly, typically not traits well-suited to watchdog or guarding tasks. He also is uniformly independent and has a strong desire to roam. Siberians are prone to communal howling, although they rarely bark otherwise. They are pack animals and prefer the company of people and other dogs, although Sibs tend to view smaller dogs and cats as prey. The Siberian Husky was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1930 as a member of the Working Group.

The mature male Siberian Husky should stand 21 to 23½ inches at the withers and weigh 45 to 60 pounds. Bitches should stand 20 to 22 inches at the withers and weigh 35 to 50 pounds. Their coat is dense, double and medium in length. They shed seasonally, and profusely, but they are extremely clean dogs and typically lack a doggy smell. Sibs can be any color ranging from black to pure white, with a number of striking markings commonly seen, especially on the face.

History & Health

History

The Sib was developed in the isolated Yakutsk region of extreme northeastern Siberia by the Chukchi people, specifically to be an endurance sled dog as it was their only mode of transportation. These semi-nomadic people needed a dog that was capable of traveling great distances at moderate speeds, pulling well-loaded sleds in chilling conditions while expending a minimal amount of energy. It was the Chukchi's custom to castrate all but the best lead dogs, to promote genetic improvement across the generations. Moreover, when the dogs were not working with the men, they were cared for by the women. This, in turn, brought them in close quarters with children, and only non-aggressive, well-tempered males and females were favored. They bred only the best of the best, without cross breeding to other breeds, and kept their pedigrees pure for at least 3000 years.

At the start of the 20th century, Americans in Alaska started to hear about a superior sled dog in Northeastern Asia. By 1909, many Siberian Huskies were imported to Alaska by Charles Fox Maule Ramsay and others, coming from Siberia across the Bering Strait. The first Sib racing team competed in the grueling All-Alaska Sweepstakes Race that year and caused quite a sensation among sledding enthusiasts. Ramsay's team was driven by John "Iron Man" Johnson and won the 400-mile race in 1910. Over the next decade, sled racing enthusiasts, especially the legendary Norwegian musher Leonhard Seppala, bred and raced Sibs, winning virtually all of the races in Alaska.

In 1925, a severe diphtheria epidemic swept the remote city of Nome, Alaska. Seppala and other sled dog drivers coordinated relays using their Husky teams to transport urgently needed antitoxin and other medical supplies more than 600 miles. This historic "serum run" quickly brought the Siberian Husky into the public's attention across the United States. Seppala and his team participated in invitational races in New England, and the breed's unique capabilities and endearing temperament rapidly captured the respect of sportsmen and women nationwide. Even today, a statue of Balto, the lead dog of the team that took the last leg of the serum relay, sits in Central Park in New York City, dedicated to all dogs who participated in that heroic relay. The breed was accepted by the American Kennel Club in 1930. A number of Sibs were assembled at the Chinook Kennels in New Hampshire and used on the Byrd expeditions to Antarctica. Siberian Huskies also were used by the US military during World War II as part of its Arctic Circle search-and-rescue unit.

Today's Siberian Husky retains is traits of being agile and athletic, smart and strong, gentle and versatile and almost tireless. It makes a wonderful family companion and is excellent with children and with strangers alike. It thrives in urban and rural settings, so long as its desire to roam can be effectively contained. Finally, the Sib excels in the show ring as well as at many performance disciplines, of course including sledding.

Health

The average life span of the Siberian Husky is 10 to 14 years. Breed health concerns may include crystalline corneal opacity, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, juvenile cataracts, osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), nasal depigmentation, oral eosinophilic granuloma, basal cell tumor, perianal gland adenoma, chronic superficial keratitis (pannus), Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada-like syndrome, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and von Willebrand disease.

Temperament & Personality

Personality

According to the AKC Standard, the Siberian Husky "does not display the possessive qualities of the guard dog, nor is he overly suspicious of strangers or aggressive with other dogs." Their exotic, wolf-like appearance makes Huskies appealing to many people, and their even temperament, love of other dogs and indifference to strangers makes them ideal family dogs. Huskies have a zest for life that is unmatched by few breeds. Every time a Husky is outside, it's as if it's his first time and well into adulthood Huskies play with the vigor of a puppy. They may seem like a good family dog for first time dog owners, but Huskies can often be "too much dog" for a novice. They require extensive training and exercise in order maintain good behavior and only those with the time and energy to fully commit to a Husky should take on this breed. But Husky owners agree, you get out of a Siberian Husky what you put into him, and these reliable dogs are worth the effort.

