What Are the Physical Characteristics of the Alaskan Husky?

by Betty Lewis
The Alaskan husky can vary according to coat, color and size.

The Alaskan husky can vary according to coat, color and size.

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The American Kennel Club recognizes the Siberian husky and Alaskan malamute in its working group, but the AKC does not recognize a breed called an Alaskan husky. The fact is, the Alaskan husky is not a breed but is a category of dog, bred for a specific purpose. His physical characteristics depend on his purpose and his parents.

History Matters

The Alaskan husky's past has everything to do with his present -- and his physical presence. He got his start courtesy of Canadian and Alaskan mushers who needed a hardy working dog. His early jobs included delivering supplies to distant locations, pulling logs, ferrying people place to place and racing for money. Dogs in Inuit villages were bred with other dogs to produce offspring that would excel at whatever tasks were deemed necessary. The result was the Alaskan husky.

Built for Work

When it comes to the Alaskan husky, what's on the inside matters more than what's on the outside. He's been made to work, and his physical characteristics reflect what his job is. Desirable traits include speed, size, coat, gait, stamina and good feet. Greyhounds, Eskimo dogs, Siberian huskies, border collies and German shorthaired pointers are among the breeds usually chosen to breed a litter of Alaskan huskies. For example, a greyhound bred to a Siberian husky will likely produce a fast sled-racing dog. Since he's a mixed-breed, no kennel clubs recognize the Alaskan husky as a specific breed.

One Dog, Many Looks

Based on the dogs typically used for breeding an Alaskan husky, a few generalizations can be applied to the dog's physical characteristics. He usually tips the scales between 38 and 50 pounds, making him a medium-size dog. His coat often ranges between short and medium length, coming in a wide variety of colors and patterns. His head shape may be wedge-shaped if he has Eskimo bloodlines, or he may have a longer muzzle, such as a hound-type dog would have. According to VetStreet.com, since most Alaskan huskies have some spitz bloodline in them, pricked ears are one of the few common physical characteristics among Alaskan huskies.

Keeping Busy

Another common physical characteristic of most Alaskan huskies is their need for exercise. Considering his roots lay in the work he was born to do, it's not surprising that he needs to keep busy, even if he doesn't have a formal job to do. Depending on his heritage, he might like pulling carts or going for long runs with his people, as well as performing agility or herding exercises. Regardless of his heritage, it's wise to engage an Alaskan husky -- left alone and to his own devices, without a form of stimulation or exercise, he is prone to destructive behavior.

General Health

Because they tend to be bred from medium-size dogs, Alaskan huskies tend to have life spans of 10 to 12 years. Alaskan huskies may develop health problems that are common to some purebreds, such as the progressive retinal atrophy that sometimes occurs in Siberian huskies. Knowing your Alaskan husky's bloodlines will help you determine what conditions to watch for.

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