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10 Warm Facts About Huskies

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Siberian huskies are known for their wolfish good looks, but deep down, they're all dog. 

1. Huskies are born to run.

When the semi-nomadic Chukchi people of Siberia had to expand their hunting grounds some 3000 years ago, they sought to breed the ideal sled dog. These dogs had to have endurance, a high tolerance to cold, and the ability to survive on very little food. The resulting pups could carry loads over long distances without food or warmth. While there is controversy as to how pure the lineage is, Siberian huskies are widely believed to be the closest to the original Chukchi dogs.

2. Their skills impressed Alaskans.

Huskies made their American debut at the second year of the All Alaska Sweepstakes Race in 1909. Rumor had it that these canines were superior sled dogs; they proved the gossip true by dominating the racing competitions in Alaska for the following decade.

3. A lot of features help keep them warm.

Huskies have a thick double coat that keeps them well insulated. Their undercoat is short and warm, while the overcoat is long and water-resistant. Their almond-shaped eyes allow them to squint to keep out snow. Huskies will wrap their tails around their faces while they sleep; their breath warms the tail and keeps the nose and face protected from the cold.

4. A group saved a small town in Alaska.

In 1925, the children of Nome came down with the widely feared disease called diphtheria. The closest anti-toxin was 1000 miles away in a hospital in Anchorage. The train could only take the medicine so far, and it was up to mushers with teams of sled dogs to transport the package the remaining 674 miles.

Twenty mushers and their sled dogs battled the bitter cold in a relay to get the medicine there safely. It took 127.5 hours to complete the mission, but the medicine made it to the village. The final leg was completed by a black Siberian husky and his team. When finally reaching their destination, the dogs were hailed as heroes and appeared in newspapers across the country.

If this story sounds familiar, you might remember it from the animated movie, Balto. You can see a statue of Balto in New York's Central Park (the real Balto is stuffed and mounted at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History). 

5. They’re not great watchdogs.

Huskies are not one-person dogs—they're unsuspicious and friendly to strangers. This can be charming, but it's not very helpful when you’re looking for a canine sentry. Of course, their fierce wolf-like features might be enough to deter any intruders.

6. Huskies don’t get fatigued.

Huskies often run long distances on very little food. When humans attempt this, we start to use our body’s glycogen and fat and eventually get fatigued. But huskies burn a lot of calories without ever tapping into these other energy stores—and they do this by regulating their metabolism.

“Before the race, the dogs’ metabolic makeup is similar to humans. Then suddenly they throw a switch—we don’t know what it is yet—that reverses all of that,” animal exercise researcher Dr. Michael S. Davis told the New York Times. “In a 24-hour period, they go back to the same type of metabolic baseline you see in resting subjects. But it’s while they are running 100 miles a day.”

7. You need to watch them closely.

These pups love to run and explore. They're known to be escape artists and are capable of digging under fences and slipping out of leashes.

8. The army used them.

During WWII, the army employed the pups as search and rescue dogs. They were also used for transportation, freighting, and communication.

9. They’re closely related to wolves.

Studies say that the shiba inu and the chow chow share the most DNA with the grey wolf. Coming in near the top is the Siberian husky. That said, huskies are domesticated dogs and have evolved separately from their wild cousins for thousands of years.

10. Blue eyes make them distinct.

Not many dog breeds can boast piercing blue eyes. Some dogs—like the Australian shepherd or Weimaraner—have them thanks to the merle gene, which results in the loss of pigmentation. But huskies can have bright eyes without that gene.

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Animals
The Mules That Help Fight California's Wildfires
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Forget dalmatians—in remote parts of Northern California, mules are the fire department's four-legged helpers of choice.

When a blaze roars to life in a residential area, firefighters can use trucks to transport the tools needed to battle it. But in the California wilderness, where vehicles—and sometimes thanks to environmental restrictions, helicopters—can’t venture, mules bear the burden. According to Business Insider, the donkey-horse hybrids can carry 120 pounds of supplies apiece while walking 4 mph up rugged terrain. Llamas are also capable of making the trek, but mules are preferred for their resilience and intelligence.

You can see them at work in the video below.

These animals do extraordinary work for the country, but they’re not the only mules assisting the U.S. government. The Havasupai village of Supai is located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and the mail is delivered there each day by parcel-toting mules.

[h/t Business Insider]

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Animals
Scientists Catch Tiny Jumping Spiders Eating Frogs and Lizards
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Tom Houslay, Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-NC 2.0

Small, but mighty: Some jumping spiders can overpower and devour their larger, cold-blooded, would-be predators, according to scientists writing in the Journal of Arachnology.

Biologist Martin Nyffeler at the University of Basel in Switzerland spends his days studying arachnid and insect eating habits. Over the last few years, he and his colleagues have made some astounding discoveries. For one, not only do spiders consume millions of tons of bugs each year, but they also eat fish, and bats, and plants. With a palate this broad, a hunger this big, and a ferocity to match, why wouldn't little spiders occasionally order off the reptile and amphibian menu? The researchers decided to search the scientific literature for reports of spider-on-frog-or-lizard action.

They found plenty. Their search unearthed one sighting in Costa Rica and eight separate instances in seven different Florida counties, all initiated by a single species. The regal jumping spider may weigh less than one-tenth of an ounce, but that apparently doesn't stop it from going after frogs and small lizards called anoles.

One report came from local nature blogger Loret Setters, who watched a Cuban tree frog disappear into a regal jumping spider's mouth.

"He was staring me down, like, 'You're next!'" Setters told National Geographic. "I was completely shocked."

A small jumping spider eats a dead frog.
A female regal jumping spider goes to town on a Cuban frog.

This remarkable reversal of the predator-prey relationship is made possible by jumping spiders' specialized hunting skills. Unlike most spiders, which spin webs and then lie in wait, jumping spiders stalk their prey like tigers. They have incredibly good vision and decent hearing, and they're all venomous.

Behavioral ecologist Thomas C. Jones of East Tennessee State University was not involved with the study but says spiders likely only go after frogs and lizards when easier meals are scarce.

"They do tend to get bolder as they get hungrier," he said.

[h/t National Geographic News]

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