Activity Requirements

Siberian Huskies need a lot of vigorous activity in order to maintain health and happiness. They were developed as sled dogs, which means they have energy and endurance to spare, so adopting a Husky means adopting an active lifestyle. This breed enjoys long walks, hikes, jogs and bike rides. In the yard they can play fetch for hours, and some even like to play frisbee. Huskies will feel as though they died and went to heaven when at the dog park with other dogs to run, romp and wrestle with.

Their medium size makes Siberian Huskies appealing to apartment dwellers, but this may not be the best living situation for a Husky. They are rowdy and rambunctious well into adulthood and need plenty of room to move about.

Trainability

Husky owners claim their dogs have the ability to perform at the top of their obedience classes, but when they come home they ignore everything they learned, only to turn it back on again when they return to the next class. This breed is notoriously difficult to train and are generally not well suited for first time owners. Huskies require firm leadership and 100% consistency when it comes to boundaries and rule enforcement. Their expressive eyes can be used to manipulate the softies of the house, so all family members must also be "trained" to be consistent with rules and leadership.

Behavioral Traits

The popularity of the breed has led to indiscriminate breeding of the Siberian Husky, and there are many dogs being born into blood lines with uneven temperaments. When adopting a Husky, it is important to do extensive research on breeders, and if you get your Husky from a rescue, the organization should provide you with as much information as possible. Well bred Huskies should never be aggressive or overly shy and timid.

Huskies are notorious escape artists, managing to foil fences, screen doors, garages and other holding devices. You should never leave your Husky unsupervised in the yard or with only a screen separating him from the wild blue yonder.

Breed Standard

General Appearance
The Siberian Husky is a medium-sized working dog, quick and light on his feet and free and graceful in action. His moderately compact and well furred body, erect ears and brush tail suggest his Northern heritage. His characteristic gait is smooth and seemingly effortless. He performs his original function in harness most capably, carrying a light load at a moderate speed over great distances. His body proportions and form reflect this basic balance of power, speed and endurance. The males of the Siberian Husky breed are masculine but never coarse; the bitches are feminine but without weakness of structure. In proper condition, with muscle firm and well developed, the Siberian Husky does not carry excess weight.

Size, Proportion, Substance
Height--Dogs, 21 to 23½ inches at the withers. Bitches, 20 to 22 inches at the withers. Weight--Dogs, 45 to 60 pounds. Bitches, 35 to 50 pounds. Weight is in proportion to height. The measurements mentioned above represent the extreme height and weight limits with no preference given to either extreme. Any appearance of excessive bone or weight should be penalized. In profile, the length of the body from the point of the shoulder to the rear point of the croup is slightly longer than the height of the body from the ground to the top of the withers. Disqualification--Dogs over 23½ inches and bitches over 22 inches.

Head
Expression is keen, but friendly; interested and even mischievous. Eyes almond shaped, moderately spaced and set a trifle obliquely. Eyes may be brown or blue in color; one of each or parti-colored are acceptable. Faults--Eyes set too obliquely; set too close together. Ears of medium size, triangular in shape, close fitting and set high on the head. They are thick, well furred, slightly arched at the back, and strongly erect, with slightly rounded tips pointing straight up. Faults--Ears too large in proportion to the head; too wide set; not strongly erect. Skull of medium size and in proportion to the body; slightly rounded on top and tapering from the widest point to the eyes. Faults--Head clumsy or heavy; head too finely chiseled. Stop--The stop is well-defined and the bridge of the nose is straight from the stop to the tip. Fault--Insufficient stop. Muzzle of medium length; that is, the distance from the tip of the nose to the stop is equal to the distance from the stop to the occiput. The muzzle is of medium width, tapering gradually to the nose, with the tip neither pointed nor square. Faults Muzzle either too snipy or too coarse; muzzle too short or too long. Nose black in gray, tan or black dogs; liver in copper dogs; may be flesh-colored in pure white dogs. The pink-streaked "snow nose" is acceptable. Lips are well pigmented and close fitting. Teeth closing in a scissors bite. Fault--Any bite other than scissors.

Neck, Topline, Body
Neck medium in length, arched and carried proudly erect when dog is standing. When moving at a trot, the neck is extended so that the head is carried slightly forward. Faults--Neck too short and thick; neck too long. Chest deep and strong, but not too broad, with the deepest point being just behind and level with the elbows. The ribs are well sprung from the spine but flattened on the sides to allow for freedom of action. Faults--Chest too broad; "barrel ribs"; ribs too flat or weak. Back--The back is straight and strong, with a level topline from withers to croup. It is of medium length, neither cobby nor slack from excessive length. The loin is taut and lean, narrower than the rib cage, and with a slight tuck-up. The croup slopes away from the spine at an angle, but never so steeply as to restrict the rearward thrust of the hind legs. Faults--Weak or slack back; roached back; sloping topline.

