Siberian Husky vs. Wolf: Are They Related? (Differences & More)

A common question asked in the canine kingdom is ‘are the Siberian Husky and the wolf long-lost brothers?’ Well, the answer is not entirely clear.

It is believed by some that the dog is descended from the wolf, and that the domestication of the dog took place over the course of the last few thousand years. Whilst there is some genetic evidence for this theory, there are also other scientists that think they evolved separately from a common ancestor. Because of thousands of years of cross-breeding dogs we now do not know exactly how they are related, but we do know that they are linked to one another in some way.

Whatever their history, there are few similarities between the Siberian Husky and the Wolf, more so than other domestic dogs, but there are a significantly higher number of differences which we are going to explore in this article.

Breed Comparison Chart

 
Siberian Husky
Gray Wolf
Height
21 – 23.5 inches (M)
20 – 22 inches (F)
26 – 32 inches (M&F)
Weight
45 – 65 pounds (M)
35 – 50 pounds (F)
Up to 70 – 110 pounds (M)
Up to 50 - 85 pounds (F)
Location
Worldwide
United States, Canada, Eurasia & Africa
Lifespan
12-14 years
6-8 years (in the wild)

History

The Siberian Husky is a high energy but even-tempered dog that has a long and ancient history.  Many people often confuse them with a common wolf, but there are striking differences along with the similarities.  Before we jump into what makes them different, first we need to understand where they come from.

Siberian Husky History

It is believed that the Siberian Husky was bred by the Chukchi Tribe in Russia thousands of years ago, thought to have been bred from other canine animals likely to be wolves, although this cannot be proven beyond certainty. The Husky was engineered to pull light loads over vast expanses of land at fast speeds without tiring too easily. After their working day they were also used as family companionship dogs for their sweet and silly nature.

The Siberian Husky was relatively unknown outside of his tribe until 1925, when a pack of Huskies ran 658 miles across frozen land in five days to deliver a lifesaving antidote to combat a deadly outbreak of Diphtheria. A Siberian Husky called Balto, who was the leading dog of the pack, is one of the most honored and celebrated dogs of all time. Since then the Husky has been amongst the most popular family dogs across the World, and is currently ranked by the American Kennel Club as the 14th most popular breed in America.

Because of their even temperament, huskies are also a breed that’s been leveraged in the designer dog craze that’s taken multiple countries by storm.  You can see evidence of this with some common mixes being the German Shepherd and the Husky or even a smaller sized mixed breed variant with the husky-pom.

Gray Wolf History

There are 2 types of wolves; the Gray and the Red, however, some scientists claim that there are 3 types, but many believe that the Ethiopian wolf is a subspecies of the Gray wolf. There are believed to be up to 38 subspecies of the wolf, and these are commonly named after the area in which they reside. The most common wolf is the Gray wolf and throughout this article we will refer to him.

It is believed that the Gray wolf originates from the Eurasian continent around a million years ago and migrated to North America approximately 750,000 years ago. They have since spread across the globe, and vary in shapes and sizes to suit whichever climate they are in. They are very adaptable creatures, and they are one of the few mammals to have survived the Ice Age.

Appearance

The Husky and the wolf are somewhat similar in their immediate appearance. They both have thick fur which keeps them protected from the elements, and under that fur they both have an under coat which insulates and retains their body heat. Another similarity in their appearance is that they have a similar shaped head, however, this is where their similarities end.

The Husky is a large dog, however, the wolf is much larger and holds the title of the largest animal in the canine family. The Husky measures up to 23.5 inches tall from paw to shoulder, whereas the Gray wolf measures much taller between 26 and 32 inches.

The Husky has bright blue eyes, whereas the wolf has yellow eyes. The Husky’s fur can take a multitude of colors, whereas the Gray wolf generally has gray and white fur. The wolf has much longer legs, which enable him bigger strides to run much longer distances compared to the Husky.

It is also clear to see that the Husky has evolved into a domestic canine overtime as his features would prove him unsuited to the wild. The wolf has much larger paws to enable him to walk across many different terrains, such as icy snow and boiling hot desert sand. The wolf also has longer teeth to enable him to hunt and tear prey, as well as a narrower muzzle, whereas it is unlikely that the Husky would be a hunter of equal skills.

The wolf also has a larger head than the Husky, which is not in proportion to his body. In that head of his, his brain is of larger capacity, and it is said that the wolf has far superior intelligence, which again helps him to survive the challenges of the wild. This extra capacity is directed towards survival and it is unlikely that it would help him to do extra tricks like cartwheels or back-flips on human command.

If it is a wolf-like canine that you are after, then you should take a look at the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog. He is a domesticated dog, albeit a relatively new breed, and looks much more like a wolf compared to the Siberian Husky.

Temperament

The Husky and the wolf are profoundly different in their temperament, one is a domesticated animal and the other is wild, and as such there aren’t many similarities, if any, between them. The process of domestication is to alter the mindset of the animal to be able to cohabit successfully, and peacefully, with humans.

