If you’re wondering whether Huskies are wolves or not, you’re not alone.
This article will tackle the Husky’s origin.
Keep reading to find out:
- How many % of DNA do Huskies and wolves share exactly.
- What the physical differences between Huskies and wolves are.
- Who lives longer – the Husky or the wolf? And what the difference in years is.
- What a wolfdog is and whether it’s a good idea to have one as a pet (and why).
- Plus much more…
Despite similarities in appearance, Huskies are not wolves. Huskies are related to wolves. But they are not any more closely related than other dog breeds. Dogs and wolves share a common ancestor. But through evolution and domestication, wolves and Huskies are now completely different animals.
15 Interesting facts about Huskies
#1: Husky ancestry
For many years, people thought that Huskies were direct descendants of Gray wolves. But the truth behind Husky ancestry may be a bit more complicated.
New studies suggest that Huskies did not evolve from Gray wolves directly. Instead, it appears these two animals share a common ancestor.
That common ancestor was the Taimyr wolf. This wolf lived in Siberia but is now extinct.
Evidence suggests that wolves and dogs began following different lineages around 27,000 years ago. Despite the split, both animals still share DNA with the Taimyr wolf.
The modern-day genetic breakdown looks like this.
|Percent of DNA shared with Taimyr wolf|
Modern wolves are much more closely related to Taimyr wolves. Huskies only carry a small fraction of shared DNA.
So, what does this mean?
Wolves and Huskies are different animals. But their DNA shows that they are related.
But how related are they? Read on to find out.
#2: Genetic difference between wolves and Huskies
How different are Huskies and wolves on a scientific level?
When it comes to genetics, wolves and Huskies share 98% of their mitochondrial DNA. This means they are close relatives compared to all other animals.
But that other 2% can make a big difference. The truth is, even a slight difference in genes matters a lot.
For example, let’s consider humans and cats. We all agree that felines and people are completely different.
But how much DNA do you think we share with cats? The answer may be shocking to you.
Humans and cats share a 90% similarity in genetics. That 10% clearly makes a world of difference.
For Huskies and wolves, the difference is smaller. But the 2% of unshared genetics account for major variations in behavior and appearance.
#3: Types of Huskies
Today there are a few different breeds of huskies. These breeds have developed through evolution and domestication by humans.
Here are some of the most common types of Huskies:
- Alaskan Husky.
- Siberian Husky.
- Alaskan Malamute.
Some dogs are similar to Huskies. But these breeds are not necessarily true Huskies.
One example of this is the Samoyed Husky. This dog is a completely different breed even though it shares the Husky name.
Here are some other examples of Huskies – these breeds are true Huskies, but they tend to be a bit less common:
- Chinook Dog.
- Greenland Dog.
- Labrador Husky.
- Miniature Husky.
These Huskies all have different temperaments. So, make sure you know which is right for you when choosing your next pet.
#4: History of the relationship between Huskies and humans
Research suggests that humans have selectively bred Huskies for thousands of years. This may have started as far back as 15,000 years ago.
This is one of the earliest examples of humans domesticating animals.
The indigenous tribes were responsible for much of this early domestication.
They bred Huskies expressly to develop two specific abilities:
- Pulling loads with speed for long distances.
- Maintaining strength and endurance in very cold weather.
Today, we know Huskies as sled-pulling dogs. Races like the Iditarod have made Huskies famous for this ability.
Odds are, they played the same role in prehistoric times. Huskies likely played a big role in helping people get around in cold climates.
Huskies draw on their pack mentality when pulling sleds. This allows large groups of dogs to work together as a team.
Huskies also have a large lung capacity and amazing strength. Because of this, they can run quickly for hours without becoming exhausted.
Their size is a factor as well. Huskies are medium-sized and that plays to their advantage.
If Huskies were bigger, pumping blood to their extremities would be more difficult. If they were smaller, their strength might be limited.
This means they’re just the right size to be champion sled pullers.
Humans interaction is part of the reason for this ideal size.
The following groups are known to have influenced the development of Huskies:
- The Inuit.
- The Chukchi people.
- The Mahlemut people.
These people groups helped to create the Husky breeds we know today.
