Alaskan Husky, Dog Racer

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. The Alaskan Husky 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. Specializations in type exist within the breed, such as freighting dogs (Mackenzie River Husky Malamute), sprint Alaskans (Eurohound), and distance Alaskans. Most Alaskan Huskies have pointy ears, meaning they are in fact classified as a spitz-type dog.

The Alaskan Husky is the sled dog of choice for world-class dog sled racing sprint 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 gun dogs. Hounds are valued for their toughness and endurance. Winning speeds often average more than 19 miles per hour (31 km/h) over three days' racing at 20 to 30 miles (32 to 48 km) each day.

Alaskan huskies that fulfill the demanding performance standards of world-class dogsled racing are extremely valuable. A top-level racing lead dog can be worth $10–15,000. Alaskans that fail to meet the performance standards of the musher who bred them often go on to be sold to less competitive mushers, allowing them to continue to run.

The Alaskan Husky is derived from a mix of northern types, most notably the Siberian Husky. The history of the Alaskan Husky really began with the Gold Rushes of the late nineteenth century; sled and draft dogs used by miners of that era were typically heavy draft dogs with obvious Saint Bernard ancestry. The importation into Alaska of dogs from across the Bering Strait in Siberia in 1908 and subsequent years changed Alaskan sled dogs radically and permanently towards a smaller dog with lighter weight and much greater speed. With the increasing prevalence of motorized winter transport in the mid twentieth century, working sled dogs became less common in the northern villages. The Alaskan sled dog experienced a revival in the 1970s. George Attla, a Native Alaskan from the village of Huslia, was largely responsible for this. Many successful racing dogs today trace their lineage back to Attla dogs.

Alaskan Husky Description

Alaskan Huskies are moderate in size, averaging perhaps 46 to 50 pounds (21 to 25 kg) for males and 38 to 42 pounds (17 to 19 kg) for females. Some of them superficially resemble racing strains of the Siberian Husky breed (which is undeniably part of the Alaskan Husky genetic mix), but are usually taller and larger with more pronounced tuck-up.

Color and markings are a matter of total indifference to racing drivers; Alaskans may be of any possible canine color and any pattern of markings. Eyes may be of any color and are often light blue. Coats are almost always short to medium in length, never long, and usually less dense than those of northern purebreds; the shorter coat length is governed by the need for effective heat dissipation while racing.

In very cold conditions, Alaskans Husky 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 speed. On long distance races they require considerable care and attention on the trail at rest stops.

Alaskan Husky Health

The Alaskan Husky is generally a healthy dog. Some strains are prone to genetic health problems similar to those found in purebred dog breeds. These may include PRA, hypothyroidism, etc. Dogs with an esophagus disorder, termed "wheezers" sometimes occur. This disorder makes the dog unable to bark, but have the ability to produce a low-pitched howling noise. The defect is genetically linked and appears rarely. Theories of common exterior traits among "wheezers" abound, but are conflicting and undocumented. The life span of the Alaskan Husky is usually between 10 to 15 years.

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