The Differences Between a Siberian and a Quality Siberian

Tux, my Siberian, at seven months old, exhibiting correct head, tail, and coat.
Tux, my Siberian, at seven months old, exhibiting correct head, tail, and coat.

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.

General Appearance

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.

The Head

A Siberian showing excellent headset.
A Siberian showing excellent headset. | Source
  • 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.

Coat Variations

The "plush" coat of this Siberian adheres to the breed standard.
The "plush" coat of this Siberian adheres to the breed standard. | Source
A "wooly" Siberian, a coat length disqualified by the breed standard.
A "wooly" Siberian, a coat length disqualified by the breed standard. | Source
A sable-colored Siberian Husky.
A sable-colored Siberian Husky. | Source
  • 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.

Coat Elaboration

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

Tux at eight weeks of age, just before picking him up from his breeder. He is showing correct movement, headset, tail set, and build.
Tux at eight weeks of age, just before picking him up from his breeder. He is showing correct movement, headset, tail set, and build.
Tux at four months of age. His ears and legs have outgrown him and his adult coat has not come in yet.
Tux at four months of age. His ears and legs have outgrown him and his adult coat has not come in yet.

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.

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Comments 25 comments

BTaylor 4 months ago

How pretentious can you get? As the owner of a wooly coat Siberian, I do not understand why there cannot be a separate grouping to prevent breeders from killing these beautiful dogs. We cannot go anywhere with her without someone commenting on how beautiful she is. Woolys are a better looking dog that your "standard". The wooly coat Siberian story is unknown to most and incredibly sad. There is a long hair dachshund breed. Why not a Siberian?

Rhonda Gilbert 7 months ago

how can I attach a photo?

Rhonda Gilbert 7 months ago

have a look at my Siberian husky x Australian cattle dog. How lovely he is. He is the most amazing dog in the world. The other day I went to the shops not knowing I had accidentally let me out of the house. 2klms away I was standing at bakers delight getting my bread and I felt a wet nose on my leg. It was my husky who must have followed me there. I hope he took the path and not the road. also when he was a pup I had two work men come to the door and demand lunch because Doug ate all their lunches including their fruit.

katy 9 months ago

hi, can i get your email? i want to send you some picture of my husky. i want you to determine if my husky is in good qualification. keep in touch thank you best regards

Willow 13 months ago

This is a great article. The people who take offense at terms such as "pet" or "quality" are always going to be pissy about something. They don't get it and never will. Thanks for including the AKC standard and for writing an informative blog. I've owned both show quality Sibes and pet quality and they are a delightful breed. Nonetheless, I learned a lot from reading so I thank you very much.

Lizzie 14 months ago

This article was very long winded .

I came here looking for a short answer of what the difference was between a quality Siberian and a Siberian husky.(I thought they were different breeds )but my conclusion of this is they are not different breeds not even different types of dog just some ones idea of a show dog!

Mary 15 months ago

Please, do look up pictures of Balto. Then you'll know what a purebred Siberian Husky REALLY looks like......

Elsa 16 months ago

If we want to be honest, the only purebred dogs were those of the Chukchi people who actually started the breed. We cannot even begin to speculate what happened during the time it took those Alaskan traders to bring the Chukchi dog(as it was called at first) from Siberia to Alaska and then to the rest of the world. Who knows what kind of mixes took place along the way. I would just like to point out that according to records that reach all the way back to 1908-when the first team of Siberian Huskies reached Alaska and in 1930 the USA-the dogs adressed as "pet quality" are actually much closer to the dogs the Chukchi people used to breed, which are, as a matter of fact, the only ones that we can adress as purebred without a shadow of a doubt.

Nobody says that wanting to "better" the breed is bad. As a matter of fact, having a standard and breeding according to it might help reduce the dogs sold through puppy mills. However, it is-at the very least-rude to pin a label of "low" or "pet" quality to a dog just because he isn't being trotted aroud a ring.

If we want to be partial and honest, the initial purpose of the Chukchi Dog, the reason it was bred for, was to pull sleds and be a companion to humans. Why don't we judge the quality, just how "purebred" a dog is according to whether he achieves the initial purpose it was bred for? If that were the case, then the sled dogs many look down uppon would be the ones considered "purebred." Let's just watch it a bit with the labels. But these are just my thoughts...........

Stephen 18 months ago

Well said show stopper.

Mya Husky 24 months ago

So Mya the husky is a beautiful dog that grabs lot of attention when going on are walks. My favorite thing about Mya is her soft coat. She's 4 years old and still so soft like a pillow.

How do I look for another husky with this amazing fur? I never come across many Huskies that look or fell like her.

So my question do quality huskies have amazing soft fur as adults?

Working Sibes 2 years ago

Togo was 1/4 Malamute? He only weighed 49 lbs and his parents were imported from Siberia. How could he have had any Malamute mix in him? That's just absurd.