It is no surprise that the Mahlemut people bred the Alaskan Mahlemut Husky. The Chukchi people get credit for developing the Siberian Husky.
Both these breeds remain popular today. They also still have the same impressive athletic abilities.
But since the beginning, Huskies have been much more than beasts of burden. These dogs have always been a part of the family.
The fossil record is proof of this. Based on that evidence, it seems that Huskies and humans shared meals together.
But ancient human affection for dogs went beyond that.
One finding revealed that past humans went to great lengths to treat dogs with respect. For example, they gave them ceremonial burials.
Archeologists have found dog remains that were carefully buried. The dogs’ bodies were carefully laid out.
In one case, it appears that human remains were moved from where they were buried. Why? To make space for a dog burial.
There may be no better evidence of the love humans and dogs share.
#5: Not a hunting dog
Although Huskies have a long history of helping humans, they can’t do it all. For example, Huskies are not the ideal hunting dog.
This is the result of a few different influences:
- Overall friendly demeanor.
- Independence and stubbornness.
- Thousands of years of specific breeding goals.
Huskies are powerful dogs. But don’t expect to take advantage of that on your next hunting trip.
After centuries of sled pulling, naturally, that is what Huskies remain good at.
Huskies also tend to be a little bit stubborn in their personalities. This means they won’t go chasing after a wounded duck just because you said so.
Huskies are also gentle creatures by nature. This trait does not lend itself to hunting or acting as a guard dog.
#6: Huskies have friendly personalities
What makes a Husky a great pet? The first reason is they are very friendly.
These dogs get along with adults and kids alike. Before long, they will become a vital member of your family.
Do you know who isn’t so friendly? You guessed it the Husky’s relative: the gray wolf.
When it comes to temperament, these two animals could not be more different. Wolves need aggression to survive in their harsh habitats.
Huskies are quiet. These dogs are almost always happy to meet new people. But while this is a great trait to have, there may be a downside.
Some want a dog to keep watch over their house at night. Those people will need to find a different breed. The friendly demeanor of Huskies means they are not the best guard dogs.
#7: Huskies are great communicators
Huskies like to express themselves by using these methods:
Those noises may sound strange to us. But to a Husky, it is just a normal way to ‘talk.’
These verbal cues come from the wolves that Huskies descended from. As Huskies evolved, they maintained this expressive ability.
Huskies like to talk to their other Husky friends. But they also like to chat with humans.
But if you thought Husky communication was a one-way street, think again!
You can talk right back to your pet Husky. And you would be surprised by how much they can understand. It turns out, they are great listeners.
Want to know how to talk to your Husky in a way they understand?
Here are some tricks you can use:
That’s right! Your Husky can read your facial expressions. When you talk to your dog, use a relaxed face. And be sure to break eye contact. Your Husky might see unbroken eye contact as a threat.
Huskies can read your body language as well. Again, keep a calm posture. Make sure any physical cues are simple and clear.
How you speak matters just as much as what you have to say. Maintain a strong confident voice when talking to your Husky.
Sharing information with your Husky is easier than you might think. Use the tricks above to make sure you and your Husky understand each other.
#8: Size matters
Temperament is not the only area in which Huskies and wolves differ. They also grow to different sizes.
You might guess that a wolf is bigger than a Husky. If that’s your guess… you’re right!
But how big is this size difference?
Take a look.
|Female Husky||Female Wolf||Male Husky||Male Wolf|
|Weight||35-50 lbs./16-23kg.||50-125 lbs./23-57kg.||45-60 lbs./20-27kg.||50-175 lbs./23-79kg.|
A full-grown wolf is a bit taller than a full-grown Husky. But the average difference is not an extreme amount. Generally, wolves are about six inches taller.
Weight is a different matter. Look back at the chart above.
Clearly, wolves can be much heavier than Huskies. Sometimes wolves can weigh almost 10 pounds more.
#9: Eye color
Wolves tend to have one consistent eye color. That color is consistently yellow to amber. Hopefully, you haven’t come close enough to find that out for yourself.
Husky eyes have much more variation.
Here are some of the interesting colors Husky eyes can have:
That is a lot of options for eye color.
But did you know that all Huskies start their lives with similar eyes?
As puppies, Huskies all have blue eyes. It isn’t until about two months of life that Husky eyes begin to change.
