The Siberian Husky, often shortened to either “Siberian” or “Husky,” is a well-known breed. Although casual lovers of this breed generally use “Husky” as the short form, most breeders prefer to use “Siberian.”
As the name implies, these dogs come from Siberia, which is a region that makes up most of northern Asia. These dogs are recognizable by their thick, winterproof coats, alert expressions, and bright, curious eyes.
Siberians are not an easy breed to own. These are highly energetic dogs that are also extremely intelligent. But if you’re up for a challenge, you’ll find the Siberian Husky to be a loving, loyal breed that will stick by your side through thick and thin.
- Bred to be able to pull loaded sleds across large expanses of land in the Siberian tundra
- Referred to as “Siberians” by breeders and fanciers instead of “Husky”
- Strong, sturdy dogs bred for endurance
- Famous huskies include Balto, who helped deliver a live-saving serum to an Alaskan city during a diphtheria outbreak
This breed’s ancestors come from northeast Asia, where they were bred by a group of indigenous people called the Chukchi. As a semi-nomadic people, the Chukchi needed a dog that was sturdy and could withstand the harsh Siberian winters. They also needed the dog to be strong, so that they would be able to pull sleds lightly loaded with the Chukchi people’s loads across the tundra.
Thus, the Siberian Husky was born. As the Chukchi were mostly isolated, it was easy for them to maintain the purity of this strong, working breed.
Siberians began catching the public’s attention when they started being used for sled racing during the 1900s. But it wasn’t until 1925 that these dogs cemented themselves as noble, hardworking creatures. In 1925, a city in Alaska experienced a diphtheria outbreak. A team of huskies, led by a man named Leonhard Seppala, was dispatched to the city with medicine. The dogs completed the trek in a stunning five and a half days.
You’ll likely recognize a familiar name on this team of Siberians. Balto was the lead dog for the final stretch of the journey, and a statue of him located in New York’s Central Park remains there to this day.
Appearance and Vital Stats
These working dogs are medium-sized. They have thick coats that indicate their northern origin, and alert, engaged expressions.
Dog Breed Group
Siberians are part of the Working Group. These are, generally, medium to large dogs that are bred to be intelligent and strong to help man in a variety of activities. Siberian Huskies especially are bred to have high levels of endurance.
Working Group dogs are incredibly loyal animals, but they do require an owner who knows how to handle their energy and strength. Although they can be a challenge, Working Group dogs are also incredibly rewarding dogs to own.
As medium-sized dogs, male Siberians measure 21 to 23.5 inches tall, and females 20 to 22 inches tall at the shoulder. Male Siberians generally weigh between 45 and 60 pounds, and female Siberians between 35 to 50 pounds.
Siberian Huskies have generally average life spans. You can expect your healthy Siberian to live somewhere between 12 and 14 years.
Coat and Colors
Siberian Huskies have a double coat, with the undercoat being soft and dense, and the outer coat being straight and somewhat smooth. These dogs appear “well-furred,” but their outer coat will be medium in length, not too long.
Siberians come in a variety of colors. You’ll likely find Siberians with black points, and many of them are piebald, which refers to animals who have irregular, multicolored patches. Siberians can be any combination of black, white, and tan.
In general, Huskies are low shedders, and will only need a weekly brushing. During shedding season, however, you can expect to find large clumps of fur dropping from your dog daily as he sheds his undercoat to prepare for the change in weather.
A Siberian’s tail is “sickle-shaped,” meaning that when held up it curves over towards the dog’s back. The tail will be covered thickly in fur, appearing almost foxlike. When resting, the tail might trail behind the dog, which is normal.
These dogs have thick, triangle-shaped ears that are set high on the head. They are close-set, and stand erect rather than flopping over.
Some dogs tend to do okay on their own, but the Siberian Husky is not one of those dogs. They are deeply social, and always want to be close to their families. You’ll find yourself with an incredibly loyal breed if you adopt one of these dogs.
Despite their loyalty, however, Siberians are difficult to train. Their high intelligence levels give them a serious stubborn streak that can be hard to overcome. It’s also easy for Siberians to pick up and latch onto undesirable behaviors. When training these dogs, you’ll need consistency, positive reinforcement, and a whole lot of patience.
But don’t let the challenge of training put you off of this breed entirely. These are incredibly friendly and loving dogs who will love to play. You’ll have to help them burn all their working dog energy off anyway, and playtime is a great opportunity to do just that. You’ll also get the chance to see these dogs’ delightful, playful personalities. Though they can be mischievous, you’ll find yourself alternating between smacking your forehead and laughing at your Siberian’s antics!
Siberians don’t bark much, but they do howl. You might find that your Siberian absolutely loves to howl. Don’t expect a quiet dog if you decide to adopt one of these pups!
Because Siberians do howl so much, they won’t be well-suited to apartment living. You’re likely to get a lot of complaints if you bring one of these dogs into your apartment.
