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The term husky refers to several types of dogs with similar characteristics -- it's not a single breed. The broad name originated from the word "Eskimo" and applies to breeds bred to pull sleds across snow-covered tundra. Husky-type dogs are some of the oldest known breeds of dogs; DNA analysis supports the theory that they descend from wolves in the far northern regions of North America.
Husky Is a General Term
The umbrella term husky covers two different breeds of dogs recognized by the American Kennel Club -- the Siberian husky and the Alaskan Malamute -- and various unofficial mixes of these breeds. Siberians have thicker fur and often feature the easily identifiable blue eyes that are synonymous with the husky name. Alaskan Malamutes are powerful sled dogs more suited to northern climates. Not to be confused with the Malamute, the unofficial Alaskan husky is a sled dog mix bred specifically for racing. He is thinner than his AKC counterparts.
Typical Husky Physical Characteristics
Huskies' thick double coats, which protect against the frigid temperatures of their native environment, may be rust-red, gray, black or white. Huskies are prone to heterochromia, a condition where one eye is a markedly different color from the other. Blue, brown, green and sometimes yellow are typical husky eye colors. Their sharply pointed ears, long muzzles and plumed tails set husky-type dogs apart from other breeds.
How Sociable Are Huskies?
Socially forward animals, huskies do well in a pack setting, whether with other dogs or a human family. Huskies are typically affectionate and protective but can be aloof around strangers. They are eager to please, but they also are incredibly independent and can be a challenge when a battle of the wills occurs. Husky-type dogs are usually naturally social with children; they can do well with other pets if trained properly. Predatory instincts remain strong in these breeds; you'll have to be vigilant when your husky is in the presence of smaller animals.
All Work and Some Play
Hard working and energetic, the husky breeds respond well to sports, tasks and rough-and-tumble play. Their need to run can be frustrating for owners without a large backyard. Those who don't get the exercise they need can become destructive due to stress and pent-up energy. These playful dogs have goofy moments, as well; they easily instigate play with people and other animals.
Twice a year, husky dogs will shed their undercoats, which keep the dogs cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Shaving or clipping a husky takes can have adverse effects. Huskies are always slowly shedding hairs from their top coats, so they keep relatively clean and dirt-free, requiring usually only regular light brushing.