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The Siberian Husky (Russian: Сибирский хаски, Sibirskiy Haski) is a medium-size, dense-coat working dog breed that originated in eastern Siberia. The breed belongs to the Spitz genetic family. It is recognizable by its thickly-furred double coat, sickle tail, erect triangular ears and distinctive markings.
Siberian Huskies share many outward similarities with the Alaskan Malamute as well as many other Spitz breeds such as the Samoyed, which has a comparable history to the Huskies. Siberians have a thicker coat than most other breeds of dog. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, usually with white paws and legs, facial markings, and tail tip. The most common colors are black and white, grey and white, copper-red and white, and pure white, though many individuals have blondish, or piebald spotted. Striking masks, spectacles, and other facial markings occur in wide variety. They tend to have a wolf-like appearance.
As a working breed, Siberian Huskies are a high-energy canine requiring lots of exercise. They have served as companions and sled dogs, but they are unsuitable as guard dogs. Over time, this combination of factors has lent the Siberian Husky a strong sense of gentleness and devotion. The Inuit tribes who used this breed for utilitarian and survival needs trained them to pull heavy sledges for great distances over frozen tundra, drawing umiaks, and securing game by assisting in hunting.
Siberian Huskies, with proper care, have a typical lifespan ranging from twelve to fifteen years of age. Health issues in the breed are genetic defects of the eye such as juvenile cataracts, corneal dystrophy, and progressive retinal atrophy. Hip dysplasia is not often found in this breed, though as with many medium or larger-sized canines, it can occur. However, Siberians in general have remarkably good hips. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (the OFA) currently has the Siberian husky ranked 143rd out of a possible 150 breeds at risk for hip dysplasia, with only 2% of tested Siberian huskies showing dysplasia. Compare this percentage to that of those of some other breeds - Golden Retriever (22%), German Shepherd (20%), Pugs (60%) and French Mastiff (55%), and it is clear that the Siberian husky is a breed with solid hips. Siberian Huskies used for sled racing may also be prone to other ailments, such as gastric disease, bronchitis or bronchopulmonary ailments ("ski asthma"), and gastric erosions or ulcerations
Siberian Huskies shed their winter coats in spectacular amounts and daily brushing is vital otherwise hair will be left everywhere! The coat also sheds during the seasonal transition into winter but to a lesser extent. A thorough brushing every few days at other times of the year will keep the dog neat.
The Siberian Husky, Samoyed, and Alaskan Malamute are all breeds directly descended from the original "sled dog." Recent DNA analysis confirms that this is one of the oldest breeds of dog as can be seen with the Alaskan Malamute. In this breed of canine, the word "husky" derives from Inuit tribes called "huskies", named by Caucasians who made early expeditions into their lands. The word "Siberian" in this breed's name is derived from Siberia itself, because it is thought that Eskimo or sled dogs were used to cross the land bridge of the Bering Straight on the way into, or out of, Alaska, though this theory is continuously disputed by scholars. Breeds descending from the Eskimo dog were once found throughout the Northern Hemisphere from Siberia to Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Labrador, and Baffin Island. With the help of Siberian Huskies, entire tribes of peoples were able to not only survive, but push forth into terra incognita. Admiral Robert Peary of the United States Navy was aided by this breed during his expeditions in search of the North Pole. The Siberian Husky's role in this feat cannot be over estimated. Dogs from the Anadyr River and surrounding regions were imported into Alaska from 1908 (and for the next two decades) during the gold rush for use as sled dogs, especially in the "All-Alaska Sweepstakes", a 408 mile (657 km) distance dog sled race from Nome to Candle and back. Smaller, faster and more enduring than the 100 to 120 pound (45 to 54 kg) freighting dogs then in general use, they immediately dominated the Nome Sweepstakes. Leonhard Seppala, the foremost breeder of Siberian Huskies of the time, participated in competitions from 1909 to the mid 1920s.
On February 2, 1925 Gunnar Kaasen was first in the 1925 serum run to Nome whom delivered diphtheria serum from Nenana over 600 miles to Nome. This was a group effort comprised of several sled dog teams and mushers. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race commemorates this famous delivery. The event is also loosely depicted in the 1995 animated film Balto, as the name of Gunnar Kaasen's lead dog in his sled team was named Balto. In honor of this lead dog a bronze statue was erected at Central Park in New York City. The epitaph upon it is inscribed with Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dogs that relayed antitoxin six hundred miles over rough ice, across treacherous waters, through Arctic blizzards from Nenana to the relief of a stricken Nome in the winter of 1925. Endurance--fidelity--intelligence. In 1930 the last Siberians were exported as the Soviet government closed the borders of Siberia to external trade. The same year saw recognition of the Siberian Husky by the American Kennel Club. Nine years later the breed was first registered in Canada. Today’s Siberian Huskies registered in North America are largely the descendants of the 1930 Siberia imports and of Leonhard Seppala’s dogs. Seppala owned a kennel in Nenana before moving to New England. Arthur Walden, owner of Chinook Kennels of Wonalancet, New Hampshire, was by far the most prominent breeder of Siberian Huskies. The foundation of his kennel stock came directly from Alaska, and Seppala's kennel.
Only beginning to come to prominence, in 1933 Navy Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd brought with him around 50 Siberian Huskies, many of which were assembled and trained at Chinook Kennels in New Hampshire, during an expedition in which Byrd hoped to journey around the 16,000-mile coast of Antarctica. Called Operation Highjump, this historic trek proved the worth of the Siberian Husky due to its compact size and greater speeds. Siberian Huskies also served in the United States Army's Arctic Search and Rescue Unit of the Air Transport Command during World War II.
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