Did you know that champion sled-dog Huskies can actually run over 100 miles a day? In fact, there are a few that keep breaking world records year after year! And while some of the top Huskies can run 1,000 miles in 8 days, what about normal every-day Huskies?
Huskies are naturally active dogs bred for endurance and long-distance running. An average Husky can run 10 – 20 miles in a session (compared to 2 to 5 miles by the average dog). But with training, an average Husky can run 40 miles at a time. But what’s amazing is that sled Huskies can top 100 miles per day, thanks to their genetic metabolic switch!
Huskies running well over 100 miles a day sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. Interested in knowing how this is possible? In this article, we will examining the extraordinary stamina of the Husky and the reasons why they’re able to run an absurd distance.
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How Long Can a Husky Run?
Often called the “dog with a thousand expressions,” Siberian Huskies have given us plenty of memes and moments in life. They’re silly, funny and love getting into trouble with their unlimited levels of energy. But this energy level is why they can run long distances.
Huskies are often bouncing off the walls and can’t sit still for too long. But like with all dogs, there’s a reason why Huskies are the way they are.
You see, Huskies have been bred to pull sleds for hundreds of years. Behind the smiles and goofy faces, they are in fact, work dogs. So they needed this crazy amount of energy in order to travel long distances while carrying a load.
But just how long can the Siberian Husky run? Before we answer this, let’s take into consideration the average dog. Most dogs can run anywhere between 2 to 5 miles in a single day. That’s not bad, and more than some humans can!
Some dogs are built for achieving high speeds in a short amount of time, while others are built for endurance and running long distances .
And then there are dogs like the French Bulldog that aren’t suited for running more than they do while playing with other dogs. But as you may have guessed, Huskies were built for endurance and long distance, especially when well trained.
The typical every-day Siberian Husky is capable of running 40 miles in a single day, that is, if they are in decent shape and have been training. That’s roughly 10 to 15 times more than the majority of all dog breeds!
But we don’t expect every Husky owner to provide structured training for their dogs. So with little to no training, the average Husky will be able to easily top 10 to 20 miles a day just from their high-energy temperaments.
However a conditioned, trained and purpose-bred Husky is more than capable of reaching 100 miles per day and oftentimes, even more! But to complete this feat, it may take them 10 to 15 hours, which many Huskies have done in the past.
Huskies Running Their “Marathon”
Every year, there are a number of dog sled events being held in Alaska that test the endurance, will-power, determination and speed of sled dogs from around the world. Siberian Huskies aren’t the only dogs to compete in these races though.
Plus, not all dog breeds are even allowed to compete in some races, excluding the likes of Samoyeds and the Chinooks. Instead, you may see a variety of Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Alaskan Huskies and even some hybrids.
In these events, the races are broken down into three types: sprints, mid-distance and long-distance.
- Sprint races cover a much shorter distance, clocking in anywhere from 4 to 25 miles per day. This typically lasts a couple days.
- Mid-distance races cover a total distance of 100 to 300 miles within a span of two or three days.
- However, the awards for the long-distance races are the holy grail of this dog sport. These races may cover a total distance of 300 to a thousand miles over a span of a few days to a couple of weeks.
It’s worth noting that there are races happening all over the world – and not just Alaska. Huskies and fellow sled dog breeds travel to Norway, Russia, New Zealand and Canada for events as well.
Huskies Dominate the Iditarod Trail Race
And the most famous long-distance dog sled race of them all is none other than the Iditarod Trail Race that spans 1,100 miles and wiggles through the entire state of Alaska.
This annual race happens just once a year in March, attracting over 100 participants and their 14 to 16-member team of dogs.
Not only are the dogs expected to travel 100 mile days, but also do so in blistering cold temperatures while battling wind chills that frequently blow through the trail.
It’s not an easy feat, yet thousands of Huskies have successfully completed this trail. Most of which, in record time you wouldn’t believe.
What’s even more fascinating is the rapid improvement of these Husky teams over time. For instance in 1974, Carl Huntington won the race with a time of 20 days, 15 hours, two minutes and 7 seconds.
Fast forward to 2017 and the all-time record was broken by a musher named Mitch Seavey and his Huskies, who conquered the trail in just 8 days, 3 hours, 40 minutes and 13 seconds. That’s more than twice as fast in a span of 33 years!
Now if you break it down, this meant that Seavey’s Huskies had to average around 137 miles per day! For comparison, that’s like if your Husky ran from Los Angeles to Mexico in a single day. Or from Washington DC to New York City in 2 days!
And keep in mind that these dogs have an entire sled and human strapped to them. Without the extra baggage, they would clock an even faster time! It’s incredible what a Husky’s stamina can become if given the proper training.
The Reason Why Huskies Can Run Long Distances
But how is it that they’re able to expend so much energy for such a long duration of time? Where is this energy all coming from?
According to Scientific American, researchers have identified a metabolic switch that happens in Huskies during long distance racing. In the 2005 study, drivers ran their Huskies through 100-mile races for four to five days.
However after every 100 miles, researchers took a small sample of the dogs’ leg muscles to test for protein levels, enzyme activity, glycogen levels and other various factors.
When animals eat food, their bodies transform the carbs into a form of sugar called glucose, which is then used to provide energy. However Glucose is then transformed into Glycogen, which can easily be stored in the animal’s muscles.
During the first few days of the race, sled dogs draw energy from the glycogen stored inside of the muscle. This is completely normal and in-line with what most dogs typically do. But as the race went on, what the researchers found was shocking.