The color may remain blue, or it could turn to one of the other colors in the list above. Husky eyes settle on their permanent color in about three to four months.
But these colors are not simple. Even brown Husky eyes can vary. They may be light brown like a wolf. Or they may be a very dark brown.
But what about bi-eyed and parti-eyed Huskies?
About 15% of Huskies are bi-eyed. This means one eye is one color and the other is a different color. In most bi-eyed Huskies, one eyes is blue and the other is brown.
Parti-eyed Huskies are even rarer. These Huskies have multiple colors in each eye. Most often, these eyes show a blend of blue and brown.
These colors are surprising to see. But don’t worry if your Husky has a unique eye color. These colors are not a sign of bad sight or any other health problem.
#10: The double coat
Here’s one way wolves and Huskies are similar. Both are well-equipped to deal with cold temperatures.
If you went to Siberia in winter, I am sure you would bring a coat. Well…
Wolves and Huskies have two coats:
- The topcoat – Made of long thick hairs.
- The undercoat – Made of soft fine hairs.
These two coats work together to help these animals survive harsh winter climates.
The topcoat is protective.
These hairs are coarser and responsible for:
- Repelling water.
- Blocking UV rays.
- Allowing airflow in warm weather.
Topcoat hairs are straight. Huskies will gradually shed these hairs throughout the year.
The undercoat traps heat to keep Huskies and wolves warm. The hairs are smaller and can be slightly curled. They are also denser than topcoat hairs.
Huskies shed their undercoat in warm weather. And this happens quickly.
Unlike topcoat hairs, undercoat hairs fall quickly. Huskies can shed their undercoats in only about two weeks.
When cold weather returns, so does the undercoat. This coat is responsible for the Husky’s thick fluffy texture.
But there is one other kind of Husky coat that is rarer
This coat is called a wooly coat. A wooly coat is the same as a normal double coat. But there is one difference.
The guard hairs of a wooly coat are much longer than usual. This is a great option for people who like long-haired dogs.
But be careful. There is one downside to the wooly coat.
Wooly coats are less effective when it comes to keeping Huskies warm.
But how can this be? Shouldn’t a wooly coat keep a Husky even warmer than a normal coat?
The problem is that the longer guard hairs take longer to dry. This can be a serious threat in cold weather.
The long guard hairs are also softer than normal guard hairs. This makes them less efficient in repelling ice and water.
#11: Fur Color
Speaking of coats, Husky fur can have many different colors.
Just like their eyes, Husky coats are far from dull. There are many color options and combinations.
Some of the most common coat colors are:
- Pure white.
- Red and white.
- Gray and white.
- Black and white.
Husky coats are typically multi-colored. But in some rare cases, they can be completely white.
A sable coat has multi-colored guard hairs. These guard hairs are light brown at the root and black at the tip. This produces a color that is light red overall.
Similarly, agouti coats also have two-toned guard hairs. These hairs are black at the roots and the tips. The middle part of each hair is beige. This complex coloration gives the agouti coat a wild appearance.
Just like Huskies, wolves can also have different coat colors such as:
- Pure black.
- Pure white.
- Light brown.
- Black and white.
- Black and brown.
These coat colors make wolves and Huskies very attractive animals. It is no wonder Huskies are such popular pets!
One difference between wolves and Huskies is their lifespans. Lucky for you, the advantage lies on the Husky side.
Your pet Husky will likely outlive a wolf. I’m sure that is news you are happy to hear.
Much of this is due to lifestyle. Of course, a wolf usually lives in the wild. This harsh lifestyle is part of the reason they die younger.
A wolf must struggle to find food and ward off threats all its life. Meanwhile, your Husky is enjoying the good care you provide.
With luck, your Husky will probably live into its teenage years. But there is one big factor that can shorten this lifespan in dogs.
Purebred dogs tend to have a lot of health problems.
This is true for Huskies as much as any other breed. In Huskies, these problems usually diminish the quality of life rather than shorten lifespan.
Some of the problems purebred Huskies face are:
- Hip dysplasia.
- Progressive retinal atrophy.
As an owner, you want to do everything you can to limit these problems.
Keep your Husky in shape
Huskies that exercise are leaner. Leaner dogs usually live longer. Avoid over-feeding as well.
