Husky Breeds for Dog Sledding – the difference between Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Huskies?

At Nature Travels, we regularly receive questions from our guests regarding the huskies used on our dogsled tours. Typical questions include:

  • What’s the difference between a Siberian Husky and an Alaskan Husky?
  • What kind of huskies will I have on my tour?
  • Will the huskies in my team be “pure-bred”?

Siberian Husky (along with Alaskan Malamute, Greenland dogs and Samoyeds) is a recognised breed (and can therefore be registered), while Alaskan Husky is not recognised as a distinct breed and the term is often used more generally to describe dogs suitable for and used in dog sledding. Alaskan Huskies can therefore be quite varied in terms of their size, build, colouring, etc.

The characteristics that make a good show dog are not necessarily the same as those which make a good working sled dog. Working dogs are bred and selected for qualities such as tolerance to low temperatures, stamina, good metabolism, strong paws, ease of training and (one of the most important qualities) sociability, both with other dogs and with humans. Show qualities are therefore not prioritised in the selecting and breeding of working huskies and the dogs most successful in competition sledding will almost never been completely “pure-bred”.

In short-distance sled racing, it is common that other breeds (especially bird-dog breeds) are mixed in with the husky genes to produce the best dogs. For dogs suitable for longer distances (such as the dogsled tours we offer and for distance competition), mixed-breed dogs are much less common.

Nature Travels offer a very wide range of dog sledding holidays in both Sweden and Norway, from 4-day family-friendly husky tours to challenging 12-day mountain dog sledding expeditions. The characteristics of the dogs chosen for these tours will vary depending on a number of factors, such as the kind of sledding they will be doing (shorter vs longer tours), the climate and weather conditions of the area in which the tours take place, which dogs work well together in particular teams or in particular roles, and of course the personal preference of the musher!

For example:

  • Our Discover Dog Sledding in Lapland, Husky Mountain Expedition in Lapland and Northern Lights Dog Sledding in Lapland tours use mostly pure-breed Siberian Huskies.
  • For our Aurora Husky Adventure in Finnmark and Husky Sledding in the Arctic Tundra tours, Alaskan Huskies (that is, polar dogs that have their origin in Alaska) are used. All the dogs used are pure Husky without the involvement of any other blood. They are polar dogs that are bred exclusively for sled dog characteristics in general, but long distance/expeditions in particular, so will have blue or brown eyes, mixed colouring, etc.
  • For our Siberian Husky Dogsled Adventure, Mushing in the Mountains and Dog Sledding Across Jämtland experiences, pure Siberian huskies are used almost exclusively, with a small number of dogs at the kennels being mixed Alaskan/Greenland dogs.

Dog sledding is very much a partnership of human and animal – you will be an integral part of the team (though the only one with two legs!) – and whatever huskies make up the team used for your dogsled tour, you will be overwhelmed by their affection and trusting nature and the joy they derive from their work. It’s very common for the tears to flow when it’s time to say goodbye at the end of your trip!

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