As the sled dogs needed to go into overdrive, their metabolic switch goes off and they start to draw energy from sources outside their muscles. Instead, muscle cells begin to extract fat directly from the bloodstream, where it can then be used as energy fuel.
During races, Huskies will have a build-up of fat in their bloodstream mostly thanks to the high-fat diet that these dogs consume. But don’t worry, Huskies are equipped to handle the high amount of fat.
The sled dogs contain higher mitochondrial density (think of them as cellular power plants) than virtually any other animal. What still remains a mystery though, is how the fat in the bloodstream can get into the cells in the first place.
And before you throw your Husky into a thousand-mile race, keep in mind that this metabolic switch is not as developed in your every-day average Huskies.
It’s likely that this physical gift was the result of breeding, having descended from long champion lines of racing dogs, which dates back several generations and over a hundred years.
The Husky’s Stamina Has Saved Lives
And although you may think the limitless energy reserve of the Husky may be more annoying than useful, there has been a lot of good to come out of their “special power.”
For example, in 1925, a group of Huskies saved a small remote town in Alaska from a potentially devastating outbreak of a deadly disease.
Unfortunately, there was a diphtheria epidemic happening in the town of Nome, Alaska, and it threatened the lives of over ten thousand individuals. The only way to save the small town was to transport the anti-toxin. There was one small problem though.
The town was 674 miles away from the serum and it just happened to be the most brutal winter in at least a few decades. The incoming blizzard ruled out any possibility of air transportation and the isolated town of sick residents became a nightmare scenario.
However, the solution proposed was to assemble a relay of 20 sled dog teams, including Alaska’s most decorated driver, Leonhard Seppala. And just like that, the “Great Race of Mercy,” as it’s known now, had started.
It took just 5 and a half days for the collective effort of the dogs to reach Nome and deliver the life-saving serum. But throughout the relay delivery, two Huskies shined the brightest as they made the final leg to the town during a full-on blizzard.
Balto and Togo were the two Huskies that both led their team on a 264-mile journey to the finish line. For reference, the other teams only completed 31 miles each on average.
Both dogs quickly became American heroes with both dogs receiving a statue in New York’s Central Park and Seward Park.
Can I Run With My Husky?
Now that we understand just how Huskies can run over 100 miles per day, it may not be a great idea to push your dog’s limits.
The average husky really only needs about 2 hours of exercise a day, and not necessarily 10 hours of running through snow. In fact, the latter can actually be fatal especially without years of conditioning or the proper training.
Compared to most dogs, the exercise needs of a Husky is a lot. Plus, most owners may not even be able to handle the 2 hours. But if you plan to run with your Husky, here are some things you may want to consider before doing so.
Huskies Shouldn’t Run in the Heat
It’s also worth noting that Huskies should not run in the heat. In fact, most Huskies are suited to living in warmer climate.
Huskies are more prone to overheating than most dogs due to their thick double coats that’s built for withstanding sub zero temperatures. After all, they are Russian dog breeds originating from the cold arctic circle of Siberia.
If you bring a Husky into a region with relatively warm climate, it will take a good amount of time for them to adjust. Sometimes, it can even take years. The coat of the dog has to go through a physical change to adapt to the weather.
When humans get hot, we sweat to prevent from overheating. However this is not the case with the Husky. All dogs vent the heat with their mouth and tongue. You ever see your Husky panting with his tongue stuck out? It’s a sign he’s hot.
The long and thick fur of the Husky acts as an insulator to keep away heat. Even so, this is not a very effective method, especially in warm climate. They won’t notice they’re overheating until it is already too late. So, it’s up to the owners to keep them in check.
Needless to say, summer is not a great time to go running with your Husky. During this time, a Husky should stay indoors or periodically go outside for some light exercise. If they appear lethargic or lazy in the sun, it’s time to go home and cool down.
But if you must exercise in the heat with your Husky, keep a close eye on them. Plus, make sure to bring plenty of water for your dog!
Running May Cause Injuries
Huskies were bred to run long distances, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get injured. In fact, these dogs are susceptible to hip dysplasia. It’s a genetic disease that causes an improper development in the hip joints, leading to arthritis.
Running frequently doesn’t directly cause this, but it can certainly make it worse. And if you run long distances with a Husky that’s not in shape, you may speed up the development of this issue.
The best way to prevent this is to get your Husky in shape before going on runs. The more muscles they have built up, the less likely they’ll experience any injuries.
You can start this by only doing walks around the neighborhood. Go around a few times, but keep a close eye on your Husky’s body language. If the dog looks tired, it’s time to go home.
Continue doing this and build up stamina and strength in your Husky. In due time, they’ll be ready to go on extended runs and walks without the huge risk of injury or develop hip dysplasia over time.
Don’t Push Their Running Limits
Don’t push the limits of their running. Sure, maybe the dog can train for a marathon over time and be safe and healthy. But just because you read about Huskies running 137 miles in a day doesn’t mean you should aspire for it.
First of all, it’s highly unlikely that your Husky has the genetics for a robust metabolic switch unless they were bred from a long line of sled dogs.
Not all Huskies are as efficient at drawing glycogen from the bloodstream. Perhaps some Huskies are not even capable at all! So it’s not worth testing your dog.
Be realistic with your running goals for your Husky. But even so, it’s fascinating to see just what these dogs can do when you push their physical limits through several generations of purpose-breeding and proper training.
So what do you think about the Husky’s incredible ability to run long distances? Are there any other animals that can compare to these sled dogs?
Leave a comment below and tell us what you think! You’ll also want to share this article with your Husky-friends to let them know just how extraordinary these dogs really are.
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