Siberian Husky

Gemma Gaitskell
Dr Gemma Gaitskell (BVetMed MSc MRCVS, Royal Veterinary College, London)
Photo of adult Siberian Husky

Siberian Huskies are medium sized dogs, which are intelligent, gentle and friendly. They were originally bred by the Chukchi Indians in the Soviet Arctic and provided them with an essential means of survival, acting as both transport as a sled dog, as well as assisting with hunting. Today they continue to be used as sled dogs, but also make excellent companions for active households as they have a lot of stamina and need large amounts of exercise.

The Husky is an alert dog, but not at all aggressive and is also known for being good with children, as their friendly nature was a key characteristic originally selected for. This means they are quick to learn and training is not usually a problem, although if not provided with sufficient exercise opportunities they can develop destructive behaviours. They have a thick, insulating coat, which does not need any special grooming but they may shed heavily at certain times of year. The breed is relatively healthy, but they can still suffer from some health problems.

About & History

The Siberian Husky was originally called the Arctic Husky and before that the Siberian Chukchi. It was developed around 3000 years ago by the Chukchi Indians, who lived in the Soviet Arctic. They were eventually introduced to Alaska and then Canada and America. These dogs provided a means of survival for these small tribes of people living in extreme conditions, acting as sled dogs and assisting with hunting. They have a lot of stamina, which made them ideal for travelling long distances over difficult, Arctic terrain. Although the Siberian Husky is now found around the world, the Chukchi continue to breed them and use criteria such as their obedience, endurance, willing and friendly character, and size to select which lines they use, ensuring a working dog which is easy to keep and train.

Outside the area of their original development the Siberian Husky originally rose to fame in 1925 after proving its ability in the All-Alaska Sweepstakes – a gruelling race between Nome and Candle in Alaska and back again. They are the lightest and fastest of the sled dogs. Today the Siberian Husky is a popular companion but is a breed which is commonly misunderstood, due to the large amount of exercise they need and incompatibility with many people’s lifestyles. Insufficient exercise and mental stimulation can lead them to develop unhealthy and destructive behaviours, despite their good natures. Their need for exercise and trainable nature means that they excel in modern dog sports such as fly ball and agility, as well as mountain search and rescue dogs.


Siberian Husky Large Photo

There are numerous colour combinations which are accepted for registration of Siberian Huskies with the UK Kennel Club. These include:

  • Agouti & White
  • Black & White
  • Black & White Piebald
  • Black Grey & White
  • Cream & White
  • Dark Grey & White
  • Dark Red & White
  • Grey & White
  • Grey & White Piebald
  • Jet Black & White
  • Light Grey & White
  • Light Red & White
  • Red & White
  • Red & White Piebald
  • Sable & White
  • Silver Grey & White
  • White
  • Wolf Grey & White

The Siberian Husky is medium sized and should measure 51 – 60 cm at the withers and weigh between 16 – 27 kg with female dogs being slightly smaller than males. Their weight should be proportionate to their height and it is considered undesirable that they stand outside of this height range. The length of their body from the point of the shoulder should be slightly longer than their height to the withers. The Siberian Husky should be reasonably compact but at the same time have a graceful and athletic appearance, whilst being well-muscled and powerful.

The Siberian Husky should have a medium length neck which is also moderately thick and can be extended during movement. When still, it should appear slightly arched and have a proud carriage. The shoulders should be well angled with well-developed musculature supporting them. Elbows should be held close to the body and lead to straight front legs, which have a moderate distance between them. The length from the elbow to the floor should be marginally longer than the length from the elbow to the withers. The trunk should be strong but not heavy with a straight top line and a deep, but not broad chest. There should be an obvious ‘tuck-up’ at the end of the ribcage. The back legs should be muscular and powerful.

The Husky should have a medium sized head, and medium length nose with a fox-like look. It should neither be broad nor too fine and pointed and the nose should be rounded. The colour of the nose can vary depending on coat colour. The mouth and jaw should be strong and fit perfectly together with a scissor bite. The Siberian Husky has almond shaped eyes which are set at an angle with a friendly expression. They should either be varying shades of blue or brown in colour. Ears should be high-set, medium sized and triangular with rounded tips, held upright and alert.

The Siberian Husky should display an effortless movement, with a long stride and drive from the hindquarters whilst also being nimble and quick on its feet. Their legs should move in parallel and the top line should be seen to remain level.

