What are huskies? A husky is an ancient dog breed originating from the Arctic regions of the northern hemisphere. They were bred specifically to pull sleds and hunt large game in snowy regions. They have also become popular pets worldwide, over the years.
If you’re the owner of a husky, or thinking of buying one; here are some interesting (and sometimes vital!) facts to help you and your pet grow together!
History of the Husky Breed
The Husky breed is one of the oldest in the world, therefore one of the closest breeds to a wolf. The fossil evidence, and other information, shows that Huskies existed in the Arctic regions of the world as long as 4500 years ago..
The modern Husky kept as a pet, is often actually a mixture of types of sled dogs – mainly Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes. Siberians originate from northern Asia and around the Sakhalin Peninsula, which is a vast, hostile, icebound region. Horses and ponies don’t fare well here – so man needs the help of his doggy friends to get around!.
They were originally bred by the Chukchi people, who are hunter-gatherers originating from the tundra of Arctic Siberia. When Europeans colonized North America, Siberian Huskies were brought over – originally by Russian fur traders – to pull sleds for the hardy immigrants of Canada, Alaska and the US. Modern Husky owners owe a lot to the Chukchi, who have suffered much deprivation under the iron rule of Soviet Russia – so think about them when you look at your beloved pets!.
They mixed with indigenous dog breeds that the native folks in these regions already used, and gave rise to the Malamutes and Alaskans that have become widespread. There are also breeds more specific to the Sakhalin region (north of Japan).
What does the name “Husky” mean?
The name “Husky” comes from “Huskimo” – a version of the Europeanized word Eskimo, which used to refer to the indigenous Arctic people of the world. The word “Eskimo” fell out of favor in modern lingo, as the various Arctic people wanted to be called by their own tribal names, and not lumped together! However, the word “Husky”, to describe the dog breed, stayed.
What do Huskies look like?
Huskies are big, athletic dogs. They usually have a thick double coat that can be grey, black, copper red, or white – or a mixture of any of the above. Their undercoat is very oily, dense and woolly, and can be about 2 inches thick – so it’s very effective at keeping the snow and rain away from the dog’s skin. The top coat is more coarse and spiky and keeps the snow away from the undercoat. In other words, they are perfectly adapted to cold and snowy conditions. Their coats offer specific challenges for Husky owners and groomers – something that we discuss here..
They have small ears relative to their body size, which helps to protect the ears against frostbite. They’re well-known for their pale blue eyes, which may have evolved as an adaptation to reflect harsh sunlight in snowy regions. They often also have brown eyes, green eyes, or even have yellow eyes – or a combination of two colours! (“heterochromia”). This condition is due to interbreeding over the centuries, but doesn’t affect the eyesight of the Husky.
Do you have concerns about the health your Husky boy or girl? We’ve got some fantastic advice for anxious parents!
The Siberian Husky was bred for speed – but his cousin, the Alaskan Malamute, was bred for power and endurance. Malamutes are visibly bigger and more muscular than the Siberian – they can be up to 20% larger. People who own both breeds often report that the Malamute, while a good-tempered animal in general, can sometimes bully the smaller Siberian Husky – much like bigger human siblings can pick on the smaller ones!
Huskies have big, bushy tails that can be used to wrap around their faces when sleeping in the snow. They have long hair growing around their foot pads – also, of course, an adaptation for snowy conditions.
Activities for you and your Husky!
Huskies were bred for lots of work and activity in snowy climates; and are energetic, lively dogs.
Most of us don’t live in Arctic regions or have sleds for Huskies to pull, but there’s a host of activities that your fun-loving Husky would love to do with you. These activities can be performed just for fun, or competively – your local breeders or kennel clubs can help you out if you want to race your Huskies.
- Skijoring: this is a sport in which a cross-country skier is pulled across the snowy landscape by two or more Huskies.
- Bikejoring: the dog owner attaches his Husky to his bike, with a special harness, and is pulled by the dog or dog team.
- Dog scootering is very similar to bikejoring and carting, but the owner rides a scooter that is pulled by the Huskies.
- Dog hiking: if you don’t live in a snowy region, this is an alternative for you. It’s a great way for adventurous and energetic Huskies to get exercise. Some companies even make hiking equipment especially for dogs, so they can carry their own gear including water, food, and bowls!
- Carting is a fun urban alternative to dog sledding. The Husky pulls a bought or hand-made cart containing either supplies or a person. Remember, your Husky has been bred specially to pull, and enjoys it immensely. It’s important that the harnesses and leashes are properly designed so as not to put undue strain on the Husky’s body.
- Canicross: this is basically running cross-country, often competitively, with your pet Husky or Huskies. Some practice and training is required – your Husky is a fast animal, and you don’t want to be pulled over or even dragged!
Getting your naughty Husky to listen to you isn’t as difficult as you think – check out our great FREE training courses.
What is a three-dog night?
The Chukchi people of Siberia (who originally bred the Siberian Husky) coined this phrase, in their own language.
Chukchi didn’t have central heating, like modern people – in fact, most of them still don’t. They often sleep with their animals on particularly cold nights – which helps both humans AND animals to survive the Arctic temperatures.
A three-dog night refers to a night so cold, you’d have not one or two, but THREE dogs in bed with you! This might not be particularly desirable to a Husky owner living in a warmer climate as you’ll get toasty hot very quickly!