Also, because their energy levels are so high, Siberians should have a fenced-in yard where they can run around and burn off energy. Sure, you could allow your Siberian to run around in your apartment, but your neighbors probably won’t be pleased about having to listen to the sound of your dog zooming around your home.
Children and Other Pets
One of the Siberian’s greatest traits is his friendliness! This is a dog who will get along easily with anybody. They make amazing family companions and do fantastic with children. Remember, however, that you should never leave your dog and children alone unsupervised, and you should teach your children not to pull or tug on any part of the dog, or approach him while he’s eating.
Siberian Huskies do great with other dogs and will become fast friends with any other dogs in your household. When it comes to smaller animals like rabbits or rats, however, you’ll need to be cautious. These dogs have very strong prey drives, and while many of them can learn to live with small animals, you’ll have to make sure to keep an eye on them.
These dogs were bred specifically to require a low caloric intake. This is because in the tundra where they were conceived, food could be hard to come by at times. For this reason, Siberians are known for not needing to eat much.
Your Siberian will do well eating 1 ½ to 2 cups of dog food a day. Make sure to choose high-quality dog food, as that will be important for maintaining your Siberian’s skin and coat health. Divide his food into two meals a day to keep him feeling full, and prevent overeating. Siberians can become obese if overfed and not exercised properly, so be mindful of how much you feed him.
Siberians are relatively low maintenance when it comes to grooming. A weekly brushing should be enough to pull out dead hair and keep his coat healthy.
When it comes to shedding season, however, you’ll have to groom him more frequently. During this time, your dog will shed his undercoat, and you’ll likely have to brush him daily to pull out the hairs being shed. A pin brush and a metal comb will be the ideal tools for this.
Siberians are super energetic dogs, and it might feel more like they’re exercising you rather than the other way around. You’ll want to make sure they get around an hour of exercise every day. A brisk walk is great, going for a jog is even better. Be mindful of the weather if you’re planning on exercising your Siberian Husky outside. These dogs can overheat easily.
Siberian Huskies are, in general, very sturdy and healthy dogs. Many ailments that appear in medium and large breeds, like hip dysplasia, don’t affect Siberians often. There are, however, some medical conditions that the Siberian can be more prone to than others.
Some of the most common problems Siberians encounter health-wise are eye defects. Cataracts, which is when the lens of the eye becomes opaque, making it hard to see. Siberians can also be affected by corneal dystrophy, which creates opacity in the dog’s cornea. Progressive retinal atrophy is a condition that causes loss of vision over time and can also affect Siberian Huskies.
While these conditions make it difficult to see and can eventually lead to blindness, most dogs are still able to rely on their other senses to live happy and fulfilling lives.
Siberians that are used for sledding can be especially prone to gastric disease. If your dog is experiencing gastric problems, he might drool, vomit, have diarrhea or constipation, have abdominal pain, or have a bloated abdomen. If you think your dog is experiencing gastric problems, you should call your vet right away to ensure that your dog doesn’t have bloat, which can be a life-threatening medical problem.
Siberians that are sled dogs are particularly prone to bronchopulmonary issues like ski asthma. This is asthma that is triggered by vigorous physical exercise in cold weather conditions. If your dog has asthma, you might find him panting excessively, losing his appetite, or appearing lethargic.
These dogs are very similar in looks and coloring to Siberian Huskies, though you’ll find some differences. Alaskan Malamutes, originating from the Arctic, are larger than Siberians. Males stand at about 25 inches tall and weigh around 85 pounds, while females measure 23 inches and weigh in at around 75 pounds.
Malamutes were bred to also be able to pull sleds across large expanses of land. However, they were built to be large and strong so that they could pull heavier loads than Siberians were bred to pull.
Alaskan Malamutes do tend to be quieter than Siberian Huskies. While they can still be vocal, you’ll find them significantly quieter than Siberians.
These delightful, medium-sized dogs are known for their thick, white fur and the smiles that seem to live permanently on their faces. These dogs measure 21 to 23.5 inches tall for males, and 19 to 21 inches for females. Male Samoyeds weigh between 45 to 65 pounds and females between 35 and 50 pounds.
You’ll have to groom these fluffy dogs frequently, brushing them 2 to 3 times a week as opposed to a Siberian’s weekly brushing. Like Siberian Huskies, Sammies go through a shedding season where their undercoat is shed, requiring a much more thorough daily brushing.
Like Siberians, you can expect your Sammy to be very vocal. These dogs bark and they bark often.
These dogs, originating in Japan as a working dog, is much larger than the Siberian Husky. Male Akitas stand 26 to 28 inches tall and weigh between 100 to 130 pounds, and females measure 24 to 26 inches and weigh 70 to 100 pounds.
An Akita’s coat does require much more daily grooming than a Siberian’s. Even when he’s not in shedding season, you’ll have to brush your Akita daily to remove the dead fur from his thick double coat. During shedding season, you might find yourself constantly brushing your Akita’s fur to prevent large clumps from falling all over your house.
Akita’s are generally relatively quiet dogs, but they won’t hesitate to alert you to any visitors coming to your home.