A husky is a sled dog used in the polar regions. One can differentiate huskies from other dog types by their fast pulling-style.[citation needed] Modern racing huskies (also known as Alaskan huskies) represent an ever-changing crossbreed of the fastest dogs[1] (the Alaskan Malamute, by contrast, pulled heavier loads at a slower speed).[2] Humans use huskies in sled-dog racing. Various companies have marketed tourist treks with dog sledges for adventure travelers in snow regions.[3] Huskies are also kept as pets, and groups work to find new pet homes for retired racing and adventure-trekking dogs.[4]

Dogsled huskies at rest after racing


The word husky originated from the word referring to aboriginal Arctic people, in general, Eskimo, "...known as 'huskies', a contraction of 'Huskimos', the pronunciation given to the word 'Eskimos' by the English sailors of trading vessels."[5] The use of husky is recorded from 1852 for dogs kept by Inuit people.[6]

Labrador huskies being fed by Inuit men


Nearly all dogs' genetic closeness to the gray wolf is due to admixture.[7] However, several Arctic breeds also show a genetic closeness with the now-extinct Taimyr wolf of North Asia due to admixture: the Siberian Husky and Greenland Dog (which are also historically associated with Arctic human populations) and to a lesser extent, the Shar Pei and Finnish Spitz. An admixture graph of the Greenland Dog indicates a best-fit of 3.5% shared material; however, an ancestry proportion ranging between 1.4% and 27.3% is consistent with the data and indicates admixture between the Taimyr wolf and the ancestors of these four high-latitude breeds.

This introgression could have provided early dogs living in high latitudes with phenotypic variation beneficial for adaption to a new and challenging environment, contributing significantly to the development of the husky. It also indicates that the ancestry of present-day dog breeds descends from more than one region.[8]

A Siberian Husky with heterochromia


Huskies are energetic and athletic. They usually have a thick double coat that can be gray, black, copper red, or white.[9] The double coat generally protects huskies against harsh winters and, contrary to what most believe, they can survive in hotter climates. During the hotter climates, huskies tend to shed their undercoat regularly to cool their bodies. In addition to shedding, huskies control their eating habits based on the season; in cooler climates, they tend to eat generous amounts, causing their digestion to generate heat, whilst in warmer climates, they eat less.[10] Their eyes are typically pale blue, although they may also be brown, green, blue, yellow, or heterochromic. Huskies are more prone to some degree of uveitis than most other breeds.[11] Hunting instincts can still be found in some of this breed today[12]


Husky-type dogs originally were landrace dogs kept by the Arctic indigenous peoples.[13]

An Alaskan husky

Alaskan huskyEdit

The most commonly used dog in dog sled racing,[14] the Alaskan husky is a mongrel[15] bred specifically for its performance as a sled dog.[16] The modern Alaskan husky reflects 100 years or more of crossbreeding with English Pointers, German Shepherd Dogs, Salukis and other breeds to improve its performance.[17] They typically weigh between 18 and 34 kilograms (40 and 75 lb) and may have dense or sleek fur. Alaskan huskies bear little resemblance to the typical husky breeds they originated from, or to each other.[16]

Labrador huskies

Labrador HuskyEdit

The Labrador Husky originated in the Labrador portion of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The breed probably arrived in the area with the Inuit people who came to Canada around 1300 AD. Despite the name, Labrador huskies are not related to the Labrador retriever, but in fact most closely related the Canadian Eskimo Dog. There are estimated to be 50–60 Labrador huskies in the world.[18][19]

MacKenzie River HuskyEdit

The term Mackenzie River husky describes several overlapping historical populations of Arctic and sub-Arctic sled dog-type dogs, none of which constituted a breed. Dogs from the Yukon Territory were crossed with large European breeds such as St. Bernards and Newfoundlands to create a powerful freighting dog capable of surviving harsh arctic conditions during the Klondike Gold Rush.[20]

Sakhalin Husky Memorial in Japan

Sakhalin HuskyEdit

The Sakhalin Husky, also known as the Karafuto Ken (樺太犬), is a breed of dog formerly used as a sled dog, but now nearly extinct. As of 2015, there were only seven of these dogs left on their native island of Sakhalin.[21]

