The Differences Between a Siberian and a Quality Siberian
I have heard the question many times at dog shows from people gazing at the contestant dogs: "Why doesn't my husky look like that?" The answer is simple. Quality!
Many people do not educate themselves on their dog's breed before acquiring a puppy. They just look things up as they go along. Many people also do not want to spend the kind of money a quality, responsible breeder will ask for his or her dogs. Instead, some will go for the cheapest dog.
Another deciding factor (which I feel is ill-informed) is the eye color. Many people will only take a blue-eyed Siberian. The fact is, a very large percentage of quality Siberians are brown-eyed or have bi-colored eyes. From experience, and from talking to other handlers, it has become clear that in fact, judges will usually pick a brown or bi-eyed dog over a blue-eyed one. Likewise, a quality breeder will breed for the temperament, health, and conformation of the puppies. Eye color will be the last thing that comes to mind.
What Is a Quality Siberian?
A quality Siberian is one that adheres to the AKC breed standard. The dog does not have to be a champion show dog. It does not even have to carry champion lines. Some breeders do breed quality Siberians and do not have the means to show their dogs. Dog shows are an expensive hobby that not everyone can afford. Therefore, lack of a champion title does not necessarily determine whether the dog is not of quality. To determine the quality of your Siberian, you can read and compare it to the breed standard.
Here are some examples of the differences between show and pet quality Siberians.
Please note, the following paragraph and every part of the breed standard has been directly quoted from "The Complete Dog Book 20th Edition," an official AKC publication. Siberian Husky, pages 330 - 334.
The Siberian Husky is a medium-sized working dog, quick and light on his feet and free and graceful in action. His moderately compact and well furred body, erect ears and brush tail suggest his Northern heritage. His characteristic gait is smooth and seemingly effortless. He performs his original function in harness most capably, carrying a light load at a moderate speed over great distances. His body proportions and form reflect this basic balance of power, speed and endurance. The males of the Siberian Husky breed are masculine but never coarse; the bitches are feminine but without weakness of structure. In proper condition, with muscle firm and well developed, the Siberian Husky does not carry excess weight.
Size Really Does Matter!
Size, Proportion, Substance.
- Height Dogs, 21 to 23½ inches at the withers. Bitches, 20 to 22 inches at the withers.
- Weight Dogs, 45 to 60 pounds. Bitches, 35 to 50 pounds. Weight is in proportion to height. The measurements mentioned above represent the extreme height and weight limits with no preference given to either extreme. Any appearance of excessive bone or weight should be penalized. In profile, the length of the body from the point of the shoulder to the rear point of the croup is slightly longer than the height of the body from the ground to the top of the withers. Disqualification--Dogs over 23½ inches and bitches over 22 inches.
If your Siberian is over these height requirements, he or she is not of show quality. I've had people say that a big Siberian is what they want. Upon hearing this, I usually suggest they find a reputable Malamute breeder, as a reputable Siberian breeder will not breed for extra large dogs.
- Expression is keen, but friendly, interested, and even mischievous.
- Eyes are almond shaped, moderately spaced, and set a trifle obliquely. Eyes may be brown or blue in color, one of each, or parti-colored. Faults: Eyes set too obliquely or too close together.
- Ears are of medium size, triangular in shape, close-fitting, and set high on the head. They are thick, well-furred, slightly arched at the back, and strongly erect with slightly rounded tips pointing straight up. Faults: Ears too large in proportion to the head, too wide set, or not strongly erect.
- Skull is of medium size and in proportion to the body, slightly rounded on top, and tapering from the widest point to the eyes. Faults: Head clumsy or heavy or too finely chiseled.
- Stop is well-defined and the bridge of the nose is straight from the stop to the tip. Fault: Insufficient stop.
- Muzzle is of medium length, that is, the distance from the tip of the nose to the stop is equal to the distance from the stop to the occiput. The muzzle is of medium width, tapering gradually to the nose, with the tip neither pointed nor square. Faults: Muzzle either too snipy or too coarse, too short, or too long.
- Nose is black in gray, tan, or black dogs and liver in copper dogs. May be flesh-colored in pure white dogs. The pink-streaked "snow nose" is acceptable.
- Lips are well pigmented and close fitting.
- Teeth close in a scissors bite. Fault: Any bite other than scissors.
Some of the most noticeable of these are the ears, stop, muzzle, and teeth. Above are some photos of Siberians. One shows incorrect headset, the others are an example of a quality Siberian head.
- Neck is medium in length, arched, and carried proudly erect when dog is standing. When moving at a trot, the neck is extended so that the head is carried slightly forward. Faults: Neck too short and thick or too long.
- Chest is deep and strong, but not too broad, with the deepest point being just behind and level with the elbows. The ribs are well-sprung from the spine but flattened on the sides to allow for freedom of action. Faults: Chest too broad, "barrel ribs," ribs too flat or weak.
- Back is straight and strong, with a level topline from withers to croup. It is of medium length, neither cobby nor slack from excessive length. The loin is taut and lean, narrower than the rib cage, and with a slight tuck-up. The croup slopes away from the spine at an angle, but never so steeply as to restrict the rearward thrust of the hind legs. Faults: Weak or slack back, roached back, or sloping topline.
