Siberian Husky

PetMD Editorial
Written by:
PetMD Editorial
Published: December 4, 2008

The Siberian Husky is a medium-sized dog of Eastern Asian origin. Intelligent, mischievous and powerful, this active dog can run for miles at a stretch and pull a moderate load swiftly through long distances -- the main reason it became popular during Alaskan gold rush and at the height Alaska's dog sled racing popularity. Today, the Siberian Husky remains a mainstay in dog racing, but has also become a loving pet for those who love outdoors or an active dog.

Physical Characteristics

With a slightly long and moderately compact body, the Siberian Husky manages to combine endurance, power, and speed. The quick and light-footed Husky has an effortless and smooth gait, giving it good drive and reach. Its two-layered coat is of medium length with a flat, straight outer coat, and a dense, soft undercoat. The Siberian Husky can be found in various colors, ranging from black to pure white. The Siberian Husky's expression, meanwhile, is friendly, keen, and sometimes mischievous.

Personality and Temperament

The Siberian Husky is alert at all times, clever, independent, stubborn, mischievous, obstinate, fun-loving, and adventurous. The dog's love of running can sometimes get the best of it, roaming around aimlessly for hours on end. The Siberian Husky is also prone to chase livestock or unfamiliar cats, and may be aggressive towards unfamiliar dogs, but generally gets along with other domestic dogs. The Siberian Husky is very social and should be given plenty of human companionship.

Some Huskies tend to dig, chew, and howl.


Due to its size, the Siberian Husky requires daily exercise, which can be accomplished with a long leash-led run or jog. Its coat requires weekly brushing during most parts of the year, and daily brushing during the heavy shedding periods. It loves cold weather and enjoys pulling things around. Even though the Siberian Husky can live outside in cold or temperate climates, it is best if it is allowed to spend equal time indoors and outdoors.


The Siberian Husky, with a life span of 11 to 13 years, may suffer from minor health problems such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), hypothyroidism, cataract, and corneal dystrophy. To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may run thyroid, hip, and eye exams on the dog.

History and Background

The Chukchis, a semi-nomadic people of northeastern Asia, are responsible for developing the Siberian Husky. And though the breed's lineage remains a mystery, the Husky is probably of spitz stock, taking several centuries for the Chukchis to train them as sledge dogs. Famously used during the Alaskan gold rush, the Siberian Husky was an essential laborer in the Arctic regions, later emerging as the primary breed used in dog racing, a popular form of entertainment in these regions.

One such racing event, the 400-mile All Alaska Sweepstakes Race from Nome to Candle, traversed some of Alaska's most arduous areas. During the second annual All Alaska's Sweepstakes Race in 1909, the first team of Siberian Chukchi huskies were entered. Because of their docile nature and small size, the dogs were hardly acknowledged as worthy competitors.

However, a young Scotsman named Charles Fox Maule Ramsay took notice of the breed and had his team's lead rider, John “Iron Man” Johnson, use them to pull his sled in the 1910 All Alaska Sweepstakes race, defeating his competitors handily (Johnson and his huskies still hold the race's fastest finish time, 74:14:37). Ramsay's other teams, which were also led by Siberian Huskies, assumed the second and forth positions in the race, further evidence of the breed's dominance in the sport. For the next decade, the Siberian Husky was used to capture some of the most prestigious racing titles in Alaska, especially where the rugged terrain was suited to the breed's endurance capability.

In 1925, the city of Nome, Alaska was stricken by a diphtheria epidemic and supplies of its antitioxin were urgently needed. In what came to be known as the “Great Race of Mercy,” 20 mushers (human riders) and 150 sled dogs transported the diphtheria antitioxin 674 miles across Alaska in a record-breaking five and a half days, thus saving the city of Nome and its surrounding communities. Instantly, the mushers and their dogs became famous across the United States for their bravery and heroics. Balto, the lead sled dog on the final stretch into Nome and a Siberian Husky, would particularly gain publicity for the serum run and a statue was erected in New York City's Central Park just 10 months after Balto's arrival in Nome.

The Siberian Husky's popularity soon spread into Canada and in 1930, the American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed. Several Siberian Huskies would later serve in the U.S. Army's Arctic Search and Rescue Unit during World War II. The breed continues to astonish racing fanciers with its speed and endurance, but has also become quite a popular show dog and family pet.

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