Kim 2 years ago

My husky is a rescue dog, supposingly show quality. However, the previous owner over fed her and did not give exercise. She is now pudgy and her hind legs are not so good and she's a little shorter than most huskies ive seen. She's 10 months now. I don't really care if she is show or not show, the reason why I'm here is because Im curious to know what is the ideal size of a husky (i.e. is she too fat or too short etc)

dom 3 years ago

just curious... if you breed champion show dog to champion show dog, do all of them turn out to be 'quality siberians'?

sj 3 years ago

You have no idea what you are talking about.

alex 3 years ago

i like all the improper dogs better

the other ones look too thick

and i like the longer mouth its looks more rugged intelligent and over all more wild.


Maribel 3 years ago

My siberian husky is a rescue dog, he has brown eyes and I love him, it's true so many people like blue eyes

frebu 3 years ago

Am I the only one that thinks the pet quality example for tail form( is the best looking dog on the page?

ShowStopper 3 years ago

^^^LOL at this person (who, based on the language, sounds like the author getting offended that someone stomped all over their article). Not only are you lashing out over a very reasonable and plausible response, you are coming off as incredibly uneducated about Siberians and dogs in general, and the way you look down your nose at dogs NOT bred for the show ring is blatantly evident.

But the part that cracked me up the most was all that ridiculous touting of show dogs because they need a lot of training, I guess in rebuttal to part about trotting their fat asses around the ring, because ALL THIS TRAINING makes them better than sled dogs or something. I've been in the breed ring with Pugs, Akitas, and everything in between, and the very idea that they need an excessive amount of training to show and finish their championship is laughable. Most of our dogs are ready to go inside of a week or two, maybe more if the dog had no leash training or socialization whatsoever. Some of the dogs are only handed off to us right before we enter the ring. Any dogs we campaign as a special don't get any extra training either, they just spend enough time in the ring that they know the drill. While I've never been around or trained a sled dog in my life, I am CERTAIN it requires a little more than learning how to look at food, stand still, and trot around merrily.

I might also add that most show dogs are expected to be a little fatter than a well tuned working dog. We even call it "show dog fat" when a dog is in that type of condition. Compared to a Siberian that's bred and raised to pull a sled, it's completely night and day. One is fluffed and fed and pampered and probably air conditioned, and the other is... not.

That's not to say there aren't any that do both. Plenty of breeders have both show dogs and racing sled dogs. Some show their sled dogs. Some race their show dogs. (Forgetting the snide reference to working dogs here, "A show dog can be a working dog but a working dog will never be a show dog??? What kind of ass backwards logic is that?) But while there are certainly plenty of sled dogs that could just as easily be paraded around a show ring, the point that you seem to be missing is that a Siberian that doesn't look like a show dog is still capable of being a quality dog, and it doesn't make him some backyard bred mutt with poor bloodlines. In fact, the mixed breeding you referred to hose are referred to Alaskan Huskies, NOT Siberian Huskies (this is what leads me to believe you aren't as educated on Siberians as you pretend to be). Most Siberian breeders who are breeding purely for sledding are still breeding purebred, REGISTERED dogs.

As for quality, apples to oranges, but I think suggesting that a Sibe can only be judged by their fluffy coat and the shape of their head is incredibly misguided. Even suggesting that anything else is "pet" quality is a bit rude. A working dog certainly isn't a PET, nor do they offer them as such. However, telling someone that their dog isn't bred by a "quality" breeder because the hair is wrong, the shape of the head is wrong, or the dog isn't fat enough IS ignorant (and no, that filled out look doesn't come from muscle, it comes from FAT. canine physiology 101). Suggesting that anything other than a dog that looks like it just stepped out of the show ring is "pet" quality and didn't come from a responsible breeder is complete hogwash. I don't know if you're getting this, because you have this preconceived notion that show dogs are so much better than any other kind of dog.

Take it from someone who has actually been in a breed ring, many many times: Breed standards to not equate to quality. They equate to a dog that won a beauty pageant. There's really nothing terribly special about a dog that spent hours on a grooming table being brushed and fluffed. They're just a lot of smoke and mirrors. They are bred to move at a set speed at the end of the leash, their hocks slip so they can fling their back legs around inefficiently when they move, and their front toes point in so that they always walk into a free stack straight. I call them Show Dog Feet. Many times bigger boned breeds are given to weak knees as well, and aren't NEARLY as straight off their toes as they should be. They like to call this "flex" but there's flex that allows the dog to move without jarring his bones, and then there's FLEX which makes me think he used to stand on his heels as a puppy. It's just a nice word for weakened knee structure. In the case of Siberians, their tails don't even curl over their back (no seriously, do you even know what "sickle tail" means???). At any rate, they aren't bred to be quality. They're bred to win, with a generic show dog winning look, and in the end, that's all that matters.