Siberian HuskyEdit

A black and white Siberian Husky

Smaller than the similar-appearing Alaskan Malamute, the Siberian Husky pulls more, pound for pound, than a Malamute. Descendants of the sled dogs bred and used by the native Chukchi people of Siberia which were imported to Alaska in the early 1900s, they were used as working dogs and racing sled dogs in Nome, Alaska throughout the 1910s, often dominating the All-Alaska Sweepstakes.[22] They later became widely bred by recreational mushers and show-dog fanciers in the U.S. and Canada as the Siberian Husky, after the popularity garnered from the 1925 serum run to Nome.[23] Siberians stand 20–23.5 inches, weigh between 35 and 60lbs (35-50 for females, 45-60 for males), and have been selectively bred for both appearance and pulling ability.[24] They are still used regularly today as sled dogs by competitive, recreational, and tour-guide mushers.[25]

Alternative activitiesEdit

Many huskies, especially Siberian Huskies, are considered “working dogs” and often are high energy. Exercise is extremely important for the physical and mental health of these kinds of dogs and it can also prompt a strong bond between the owner and dog.[26]

Husky sled ride in Rovaniemi, Finland

Since many owners now have huskies as pets in settings that are not ideal for sledding, other activities have been found that are good for the dog and fun for the owner.

  • Rally Obedience: Owners guide their dogs through a course of difficult exercises side by side. There are typically 10 to 20 signs per course and involve different commands or tricks.[27]
  • Agility Training: A fast paced obstacle course that deals with speed and concentration. Dogs race the clock to complete the course correctly.[28]
  • Skijoring is an alternative to sled pulling. The owner would be on skis while the dog would pull via a rope connected between the two.[29]
  • Dog hiking is an wonderful alternative for owners who live near or are able to travel to a trail.[30] The owner travels with their dogs along trails in the wilderness. This activity allows the owner and dog to gain exercise without using the huskies' strong sense of pulling. Some companies make hiking equipment especially for dogs in which they may carry their own gear, including water, food, and bowls for each.
  • Carting, also known as dryland mushing or sulky driving, is an urban alternative to dog sledding. Here, the dog can pull a cart that contains either supplies or an individual. This is also an acceptable way to use a dog's natural incline to pull in an effective way.[31] These carts can be bought or handmade by the individual.
  • Bikejoring is an activity where the owner bikes along with their dog while they are attached to their bike through a harness which keeps both the dog and owner safe. The dog or team of dogs can be attached to a towline to also pull the biker.[32]

In popular cultureEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Schultz, Jeff (28 January 2003). Dogs of the Iditarod. Seattle: Sasquatch Books. p. 41. ISBN 1-57061-292-7.
  2. ^ D. K. (2013-10-01). The dog encyclopedia. Dennis-Bryan, Kim, Baggaley, Ann, John, Katie, DK Publishing, Inc. (First American ed.). New York. p. 103. ISBN 9781465421166. OCLC 859155647.
  3. ^ Neary, Kathleen (2008-01-14). "How Sled Dogs Work". Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  4. ^ Keith, Christie (18 February 2011). "Lessons from a sled dog massacre". sfgate. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  5. ^ Dictionary of Newfoundland English, by George Morley Story, W. J. Kirwin, John David Allison Widdowson, pg 263, University of Toronto Press 2004, ISBN 0-8020-6819-7
  6. ^ "Definition of HUSKY". www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2017-08-30.
  7. ^ Freedman, A. H.; Gronau, I.; Schweizer, R. M.; Ortega-Del Vecchyo, D.; Han, E.; Silva, P. M.; Galaverni, M.; Fan, Z.; Marx, P.; Lorente-Galdos, B.; Beale, H.; Ramirez, O.; Hormozdiari, F.; Alkan, C.; Vilà, C.; Squire, K.; Geffen, E.; Kusak, J.; Boyko, A. R.; Parker, H. G.; Lee, C.; Tadigotla, V.; Siepel, A.; Bustamante, C. D.; Harkins, T. T.; Nelson, S. F.; Ostrander, E. A.; Marques-Bonet, T.; Wayne, R. K.; Novembre, J. (2014). "Genome Sequencing Highlights the Dynamic Early History of Dogs". PLOS Genetics. 10 (1): e1004016. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004016. PMC 3894170. PMID 24453982.
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  11. ^ Uveodermatologic syndrome, http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/courses/vet_eyes/conotes/con_chapter_11.html Archived 2012-06-06 at the Wayback Machine
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