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Get to Know the Siberian Husky: Hero, Explorer, and Friend

This ancient, hardworking breed helped explore the north and south poles -- and even saved Nome, Alaska, from a diphtheria epidemic in 1925.

 |  Aug 26th 2013  |   5 Contributions


The Siberian Husky is one of mankind's most ancient, valuable and hardworking partners. The breed has helped explore both poles, going where horses and machines couldn't reach. They've slept under the snow and run for endless miles in sub-zero temperatures. But they also don't mind sleeping in a bed and melting people's hearts.

DNA studies have shown that Siberian Huskies are one of the most ancient of all current breeds. They were developed in Northeast Asia by the nomadic Chukchi people to pull sleds over great distances.

More cool facts about the Siberian Husky 

  • The Siberian Husky (Sibe to his friends) is a type of spitz dog ideally suited for cold weather. His small furred ears retain heat, he can sleep with his nose buried in his bushy tail, and his thick double coat repels moisture with the outer guard hairs, while he retains heat with his dense wooly undercoat.
  • Tales of mixing huskies with wolves for better sled dogs are almost certainly false. Wolves are very bad at following directions! Of course, Siberian Huskies aren't exactly famous for obeying commands either, but give them the incentive of a run through the snow and they can be amazingly obedient! Give them time on their paws, however, and they can be amazingly inventive -- and not usually in a good way! They're a breed of surprises ...

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Photo by Jeffrey Beall

  • During the Alaskan Gold Rush, dog sled racing was hugely popular and dominated by large draft dogs. When a team of Chukchi huskies from Siberia competed in a major race one year, they were ignored because they were so small compared to the others. But the next year they won all the top spots. The breed then became a favorite for sled racing.
  • In 1925, Nome, Alaska, was gripped by a diphtheria epidemic. Relays of sled dogs were the only way to get serum to Nome. Many thought it couldn't be done, but the dogs traveled 360 miles in six days to deliver the serum in time. The present day Iditarod commemorates this Great Race of Mercy, as it was called.

 

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Photo by Matt Elsberry

  • Balto led the final relay into Nome and received most of the glory. But the lesser known Togo was the true hero, according to many. Whereas Balto led his team for 53 miles, Togo led for 260 miles.
  • New York City's Central Park is home to a statue of the Balto, with a plaque reading: "Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dog 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." 
  • Balto, Togo and their respective teams and mushers toured the United States following their feat, popularizing the breed in the lower states. Balto had been neutered early in life, but Togo is behind most present-day Sibes.

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Photo by Ritmó

  • In 1930, the last Siberian Huskies were exported from Russia, as that country closed its borders to trade.
  • Admiral Byrd brought about 50 Siberian Huskies on his trip to Antarctica in 1933.
  • During World War II, Siberian Huskies served as search and rescue dogs.
  • It's not uncommon for Sibes to have blue eyes.
  • The Siberian Husky is in the AKC Working group.
  • Although the names are similar, don't confuse Siberian Huskies with Alaskan Huskies. The latter are made up of crosses of various breeds, and are the most popular dogs in current sled dog races.
  • And don't expect to see a Siberian Husky trot onto the field as the mascot of the Washington State University Huskies -- their mascot is actually an Alaskan Malamute!

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Photo by Jeffrey Beall

  • Sibes starred in the movies Eight Below and Snow Dogs.
  • Celebrity owners include Michael J. Fox, Tom Green, Kate Jackson and Connie Stevens.
  • A Sibe named Champion Innisfree's Sierra Cinnar won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in 1980. He did so after an accident that would have ended the dreams of most show dogs: another dog had bitten off the end third of one ear!
  • A Sibe named Charlie at one time held the world record as strongest dog. He was able to move a 3,142-pound sledge.
  • One of the few dog Beanie Babies is a Siberian Husky named Nanook.
  • Sibes love cold weather, love to pull and love to run!

Do you own a Siberian Husky? Have you spent time with one? Let's hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you'd like us to write about, let us know that, too!

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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron's Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.  

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