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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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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Animals
Listen to the Impossibly Adorable Sounds of a Baby Sloth
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Sometimes baby sloths seem almost too adorable to be real. But the little muppet-faced treasures don't just look cute—turns out they sound cute, too. We know what you're thinking: How could you have gone your whole life without knowing what these precious creatures sound like? Well, fear not: Just in time for International Sloth Day (today), we have some footage of how the tiny mammals express themselves—and it's a lot of squeaking. (Or maybe that's you squealing?)

The sloths featured in the heart-obliterating video below come from the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. The institution rescues orphaned sloths, rehabilitates them, and gets them ready to be released back into the wild.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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