On the contrary, a working dog has brains, agility, speed, endurance, and isn't just bred to be healthy and sound because it's a responsible thing to do, they're bred that way because they HAVE to be. This is why a lot of breeders try to put titles on their show dogs, to prove that they can do something other than stand and trot. But I'm going to drill this home, because in an effort to get all butt hurt about someone's opinion of a poorly worded article you completely missed the point that was being made: Just because a dog doesn't adhere to beauty pageant standards doesn't mean it's not a quality dog and that someone shouldn't be proud, nay, excited to own such a dog. A quality Siberian could very well have a shorter coat, a refined head, and a lean body. As long as it is structurally correct, sound, healthy, and free from erratic temperamental problems, then there is a chance they came from a very good set of dogs and a very respectable breeder, and when obtaining a dog, knowing more about things that are ACTUALLY the difference between quality and crappola is going to go a lot farther than winning a beauty contest.

By the way, an interesting tidbit regarding those stoppy heads and full fluffy coats that seem to denote so much "quality", you should probably know that it's an inbred genetic trait that comes from a single dog in Siberian bloodlines named Togo. Togo, as it happens, was 1/4 Alaskan Malamute. They added him to the stud book so that his hair and bone could lend to the Siberians a bit of endurance. At the time I don't think anyone expected him to become the standard for all Siberian Huskies, but there you have it. The fluffy uniformly colored show dogs go back to Togo AT LEAST 8 times, although it's probably more like 16-20, as it doubles every time a new generation of litters is born (think white tiger here). Even the sled dogs go back to him at least 3 or 4 times. Because of this many breeders who are still breeding working Sibes are making a huge effort to move away from the inbred Siberian-Malamute mixes that have polluted the accepted "look" of what was once a very unique group of dogs.

And just to prove I'm not making any of this crap up, I'll provide some lovely reading material:

And an example of a different kind of breeder, maybe to open your eyes a little bit:

Get off your high horse 4 years ago

Mushtastic it sounds like you need to do your research. This article is about breed standard, not work line dogs. If you weren't so busy sticking your nose in the air you would realize the huge difference between a working line bred dog and a dog bred to standards. Show dogs can be working dogs but working dogs won't ever be show dogs.

Many working line dogs especially northern breeds that are used for racing are more often then not mixed with other breeds to achieve better results.

Show dogs are about preserving the breed standard so a husky is not forgotten to back yard breeders and mixes. People who breed show line dogs are usually breeding to better the breed not fill it with "fat slobs".

Also if you actually had a clue you would know how much training, dedication and attention it takes from a dog to even go through a show ring let alone title in it. I would hardly call these dogs fat slobs since they need to be in peak shape to deal with being in a show ring.

This article is very well written and really hits the point people are missing. Buy your dog from someone who cares about bettering the breed, not a quick cheap dollar.

ps. the author never said owing a pet quality dog is a bad thing so don't get so mad! :) People who don't intend to show, breed, or compete don't need a quality right? I mean who cares if there millions of ill-bred dogs in the world!

Sibe 4 years ago

Mushtastic you just made my day!

Mushtastic 4 years ago

This article is a joke. While it's true that there are many, many VERY poorly bred Siberians out there that have VERY poor structural integrity, using an AKC show ring as a standard for "quality breeding" is a show of complete ignorance.

Do some REAL research into Siberian Huskies before spouting off garbage like this. Just because a dog was bred to LOOK PRETTY in a show ring does not make it a better quality dog than one that was bred to do what they have been doing for thousands of years, some of which look very little like your skewed definition of "quality" bred dogs.

A QUALITY Siberian Husky can pull a sled over hundreds of miles of snow, not trot its fat ass around a show ring, and that has NOTHING to do with how PRETTY a dog is, how plushy and soft the coat is, nor do they carry an excess amount of weight. They are long, lean, an muscular. Their coats are OFTEN shorter than typical show dogs. If you actually had ANY clue about Siberians, you would see that the red dog you so generously called a "pet" is, while a tad on the thin side (obviously a young dog), FAR more structurally correct than the fat slob from the show ring. If you can't recognize structural soundness, all the fluffy coats and layers of fat in the world aren't going to make a dog any more QUALITY than the dog that will be working well past ten years of age.

People who really want to know if their dogs are WELL BRED need to learn about what makes a dog structurally correct so that they know they're getting a sound dog, not how to make the dog's coat more fluffy.

maggie c. 4 years ago

Just wanted to know if anyone knows whether or not it is bad for a full white sibe to not have his thick coat at 9-10 months?

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Eternal Evolution 5 years ago from kentucky

Great info. Our husky was a re-home and is a pet quality. I don't have much info. about his past but I suspect he is from a back yard breeder. He is none the less a good dog but does not display the correct breed standard. Again great hub and info.

Cowgirl0216 6 years ago Author

Some Siberians do not carry their tail over their backs. As long as your Siberian's tail does not curl and touch his/her back, that is a good thing!

carolyn pogue 6 years ago

my siberian husky tail does not curl over her back when she is at attention. what does that mean? it doesn't curl at all.

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