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Alaskan Husky

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Alaskan husky
 
Alternative names
 
Country of origin
United States (Alaska)
Common nicknames
 
Classification and breed standards
Not recognized by any major kennel club
This breed of dog is extinct
Notes
 

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 “hound crosses”, so perhaps there is informal recognition that the Alaskan husky is expected to display a degree of northern dog type.

The Alaskan is the sled dog of choice for world-class dogsled racing 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 gundogs. Hounds are valued for their toughness and endurance. Winning speeds often average more than 19 miles per hour over three days' racing at 20 to 30 miles 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. Conversely, dogs that fail to perform effectively are worth nothing, and the high levels of culling practiced in many kennels are strongly condemned with animal rights activists.

Appearance

The Alaskan husky is basically a mixed-breed dog, in which northern or ancestry, such as the Siberian Husky or the traditional Alaskan village dog, predominates. Many other breeds have contributed to its genetic makeup, from staghound and foxhound to greyhound and Dobermann, which accounts for 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 for males and 38 to 42 pounds 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.

Colour 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 “dog coats” or belly protectors. Particularly in long distance races, these dogs often require “dog booties” 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.

Temperament

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. (Source: personal communication, Paul Reid, owner of Chocpaw Expeditions in Ontario)

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.

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. In crowded neighborhoods this can be a very irritating nuisance to neighbors, especially other dog owners. 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.

In Alaska they are occasionally killed by wild 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.

Health

The Alaskan Husky generally lives for a period of 16-23 years.

History

The most common Mix-breed that makes up the Alaskan Husky line, is that of a Siberian Husky & Alaskan Malamute. Both are strong and hearty northern breed dogs, with thousand of years of breeding and history in the north country.

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 harbouring 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.


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