A spayed female has the longest life of any Husky
Vaccinate and control parasites
Heartworm threatens your Husky’s life. But it is avoidable. Likewise, make sure your Husky is fully vaccinated.
The last tip when it comes to lifespan involves breeding. You want your Husky to live a long healthy life. To make that happen, find a great breeder.
A responsible breeder screens for health defects before allowing breeding to occur. Make sure you buy a Husky pup with a solid pedigree.
Overall, Huskies are a strong breed. That’s why they have a relatively long life compared to other large dog breeds.
Just make sure you do what you can to prevent common Husky health problems.
#13: How Huskies keep warm in winter
As I mentioned in #10, Huskies have thick coats. But that is not their only means of keeping warm.
Huskies live in areas with extremely cold temperatures. They must withstand wind, ice, and snow.
To do so, they have developed some special characteristics:
Huskies have almond-shaped eyes. This shape allows them to protect their sensitive eye tissues from the cold. While squinting, snow can’t enter the eye, but the Husky can still see.
The ear canal is also sensitive to cold. Huskies have fur on the outside and inside of their ears. This fur acts as a built-in earmuff.
A Husky tail is fluffy and curled. This allows Huskies to cover their faces with their tails as they sleep. This traps heat in.
Huskies are constantly walking on snow and ice. For protection, their paws are very fluffy. They also have thick leathery skin to help as well.
All of the abovementioned useful traits allow Huskies to survive in extremely cold parts of the world.
#14: Huskies in hot weather
So, by now you’re aware that Huskies thrive in cold climates. But can they survive in hot weather too?
The short answer is yes. But having a Husky in a hot climate requires special treatment.
You always need to have a cool shaded place for your Husky to rest. Constant direct sunlight is a horrible environment for these dogs.
You also need to be careful about exercise. Huskies need to be active, but in hot climates, don’t make your Husky exercise outside in the midday sun.
As long as you are careful you can have a Husky in almost any climate. Just make sure they have the opportunity to cool off.
#15: Husky/wolf hybrids
Need more proof that Huskies and wolves are closely related? How about the fact that they can successfully mate and produce offspring?
Only animals that are of close genetic relatives are able to do this. The hybrid that results from a Husky and wolf is called a wolfdog.
Many people may be tempted to own a wolfdog. But it might not be the best idea.
The first issue is that the wolfdog will have some behaviors similar to its wolf parent. This means that the wolfdog will be much wilder than other pet dogs.
If you get a wolfdog, don’t assume it will act like a normal dog. Why?
Because it is not your typical dog.
Note: A wolfdog is still partially a wild animal. Wild animals are extremely hard to tame.
A wolfdog is likely to be more aggressive and territorial. It might even challenge you for the position of alpha in your family ‘pack.’
To own a wolfdog you need to give it special treatment such as:
- Giving your wolfdog at least one acre to roam.
- Building complex fencing to contain your wolfdog.
- Feeding you wolfdog multiple pounds of raw meat each day.
- Giving your wolfdog at least four hours of intense exercise per day.
Clearly a wolfdog is much harder to take care of than a normal dog.
Even if you meet the criteria above, your work is far from done
Owning a wolfdog means employing rigorous training. This is partially because wolfdogs have far less experience in interacting with humans.
First, you will need to use a rare type of training called mimicking. This is how wolves in the wild learn from their parents.
You should also remember that wolfdogs are very social. It is your responsibility to carefully socialize your wolfdog.
If you don’t socialize your wolfdog, it may attack other people or animals. This is simply part of the nature of the wolfdog’s survival instinct.
You must also establish yourself as the leader. If not, your wolfdog might believe they are in charge.
Also, be aware that wolfdogs are expensive. Because they are rare, breeders can raise prices as much as they want.
If you buy a wolfdog it may seem mild at first. But at about three months it will begin to exhibit wild behavior.
In general, wolfdogs are not a good family pet. You can bring one into your home at your own risk.
Huskies and wolves have many similarities. But there are many other ways in which these animals are completely different.
Huskies are not only majestic creatures; they are also extremely loving pets.
For centuries they have helped humans travel in the harshest of climates. Today they are here to help you make a happy home.