Alaskan husky dogs: characteristics and breeding
The peculiarities and habits of the best sled dogs
The Husky Village dog sledding centre in the province of Sondrio is home to more than 60 sled dogs that allow you to try the exciting experience of being a musher driving a real sled pulled by dogs on the snow. All the dogs in the facility are Alaskan huskies, a particular type of Nordic breed of dog not to be confused with Siberian huskies, with which they share affinities but also important differences. Let’s find out more about the characteristics and temperament of the Alaskan husky.
Origins and appearance of the Alaskan Husky
As the name suggests, the Alaskan husky breed originates from the far north of the American continent and its origin is still quite uncertain: some estimate that the first specimens appeared as long as 12,000 years ago, while the most widely accepted theories place the birth of the Alaskan huskies just a few centuries before today, when they were selected by settlers in the North American regions to obtain dogs with greater performance and resistance in the prohibitive northern conditions. Technically, it would not even be correct to speak of a breed, as it is not officially recognised by the FCI (International Kennel Federation), but of a type or category: in fact, it certainly shares its ancestors with the Siberian huskies, the Alaskan Malamutes and the Nordic breed dogs of the Inuit villages.
Alaskan huskies are dogs that look very similar to the sled dogs of the north, with a short to medium but not long coat, unlike Siberian huskies, and always soft. The colour of the Alaskan huskies is perhaps the element that best distinguishes them at first sight: they are not white huskies, as is commonly thought of Nordic dogs, but dark, grey or black dogs with brown eyes. The Alaskan huskies have been selected over a long period of time and nowadays have an agile and powerful musculature and are taller and more slender than the Siberian huskies, enabling them to run fast in the snow and pull heavy weights, making them the perfect sled dogs.
Alaskan Huskies: Character and Temperament
Alaskan huskies are sociable dogs. This aspect of their character comes from their historical habit of living in groups, working in teams and being in direct contact with humans. The fact that these Nordic breed dogs love company means that all visitors to the Husky Village, at the end of the sled ride through the Valdidentro woods, can take part in a moment of familiarisation with the dogs, during which they can get to know the huskies that have driven their sleds and cuddle them. However, their temperament should not lead you to consider them as domestic or house dogs: Alaskan huskies are to all intents and purposes sled and racing dogs, athletes who love running on the snow and living in the middle of nature, used to very low temperatures.
By their nature, Alaskan huskies are extremely competitive dogs. They can tolerate fatigue and exhaustion very well and can easily sustain long training sessions and runs in nature in the middle of winter. They are stubborn animals – which is why it is necessary to educate them from the time they are puppies -, they need to have precise objectives and always be engaged in physical activities: running is what makes them happiest and thanks to dog sledding here at Husky Village in Valdidentro they can do this every day.
Alaskan huskies as sled dogs
Alaskan huskies were born as sled dogs, in places and times when sledding was the only mean of transport in the most extreme weather conditions. For centuries, mushers have used these dogs to pull their sleds, making the most of their natural gifts: resistance to fatigue and cold temperatures, speed, power, the ability to work in a team and to obey the sled driver’s voice commands.
Sledding dogs can withstand temperatures as low as -40° C, run at average speeds of 18/20 km/h in long distance and 30 km/h in sprinting, and pull 35 to 70 kg for hours. Obviously, we don’t expose our huskies to these extreme situations here at Husky Village, but our sled dogs are all highly selected: they have a very strong pedigree and a direct bloodline with huskies that have competed in the world’s most important sledding races (find out about the Iditarod, the most famous sled race). This, too, makes the sleddog experience in Valtellina a special adventure: driving a sled pulled by dogs that are true one-of-a-kind champions is something that doesn’t happen every day.