There can be no mistaking the iconic image of the Siberian Husky as it hauls its sled across a snowy mountain pass. The power, athleticism and beauty of this breed make it one of the best known and popular across the world and in turn many people are adopting them as family pets. However, do not be fooled by the outward serenity of this breed. It is a complex animal that requires a lot of time, attention, training and exercise - one would say, the perfect companion for people who are active, love the outdoors and have boundless amounts of energy.
The Siberian Husky originated amongst the Chukchi tribe, a tribe of Siberian nomads who used the dogs for speedy transportation of food in their hunter-gatherer world. However, it was a breed that also fitted into family life, providing warm beds for children in the sub zero Siberian winters. From Siberia, Russian fur trader William Goosak imported huskies into Alaska in 1908 where they were put to work as sled dogs during the American gold rush.
The worker mentality is something that remains innately strong within the Husky who thinks his life purpose is pulling sleds, carrying rucksacks up mountains and running full tilt towards moving objects. They are extremely intelligent dogs with an incredible ability to learn, which ironically makes them quite difficult to train. Being pack dogs they require a firm understanding that their owner is the alpha leader, which often makes them suited to confident, more experienced dog owners who set firm and consistent rules. Even then they will constantly push the boundaries and challenge authority in the same way as a petulant toddler trying to assert their independence. Without the correct training Huskies can turn their intelligence to less savory activities such as destroying your house, digging up your garden, eating through pretty much anything that gets in their way (including in one instance a concrete wall!), howling with abandonment and escaping down your road to chase the neighbour’s cat!
Luckily though, with the correct training and exercise Huskies make incredible pets and their sociable, playful personalities make them fantastic companions for anyone who loves to run, bike, hike, climb and pull sleds every day! Husky’s need to be working to stay happy but like anything in life that’s worth working for, the rewards you reap are huge.
It wouldn’t be right to review the Siberian Husky without mentioning one of the most notorious activities they are associated with – sled dog racing. Perhaps the most renowned race across the world is the Iditarod Trail Sled Race. The Iditarod covers a distance of 1000 kilometres through the jagged mountains, frozen rivers, dense forest and frozen tundra of Alaska. Facing sub zero temperatures and winds that get so high all visibility is lost, Mushers and their dogs battle it out for anywhere between 8 and 15 days to see who can complete the course in the fastest time. Known as the ‘Last Great Race on Earth’ this is an event that pits man and animal against nature and attracts media attention from around the world.
Much closer to home, the annual Aviemore Sled Dog Rally is held in the mountains of Scotland. In 2018 they celebrated the 35th anniversary of this event, which now attracts over 1,000 sled dogs and 250 mushers. The race features teams of between two and eight dogs pulling their musher on a sled around a four to seven mile trail. If there’s no snow at ground level for the event, the races still go on with mushers using a three-wheeled rig that looks like a tricycle without a seat.
Racing sled dogs are amongst the best cared for animals in the world. The sport is based on athletic performance and, therefore, diet and physical fitness is always of the upmost importance. Many huskies in Great Britain are fed on proprietary branded complete diets for working/sporting dogs, sometimes with the addition of extra meat and even fruit. Biscuits are usually kept to a minimum with importance being placed on protein and fat content rather than carbohydrate – although a biscuit to ‘go to bed’ is always an acceptable extra.
This Siberian Husky is a fascinating breed backed by a rich history and culture and for those of you who love to spend every day hitting the running, hiking and biking trails it would make the perfect companion – as long as you are prepared to keep the leash on tight and be the woman in charge!