Character & Temperament

Siberian Huskies are friendly and sociable and enjoy company. They are intelligent, alert dogs that are eager to please their owners with a gentle disposition. The breed is not at all aggressive and is generally well known for being good with children. As they are not usually aggressive or possessive of their owners they do not have the qualities that typically make a good guard dog, although their size and appearance may initially be imposing.

The Siberian Husky has a strong pack instinct, so although it does not normally suffer from separation anxiety it should ideally have some kind of companion and needs plenty of exercise to stop it becoming mischievous when left alone. Huskies usually get on well with other dogs but can have a strong hunting instinct so should be socialized from a young age if they are expected to live alongside other small animals.


Photo of Siberian Husky puppy

Siberian Huskies are very intelligent and eager to please with a good temperament, which means that they learn quickly. This means that they are usually easy to train, however, they need proper handling as their origins and high energy can make them difficult to cope with, and inappropriate handling and a lack of exercise can lead to destructive behaviours. This means they are not generally an appropriate dog for first time dog owners and an active lifestyle is extremely important.

Firm, consistent training, focusing on positive reinforcement is needed to get the best out of them. Huskies are natural hunters so training recall from a young age is essential. The Siberian Huskies intelligent nature means that house training is not usually a problem, especially when they have regular access to outside spaces. Huskies can be extremely good at escaping so if they have access to a garden where they spend time unsupervised it should have appropriate fencing.


The Siberian Husky usually lives to the age of 12 or older and is generally a fairly healthy breed. There are, however, two specific points of concern for the breed with the UK Kennel Club, which include dogs that are either significantly overweight or underweight and it is therefore classed as a Category 2 breed. Other than this, the Siberian Husky can suffer from the following health problems:

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia in Siberian Huskies is where one or several abnormalities form during development of the hips and can lead to problems later in life. Dogs should be ‘scored’ by experts who evaluate x-rays of the hips assigning them a score. The highest score is 106, which is for both hips together and the lower the score the fewer the signs of hip dysplasia are present.

Zinc Deficiency

Zinc is an important mineral and it is thought that some Huskies find it difficult to absorb it normally from the intestine, and this leads to a deficiency. The most common sign is itchiness, loss of hair and scabs form especially around the eyes, muzzle, ears and lips, but this can also affect other areas.

The skin changes caused can easily be mistaken for several other skin conditions. The deficiency can be treated, but is usually a lifelong treatment of supplementation with zinc compounds.

Primary Closed Angle Glaucoma / Primary Angle Closure Glaucoma (PACG)

Glaucoma is caused when a build up of fluid in the eye causes an increase in pressure. This pressure can then affect normal vision and is painful.

This particular type of glaucoma – PACG is caused by the enlargement of a ligament to the eye with, or without a reduction in the iridocorneal angle of the eye. These changes cause an eventual increase in pressure and the consequential glaucoma.

British Veterinary Association eye scheme testing and Breed Club eye testing for PACG and Hereditary Cataracts is compulsory for UK Kennel Club Assured breeders. In addition, these breeders are required to have their dogs undergo the gonioscopy examination, which is separate from the routine eye scheme exam. Dogs should be tested every 3 years and it is used to detect the likelihood of glaucoma developing.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Siberian Huskies are dogs which were bred to survive and thrive in extreme climates as a working dog and they are therefore highly energetic. They need around 2 hours of walking a day and as much of this time of possible should be spent of the lead. Sufficient exercise and mental stimulation is very important for the breed to avoid serious behavioural problems which can develop if they are not provided with an appropriate means of release for their high energy levels. Huskies that are not exercised sufficiently can also tend to become overweight.


Huskies do not require any specialist grooming but they have a thick coat that can shed heavily. It is therefore advisable to brush them on a regular basis to remove any lose hair. Their coat is formed from two layers, a protective outer coat covering a dense insulating undercoat. Other than regular brushing they do not have any special requirements.

Famous Siberian Huskies

There are numerous Huskies in popular culture, which include:

  • Balto from the animated movies, Balto and Balto II
  • The Siberian Huskies from the film, Snow Dogs
  • Old Jack, Dewey, Max, Maya, Truman and Shorty from the film, Eight Below
  • The Siberian Huskies from the film, Iron Will
  • Chinook from the film, Against the Wild
  • Tusky Husky from the animated series, Krypto the Superdog
  • Inca from the film, An Insignificant Harvey
  • Exile from the animated series, Road Rovers
  • Peatty from the film, Snow Buddies


Some popular Siberian Husky cross-breeds include:

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