The majesty of husky dogs pulling a sled across frozen tundra is matched only by the physical adaptations these dogs have to help them not only survive, but thrive, in frigid conditions. Used for centuries by native peoples of cold climates, husky dogs aren't bothered by snow and ice.
The striking blue eyes of husky dogs do much more than present a gorgeous contrast against the white and black hair of their faces. The almond shape of a husky's eyes is advantageous in defending sensitive ocular tissue against frigid temperatures and the icy, flying snow often kicked up by these dogs as they pull their sleds. Because of the shape of their eyes, husky dogs can squint to the point of barely exposing their eye tissue and remain able to see with full acuity.
Natural Ear Muffs
The husky dog has a natural set of ear muffs to protect his sensitive ear canal and ear drum from the biting cold wind and driving snow often characteristic of his environment. It is a thick covering of hair on the interior of his ear. It is a warming adaptation that creates a natural muff where the dog's ear ends.
The bodies of husky dogs are covered with two coats of hair that work together to provide a double layer of warmth. The under layer is very short and the dog sheds it in the spring to keep from overheating during warmer temperatures. During the colder winter months, this under layer works as an insulator against the dog's skin to keep his body warm and his core body temperature consistent. The undercoat is covered by an outer layer of hair called the guard hair coat. It is an overcoat that prevents ice and snow from building up in the dog's hair.
Husky dogs have a fox-like bushy tail. It is long enough to reach their faces and curl around their noses when they lie down to sleep. It provides additional warmth by trapping their breath around their face.
Furry Leather-Like Feet
Husky dogs are protected and warmed against the abrasive and cold snow and ice they walk and run in by furry feet with skin that is very thick with a leather-like structure. Husky dogs have a tremendous amount of fur on their feet and surrounding the pads of their feet. Even so, mushers -- the humans who race sled dogs -- cover the feet of husky dogs with booties to protect them against the elements. Protecting the feet of a husky dog is vital, as this is one of two body parts -- mouth being the other -- that the dog sweats through. Thermoregulation, or the control of the husky dog's body temperature, occurs through his feet.
Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.