Siberian Huskies are one of America’s most beloved dogs for their gorgeous appearance, heroic history, and human loyalty. You likely are familiar with the Siberian Husky’s most famous representative, Balto, but did you know he did not complete the longest leg of the infamous trip? How about that Siberian Huskies are decorated war heroes? Following is a list of surprising facts about Alaska’s favorite dog breed.
Siberian Huskies were deployed during World War II as search and rescue and sled dogs
Huskies, along with other sled dogs and large breeds, were utilized during WWII for their ability to traverse long distances in the snow and cold, and to go days without eating. The Siberian Husky was chosen as only one of seven dog breeds deemed fit for combat situations. Primarily employed in the Arctic Circle Search and Rescue Unit, Siberians also found utility during the war as freight dogs, carrying up to 65 lbs of equipment on their backs, and also in communication and daily operations.
Researchers do not yet understand why Huskies can run 100 miles a day without fatigue
Before a race, Huskies have similar metabolic composition as humans. During a race, however, their metabolic structure does not change, and their systems still react as if they were resting. This phenomenon allows them to traverse seemingly impossible distances with little sustenance. Researchers are still trying to determine why this is the case, as only sled dogs have this unique characteristic.
Togo, not Balto, made the longest run during the “Great Race of Mercy”
In 1925, children in Nome, Alaska suffered from a diphtheria outbreak, for which the town had no antidote. Mushers relayed the 5.5 day, 674 mile trip with their sled dogs, racing to get the diphtheria antitoxin to the town in time. The final leg of the trip was run by Balto, which portrayed him as the hero of the trek (complete with a bronze statue), but Togo actually traversed the longest distance, covering 91 miles.
Huskies can be difficult to potty train
Although of the same family as the ultraclean, easy-to-potty-train Shiba Inu, Siberian Huskies can take months to housebreak. The difference is that Siberian Husky pups can be more stubborn than other breeds, and also do not respond well to negative reinforcement.
In 1930, Siberian Huskies were banned from being imported into the United States from Siberia
There is speculation that the North American Siberian Husky is genetically different from the Siberian Huskies left in Siberia today, as a result of “founder effect,” which occurs when genetic variation is lost due to a limited gene pool. Not to be confused with in-breeding, the lack of genetic diversity of North American Huskies may have led to the emergence of a slightly different breed than its Siberian ancestors.
Siberian Huskies are one of the oldest dog breeds, and also among the least “canine.”
Genetically, Siberian Huskies have more DNA similarities with Asian wolves than with the modern dog. However, Huskies are among the oldest dog breed, believing to have been domesticated by the Chukchi of Northeastern Asia over 3,000 years ago!