Tail
The well furred tail of fox-brush shape is set on just below the level of the topline, and is usually carried over the back in a graceful sickle curve when the dog is at attention. When carried up, the tail does not curl to either side of the body, nor does it snap flat against the back. A trailing tail is normal for the dog when in repose. Hair on the tail is of medium length and approximately the same length on top, sides and bottom, giving the appearance of a round brush. Faults--A snapped or tightly curled tail; highly plumed tail; tail set too low or too high.

Forequarters
Shoulders--The shoulder blade is well laid back. The upper arm angles slightly backward from point of shoulder to elbow, and is never perpendicular to the ground. The muscles and ligaments holding the shoulder to the rib cage are firm and well developed. Faults--Straight shoulders; loose shoulders. Forelegs--When standing and viewed from the front, the legs are moderately spaced, parallel and straight, with the elbows close to the body and turned neither in nor out. Viewed from the side, pasterns are slightly slanted, with the pastern joint strong, but flexible. Bone is substantial but never heavy. Length of the leg from elbow to ground is slightly more than the distance from the elbow to the top of withers. Dewclaws on forelegs may be removed. Faults--Weak pasterns; too heavy bone; too narrow or too wide in the front; out at the elbows. Feet oval in shape but not long. The paws are medium in size, compact and well furred between the toes and pads. The pads are tough and thickly cushioned. The paws neither turn in nor out when the dog is in natural stance. Faults--Soft or splayed toes; paws too large and clumsy; paws too small and delicate; toeing in or out.

Hindquarters
When standing and viewed from the rear, the hind legs are moderately spaced and parallel. The upper thighs are well muscled and powerful, the stifles well bent, the hock joint well-defined and set low to the ground. Dewclaws, if any, are to be removed. Faults--Straight stifles, cow-hocks, too narrow or too wide in the rear.

Coat
The coat of the Siberian Husky is double and medium in length, giving a well furred appearance, but is never so long as to obscure the clean-cut outline of the dog. The undercoat is soft and dense and of sufficient length to support the outer coat. The guard hairs of the outer coat are straight and somewhat smooth lying, never harsh nor standing straight off from the body. It should be noted that the absence of the undercoat during the shedding season is normal. Trimming of whiskers and fur between the toes and around the feet to present a neater appearance is permissible. Trimming the fur on any other part of the dog is not to be condoned and should be severely penalized. Faults--Long, rough, or shaggy coat; texture too harsh or too silky; trimming of the coat, except as permitted above.

Color
All colors from black to pure white are allowed. A variety of markings on the head is common, including many striking patterns not found in other breeds.

Gait
The Siberian Husky's characteristic gait is smooth and seemingly effortless. He is quick and light on his feet, and when in the show ring should be gaited on a loose lead at a moderately fast trot, exhibiting good reach in the forequarters and good drive in the hindquarters. When viewed from the front to rear while moving at a walk the Siberian Husky does not single-track, but as the speed increases the legs gradually angle inward until the pads are falling on a line directly under the longitudinal center of the body. As the pad marks converge, the forelegs and hind legs are carried straightforward, with neither elbows nor stifles turned in or out. Each hind leg moves in the path of the foreleg on the same side. While the dog is gaiting, the topline remains firm and level. Faults--Short, prancing or choppy gait, lumbering or rolling gait; crossing or crabbing.

Temperament
The characteristic temperament of the Siberian Husky is friendly and gentle, but also alert and outgoing. He does not display the possessive qualities of the guard dog, nor is he overly suspicious of strangers or aggressive with other dogs. Some measure of reserve and dignity may be expected in the mature dog. His intelligence, tractability, and eager disposition make him an agreeable companion and willing worker.

Summary
The most important breed characteristics of the Siberian Husky are medium size, moderate bone, well balanced proportions, ease and freedom of movement, proper coat, pleasing head and ears, correct tail, and good disposition. Any appearance of excessive bone or weight, constricted or clumsy gait, or long, rough coat should be penalized. The Siberian Husky never appears so heavy or coarse as to suggest a freighting animal; nor is he so light and fragile as to suggest a sprint-racing animal. In both sexes the Siberian Husky gives the appearance of being capable of great endurance. In addition to the faults already noted, the obvious structural faults common to all breeds are as undesirable in the Siberian Husky as in any other breed, even though they are not specifically mentioned herein.

Disqualification
Dogs over 23½ inches and bitches over 22 inches.

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