- Tail is well-furred of fox-brush shape is set just below the level of the topline. It is usually carried over the back in a graceful sickle curve when the dog is at attention. When carried up, the tail does not curl to either side of the body, nor does it snap flat against the back. A trailing tail is normal for the dog when in repose. Hair on the tail is of medium length and approximately the same length on top, sides, and bottom, giving the appearance of a round brush. Faults: A snapped or tightly curled tail, a highly plumed tail or a tail set too low or too high.
- Coat is double and medium in length, giving a well-furred appearance, but is never so long as to obscure the clean-cut outline of the dog. The undercoat is soft, dense, and of sufficient length to support the outer coat. The guard hairs of the outer coat are straight and somewhat smooth lying, never harsh or standing straight off from the body. It should be noted that the absence of the undercoat during the shedding season is normal. Trimming of whiskers and fur between the toes and around the feet to present a neater appearance is permissible. Trimming the fur on any other part of the dog is not to be condoned and should be severely penalized. Faults: Long, rough, or shaggy coat, texture too harsh or too silky, or trimming of the coat, except as permitted above.
The Siberian has three main coat lengths: short, plush, and wooly. Only the plush is breed standard, while wooly and short are not of quality. A wooly coated Siberian has a much thicker undercoat and much longer hair. This coat type hides the shape of the dog, which is why it is a disqualification. While woolies make adorable pets, they are not quality Siberians.
Forequarters and Hindquarters
- Shoulder blades are well laid-back. The upper arm angles slightly backward from point of shoulder to elbow, and is never perpendicular to the ground. The muscles and ligaments holding the shoulder to the rib cage are firm and well-developed. Faults: Straight or loose.
- Forelegs are moderately space, parallel, and straight when dog is standing and viewed from the front, with the elbows close to the body and turned neither in nor out. Viewed from the side, pasterns are slightly slanted, with the pastern joint strong but flexible. Bone is substantial but never heavy. Length of the leg from elbow to ground is slightly more than the distance from the elbow to the top of withers. Dewclaws on forelegs may be removed. Faults: Weak pasterns, too-heavy bone, too narrow, or too wide in the front, or out at the elbows.
- Feet are oval in shape but not long. The paws are medium in size, compact, and well-furred between the toes and pads. The pads are tough and thickly cushioned. The paws neither turn in nor out when the dog is in natural stance. Faults: Soft or splayed toes, paws too large and clumsy, too small and delicate, or toeing in or out.
- Hindquarters are moderately spaced and parallel when dog is standing and viewed from the rear. The upper thighs are well-muscled and powerful, the stifles well-bent, and the hock joint well-defined and set low to the ground. Dewclaws, if any, are to be removed. Faults: Straight stifles, cow-hocks, too narrow or too wide in the rear.
The Siberian Husky's characteristic gait is smooth and seemingly effortless. He is quick and light on his feet, and when in the show ring should be gaited on a loose lead at a moderately fast trot, exhibiting good reach in the forequarters and good drive in the hindquarters. When viewed from the front to rear while moving at a walk, the Siberian Husky does not single-track, but as the speed increases the legs gradually angle inward until the pads are falling on a line directly under the longitudinal center of the body. As the pad marks converge, the forelegs and hind legs are carried straightforward, with neither elbows nor stifles turned in or out. Each hind leg moves in the path of the foreleg on the same side. While the dog is gaiting, the topline remains firm and level.
Faults: Short, prancing, or choppy gait; lumbering or rolling gait; crossing or crabbing.
The characteristic temperament of the Siberian Husky is friendly and gentle, but also alert and outgoing. He does not display the possessive qualities of the guard dog, nor is he overly suspicious of strangers or aggressive with other dogs. Some measure of reserve and dignity may be expected in the mature dog. His intelligence, tractability, and eager disposition make him an agreeable companion and willing worker.
All colors from black to pure white are allowed. A variety of markings on the head is common, including many striking patterns not found in other breeds. There is no disqualification for color, so long as it is not that of another breed (i.e., the dog is a mix).
When Show Quality Is Evident
Another comment I hear is, "My puppy had show potential when I picked him up, and his parents are show-quality. He carries champion lines. But now he's roughly four months of age and doesn't look like he will be of breed quality. Why is this?"
Not only is this a frequently asked question, but I've gone though this myself.
Siberian puppies exhibiting show potential as a pup are likely to keep that potenial as an adult. However, Siberians do go through an awkward growing stage between 3 - 5 months of age. Their ears out-grow their body, as do their legs. Also, they have not grown their adult coat in, and have the short puppy coat with them still. They will normally appear "lanky," because they have not developed their muscles fully. Above are a few pictures of Tux, a show-quality male that I own. At the top of this article you can see that Tux grew back into his true show-quality nature.
The most important breed characteristics of the Siberian Husky are medium size, moderate bone, well-balanced proportions, ease and freedom of movement, proper coat, pleasing head and ears, correct tail, and good disposition. Any appearance of excessive bone or weight, constricted or clumsy gait, or long, rough coat should be penalized. The Siberian Husky never appears so heavy or coarse as to suggest a freighting animal, nor is he so light and fragile as to suggest a sprint-racing animal. In both sexes the Siberian Husky gives the appearance of being capable of great endurance. In addition to the faults already noted, the obvious structural faults common to all breeds are as undesirable in the Siberian Husky as in any other breed, even though they are not specifically mentioned herein.