The Alaskan Husky is not so much a breed of dog as it is a type or a category. It falls short of being a breed in that there is no preferred type and no restriction as to ancestry; it is defined only by its purpose, which is that of a highly efficient sled dog. That said, dog drivers usually distinguish between the Alaskan Husky and â€œhound crossesâ€, so perhaps there is informal recognition that the Alaskan Husky is expected to display a degree of northern dog type. Specializations in type exist within the breed, such as freighting dogs (Mackenzie River Husky), sprint alaskans, and distance alaskans.
The Alaskan is the sled dog of choice for world-class dogsled racing sprint competition. None of the purebred northern breeds can match it for sheer racing speed. Demanding speed-racing events such as the Fairbanks, Alaska Open North American Championship and the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous are invariably won by teams of Alaskan huskies, or of Alaskans crossed with hounds or gun dogs. Hounds are valued for their toughness and endurance. Winning speeds often average more than 19 miles per hour (31 km/h) over three days’ racing at 20 to 30 miles (32 to 48 km) each day. On the rare occasion when purebred teams are entered in such races, they nearly always finish last.
Alaskan huskies that fulfill the demanding performance standards of world-class dogsled racing can be extremely valuable. A top-level racing lead dog can bring $10,000-15,000.
Alaskan Husky Appearance
The Alaskan Husky is basically a mixed-breed dog, in which northern or husky-type ancestry, such as the Siberian Husky or the traditional Alaskan village dog, predominates. Many other breeds have contributed to its genetic makeup, from the Wolf, staghound, foxhound, greyhound, Dobermann etc. which all account towards the Alaskan’s great variability of appearance.
Alaskan huskies (at least those used for speed racing) are moderate in size, averaging perhaps 46 to 50 pounds (21 to 23 kg) for males and 38 to 42 pounds (17 to 19 kg) for females. They often resemble racing strains of the Siberian Husky breed (which is undeniably a major component of the Alaskan husky genetic mix) but are usually taller and leggier with more pronounced tuck-up.
Color and markings are a matter of total indifference to racing drivers; hence the husky may be of any possible canine colour and any pattern of markings. Eyes may be of any colour and, as in the Siberian Husky, are often light blue. Coats are almost always short to medium in length, never long, and usually less dense than the coats of northern purebreds; coat length is governed by the need for effective heat dissipation while racing.
In very cold conditions, Alaskans often race in â€œdog coatsâ€ or belly protectors. Particularly in long distance races, these dogs often require â€œdog bootiesâ€ to protect their feet from abrasion and cracking. Thus the considerations of hardiness and climate resistance prevalent in breeds such as the Siberian Husky and Canadian Inuit Dog are subordinated in the Alaskan husky to the overriding consideration of functional capability. The Alaskan huskies lack the dense coat required to keep them warm, and they are not as hardy as Siberians, often requiring extra care on the trails. Andre Nadeau says this is the reason his Siberians did so well in the 1998 Yukon Quest, where he led nearly the whole race until being passed by a team of Alaskan huskies.
Alaskan Husky Temperament
Alaskan Husky dogs are bred for stamina, strength, speed, and endurance. It is essential for a sled dog to want to work. And for dogs meeting many new people, the dogs must not be aggressive towards people.
Alaskan huskies are very popular as pets in Alaska, where they are relatively easy to obtain from professional dogsled racers. Puppies judged to be unfit for racing are regularly culled, and as a result they are often available free to any good home. Older dogs which have outlived their usefulness as racing dogs make excellent pets for people willing to exercise them regularly. Older ex-racers tend to be very alert and well behaved, as well as somewhat less energetic than their younger counterparts.
Young huskies make good pets if given plenty of space to run and play, but their high demand for exercise and activity makes them a poor choice for urban residents. In the Alaskan cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks the large number of trails and extensive open space make it easy to ensure plenty of free running; in contrast the relative lack of large open areas in Juneau makes them somewhat more difficult to exercise.
Huskies are often healthier in the drier climates of interior Alaska. In the humid Alaskan Panhandle, they are prone to develop (and maintain) ear and related infections.
If multiple huskies are kept in the same lot they tend to be very vocal, howling and barking at each other and any other dogs in the vicinity unless they are trained to be quiet. In crowded neighborhoods this can be a very irritating nuisance to neighbors, especially other dog owners. They can be trained for silence with some effort though. They are also accomplished diggers, and will tunnel underneath fences and houses to hunt burrowing animals and to escape their enclosures.
Huskies make extremely poor household dogs. They shed heavily during the spring and are extremely active, running in circles inside a house when bored or cramped. If left alone inside a dwelling for long periods they will tear things apart out of boredom. They also enjoy hunting small animals which can be a nuisance if rats or mice are in the walls or basement, since the husky will constantly scratch and tear at the walls and floors. When they are hooked up to a sled, and will have to stay there for a while they may get bored and start to chew the gang line.
In Alaska they are occasionally killed by moose in the winter, since moose will enter human areas in search of winter browse of willows and mountain ash. True to their wolf ancestors, huskies tend not to back down from such encounters, and an angry moose can easily stomp and kick several dogs causing severe injuries. Professional dogsled racers always surround their lots with very high fences to prevent moose from causing havoc.
Alaskan Husky Health
The Alaskan Husky is generally a very healthy dog. Some strains are prone to different genetic health problems that run in pure bred strains. This includes PRA, hypothyroidism, etc. Dogs with a wheezing disorder, termed “wheezers” very occasionally show up. The defect is genetically linked, appearing rarely, and only in white coated blue-eyed dogs.
Alaskan Husky Life Span
The Alaskan Husky lives between 10 to 15 years.
Alaskan Husky History
The Alaskan Husky is derived from a mix of northern types, most notably the Siberian husky. It is not considered to be a wolfdog, although distant wolf ancestry is quite visible in several features of many Alaskan Husky. Alaskans are strong working dogs with thousands of years of breeding and history in the north country. With the increasing prevalence of motorized means of transportation in the mid 20th century, working dogs became less common in the northern villages. The breed experienced a revival in the 1970s. George Atla, a Native Alaskan man from Huslia, Alaska, is largely responsible for this. Most successful racing dogs today trace their lineage back to two dogs from his kennel, Lingo and Scotty.
Future of the Husky
Various attempts have been made in the past to organise breeders of Alaskan huskies and to establish a registry for these dogs; such attempts have never received significant support. Although husky kennels tend to be large, with many kennels harboring over a hundred dogs, and the breed population arguably in excess of one hundred thousand, this canine variety remains an informal and unregistered category of dog.