Siberian Huskies are probably one of THE most fascinating dog breeds in the world. They have a very unique beauty about them that makes people fall in love with them. As young pups their cuteness makes your heart skip a beat, and as they grow up they tend to boast grace and charm like no other breed. In addition to that, their close resemblance to wolves also makes them huge favorites for dog lovers.
Fun fact: After the infamous TV series, Game of Thrones, showed dire wolves, the demand for Siberian Huskies in the USA almost tripled. The funny thing is that the wolves in the show are Northern Inuits, a cross-breed of Siberian huskies, that tend to look a lot like a wolf.
With that being said, there’s always been a lot of mystery about the fascinating deep blue eyes of Siberian huskies. One of the most important reasons why so many people are attracted towards the breed. While they are not the only breed that wear this feature, they certainly stand out the most with their blue eyes.
In a recent study performed by scientists at Cornell University in collaboration with famous dog DNA analysis firm Embark Veterinary Inc, the secrets behind this 40,000-year-old mystery were unveiled. They published a study in the PLOS Genetics, where they concluded that the reason behind this feature is the canine chromosome 18 DNA molecule.
It was the single largest study ever conducted on dogs, where more than 6000 dogs were tested. All these dogs belonged to Embark consumers who had bought DNA test kits to confirm the identity of their dogs and any potential health risks to which they might be vulnerable.
It was found out that a genetic mutation in the gene ALX 4 on canine chromosome 18 is one of the strongest reasons behind the huskies’ blue eyes. Geneticist Kristopher Irizarry at the Wester University of Health Sciences says that genes are very similar to dominoes – there is a strong cause and effect relationship, comparable to the toppling effect of dominoes.
The study was the first ever consumer genomics study conducted on an animal other than humans. The only thing that was known before this study was that genetic variations do lead to colors in one or both eyes in breeds like the Australian Shepherds and Dalmatians and is also linked to the variations in skin colors and patterns.
For instance, merle or piebald patterns on dogs contain such gene variants. However, there was no scientific evidence to back why tri-colored Australian Shepherds and Siberian Huskies also have blue eyes.
Aaron Sams, Ph.D. and senior scientist at Embark says, “It turns out that [the tri-colored Australian Shepherds and Siberian Huskies] carry the duplication that we have identified.” “So that was a fun mystery to solve!” he added.
While there may very well be many more reasons behind the blue eyes of Siberian Huskies, we have very well made the first major breakthrough in solving this riddle.