What is an Alaskan Husky?
With the Iditarod around the corner, I will be putting out some articles about different aspects of training, the race, the dogs, the mushers and all the rest, up 'til I am on a sled . Here goes.
What is an Alaskan Husky?
The Alaskan Husky is not a pure bred breed recognized by any official organization, but is defined only by its purpose, which is that of a highly efficient dog that pulls a sled. The Alaskan Husky is a blend of various Nordic breeds that may often be crossed with other breeds for various traits that are looked upon to improve the caliber of that sled dog line. Specializations in type exist within the category, such as freighting dogs (Malamute, McKenzie River Dog), sprint Alaskans (Eurohound), and distance Alaskan Huskies. They are usually not the dog one would envision as “Nanook of the North.”
The typical base of the Alaskan husky sled dog is the Native Village dog. The Interior (of Alaska) village dog is taller and has more leg to it than the coastal Eskimo (Yu’pik) Village types. These dogs arrived with paleo Indians and Eskimos thousands of years ago. Today, Alaskan sled dogs may be crosses of hound , Shepherds, Greyhounds, German Shorthairs or some combination of all. They also range in size and build depending on the use of the dog, such as for racing or for working. A working sled dog may be 50 to 80 lbs. and a racing sled dog is often much smaller than you would expect; often in the 35 to 60 lbs. range for a male or female.
Racing sled dogs vary greatly in type, and may be anything from a purebred Pointer or hound to the modern Eurohound, a sprint dog that is unmatched for winning sprint races (races of 4-20 miles), and is a predominantly black-colored combination of Husky and German Shorthair Pointer. There are also distance Alaskan dogs which can race from 50 to 1,000 miles, and mid-distance dogs which race from 20 to 250 miles. Sled dogs are a combination of bloodlines developed by and best suited to the mushers who run them. Many of them retain the much-sought-after thick, beautiful coat, balanced bodies, and tough feet of other northern breeds. Very friendly and pack orientated, they are meant to run long distances and their metabolisms are to account for a large part of that trait.
The sled dog runs on mainly fat for its energy, while we humans utilize primarily carbohydrates for that purpose, to a large degree. Dogs will often convert completely to using just fat with nearly no requirement for any carbohydrates in their diet. For instance, Iditarod dogs may consume 12,000 to 14, 000 calories a day in heavy training or during the race. A pure eating machine. Kind of like a land based shark.
Resilient, obedient and athletic beyond any other animal on land, this is one truly amazing creature. Nothing matches these athletes.