Huskies started out as the sled dogs that saw use in the polar regions. For those who are curious, the name seems to be a contraction of Huskimos, which seems to be a mispronunciation of Eskimos. In turn, Eskimos is a name with an unclear origin, with the result that there are multiple theories floating about out there. One would be the popular belief that Eskimos means “eaters of raw meat” in Algonquian languages over on the Atlantic coast. Another would be the more recent line of speculation that Eskimos comes from the French esquimaux, meaning “someone who nets snowshoes.” Whatever the case, Eskimos is a name with a rather unpleasant past. There are still circumpolar peoples who use it to refer to themselves. However, other circumpolar peoples see it as derogatory in nature, meaning that interested individuals might want to avoid it unless they are referring to themselves.
Regardless, there is a record of huskies referring to the dogs used by circumpolar peoples in 1852, meaning that it has been in use for a long time. Dogs have been used by the circumpolar peoples for thousands and thousands of years. Generally speaking, they were bred for use as either sled dogs or hunting dogs, which wanted very different sets of characteristics. Huskies continued to see widespread use for transportation in the polar regions until very recent times when the introduction of airplanes, snowmobiles, and semi-trailer trucks replaced them. Even so, they continue to see use as sled dogs. On top of that, huskies have also managed to find a place as household companions for a wide range of people in a wide range of places.
What Are the Differences Between Alaskan Huskies and Siberian Huskies?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there isn’t a single kind of husky. After all, the circumpolar peoples are separated from one another by huge geographical distances, so it stands to reason that different kinds of dogs came into existence in different regions. On top of that, there have been subsequent efforts to develop these dogs for one reason or another, thus resulting in even more kinds of huskies out there. One excellent example would be the Alaskan husky. Those who look it up will realize in an instant that it isn’t a purebred dog. Instead, the Alaskan husky is a mixed-breed dog that has been brought into existence for the purpose of maximizing its performance as a sled dog.
Due to this, there is enormous variation among Alaskan huskies because there are no standards for either how they are supposed to look or how they are supposed to be created, which isn’t even mentioning how these dogs have been bred with breeds from beyond the polar regions for useful characteristics. Still, most Alaskan huskies have been bred for dog sled racing, which is the most popular use for dog sleds in the present time. Furthermore, there is both a kind of Alaskan husky meant for sprints and a kind of Alaskan husky meant for marathons. Besides this, interested individuals should know that Alaskan huskies are smart dogs that happen to be hard workers, which makes sense because they are working dogs.
Meanwhile, Siberian huskies are purebred dogs. For those who are curious, the breed can trace its roots to the Chukchi people of Siberia, who bred its predecessors for sled-pulling as well as for companionship. Eventually, a Russian man named William Goosak brought them to Nome, AK because of the Nome Gold Rush, where they proceeded to become very popular. By 1930, the breed had been recognized by the American Kennel Club, which was followed by similar recognitions by other kennel clubs not that long afterwards. There are still Siberian huskies that see use as sled dogs, but for the most part, the breed now consists of household companions. It is interesting to note that this breed is often confused for the Alaskan Malamute. As a result, some people choose to call these dogs Siberians rather than huskies as a way of emphasizing the fact that they are smaller and lighter animals.
Alaskan huskies and Siberian huskies are close relatives. In fact, they are also close relatives with Alaskan Malamutes, all of which can trace at least some of their roots to the dogs of the Chukchi people. For comparison, these dogs are distinct from both the Canadian Eskimo Dog and the Greenland Dog, which makes sense because of their shared roots. Still, it is very important to note that Alaskan huskies are mixed-breed dogs that don’t have strict standards for either what they are supposed to look like or how they are supposed to have come into existence, while Siberian huskies are purebred dogs that are much less relaxed in both regards.
Why Are These Dogs Related Anyways?
Dogs were domesticated a long time ago. We don’t have a clear idea of when this happened, which isn’t helped by the fact that the line between a wild species and a domesticated species can be very blurry when it comes to the edge cases. However, it is clear that the domestication of the dog happened so long ago that the Paleo-Indians had canine companions when they made their way to the Americas. For those who are unfamiliar, the best-supported theory is that Paleo-Indians crossed from eastern Siberia to Alaska about 17,000 years ago, which was helped by lower sea levels caused by the Pleistocene glaciation. After which, they proceeded to spread throughout the Americas. The dogs that they brought with them were the ancestors of Pre-Columbian dogs.
Unfortunately, most of the dogs that exist in the Americas in the present time are descended from dogs brought over from Eurasia rather than Pre-Columbian dogs. Chihuahuas are notable exceptions to this rule. Similarly, Alaskan huskies, Siberian huskies, and their close relatives are also exceptions to this rule. Of course, they have partial descent from dogs brought over from Eurasia, as shown by how Alaskan huskies have been bred with everything from Greyhounds for increased speed to Kangals for a stronger work ethic. However, huskies are more closely related to Pre-Columbian dogs than the overwhelming majority of other dogs out there, which makes them rather unusual as well as rather interesting.