Firstly, as a domesticated animal, the Husky thrives in human company and he often feels uncomfortable without them. The wolf on the other hand, shies away from humans, and their habitats are based where the human population is not.

Secondly, it is said that a domesticated dog will never fully reach the age of maturity, as he is always dependent on his human master, similar to being dependent on his mother if he was in the wild. The wolf matures fully at around the age of 2, and when he reaches this stage, he leaves the family unit to form his own pack or join another, and therefore he is mature enough to survive on his own.

Thirdly, Huskies are silly, they play and mess around with their human or furry siblings and love to lay around on the sofa with their family. They thrive off exchanging affections with their humans with no purpose other than to feel loved. The wolf does not do this; everything the wolf does is done for a purpose. They may fight with their playmates, but this is a necessary lesson to learn how to fight or hunt; they certainly do not cuddle in order to feel loved by their packmates.

One similarity that they possess, potentially, is that both the Siberian Husky and the wolf howl. This is believed to be a primitive trait in dogs, and often exhibited to warn other canines not to encroach on their territory. However, it is also true that other dogs howl, such as the Beagle or the Labrador, and often do this when they hear sirens or certain pitches on the piano, so this is not necessarily a similarity solely between the Husky and the wolf.

Wolf-Dog Hybrids

Dogs and wolves are interfertile, which means they can mate successfully, and their offspring can also have offspring. This rarely, if ever, occurs in the wild as packs are protective of their females so they would not be allowed to interbreed. However, as humans have been fascinated with mixing a domestic dog with a wolf, they have begun to experiment within the last few centuries.

These types of hybrids have been taken into family homes, but the success has been varied. If it is successful, generally owners state that it has been very difficult, more so than any other dog they have had. Dogs and wolves mature at a different rate and as such this makes their behavior unpredictable, and because of this there is no one-answer fits all with raising a hybrid.

It is even believed that the hybrid poses a danger to humans as it retains the hunting instinct, but he has much lower human caution, and this is certainly the case for recent generations of pure wolves. For example, it has been noted in Canada, and other places like Germany, that Wolves are becoming bolder and are encroaching on human spaces, and this is certainly causing concern. It is not sure if this is because they are desperate for food, or if they are now associating humans with food sources, either way this behavior is relatively new and something biologists want to monitor.

If this is still a challenge that you feel you want to take, then there may be an obstacle in your way even before you purchase the hybrid pup. In many states the hybrid wolf-dog is considered to be an exotic pet, just as the wolf is, and as such you will require a special license. Be sure to check your local laws if this is something that you are interested in. You do not, on the other hand, require a special license to have a Siberian Husky.

Can Wolves be domesticated?

Wolf ownership has long been a contentious subject in America for a very long time, and as such there is not a lot of information or examples to pull reliable information from. A famous example of a failed attempt in domesticating a wolf is that of the Gysinge wolf. After several years of being kept in captivity, he escaped and injured 31 people, 12 fatally.

Although recent studies have somewhat shown that wolves can form an attachment with their main caregiver, this is only the case whilst they are developing as puppies and adolescents. It has not been studied once they have reached sexual maturity, and in the wild this is the point at which the wolf would leave their family unit, so it is possible that this is not an attachment as such, but the animal simply exhibiting dependence on his main caregiver until he no longer needs him. A Husky will exhibit this attachment for his entire lifetime. What is clear, however, is that much more research needs to be conducted before we all start adopting and raising wolves in a domestic home setting.

Experts also say that the main danger in domesticating a wolf comes when people treat a wolf as they would a dog; a wolf is not a dog and should never be treated as such. As the dog behaviorist, Ian Dunbar explains, ”Trying to train dogs by studying wolf behavior is like learning how to raise a child by watching chimps”.

So, the answer is, they may be able to be domesticated, but not without risk, and you should definitely not compare this process to that of a dog, or in this case, a Siberian Husky.

Common Myths vs. Facts

  • Huskies and Malamutes are half wolf
  • Huskies and Malamutes are a completely separate species from the wolf
  • A wolf will make a better guard dog for my home
  • Wolves naturally shy away from humans, so they will either run away, or they may act out of fear and attack them
  • Wolves would fit in with my family and be a great companion for my other dog
  • Wolves hunt domestic dogs, and in some countries they are their prime food source, as such there is always a risk that your wolf, or wolf hybrid, may attack your pet dog

Final Thoughts

The Siberian Husky and the wolf are profoundly different, and as such there are very few similarities between them. Although they may look slightly similar to one another, this is as far as their similarities go.

It is a possibility, that if the wolf was domesticated over a few thousand years, just as the Siberian Husky has been, then he may be slightly more similar to that of a domestic dog, but by then he would be considered to be a completely different species in any case.

So, until the experts have decided otherwise, a safe bet would be to get a Husky for your family home, as they are just as good looking, and admire the wild wolves from afar.