Alaskan Malamute Dog: Sled dog, Not Big Husky

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Just as many people think the Alaskan Klea Kai looks like a small husky, the Alaskan malamute looks like a big husky. Both breeds are related to the Siberian husky but have differences. The Alaskan Malamute is classified as a large breed dog that was originally bred as a utilitarian dog, and later was used as an Alaskan sled dog Because of their general looks people often mistake them for Siberian husky. The Malamute is heavier, larger and more formidable in both nature and structure than the Siberian husky. That’s because the Malamute is bred for strength and power rather than speed. They are slower in long distance dogsled racing than smaller breeds such as Siberian or Alaskan huskies.

The Malamute originated in upper western Alaska with a native tribe called the Mahlemuts. The name later became Malamutes. They used the dogs in hunting and pulling sleds over ice and snow. Hunting included polar bear.

According to dogbreed.com, they are a Nordic sled dog descended from the Arctic wolf. They could go back as far as 2000 to 3000 years ago. They have been featured in Jack London’s stories and were participants in Admiral Byrd’s expedition to the pole. They are related to the Siberian husky, Samoyed, and American Eskimo dog.

The website Omalmalamutes.com describes the Malamute as a “natural” breed. By this they mean that survival was the basis of the breed developing rather than being bred with certain characteristics in mind. They describe this dog as being somewhat like a wolf or dingo in developing through traits that helped it survive its environment. The primary difference being that the malamute did it along with humans. Together this dog and the Inuit people achieved mutual survival.

Siberian Husky Ivan and Alaskan Malamute Inu
Siberian Husky Ivan and Alaskan Malamute Inu | Source
Relation to wolves

They are a northern breed that some people mistake for wolves. Because they are a natural bred they share some wolf characteristics including looks and behavior. The nomadic hunting people would have considered it a good trait that the dog can survive on its own which leaves them as dogs with a strong independent streak. Since they were a hunting people, a dog with a strong prey drive was a good thing. Additionally these dogs have more pack oriented than most dogs.

Puppies in a litter are not all alike; there can be a mixture of characteristic personalities.

· Very dominant and wolf like

· Very submissive and golden retriever like

· Outgoing, confident, boisterous dog like

· Shy and skittish wolflike

There has been no attempt to eliminate characteristics as in most dog breeding.

With that in mind, we can think of them as a primitive early form of dog that is “about as close to the original wild types as any domestic breed,” according to the website.

Until about sixty years ago, Malamutes used to be allowed by their owners to run free in the summer and they became semi-feral. In the winter though, they lived as part of the family by sharing in the work by hauling loads, playing with the children and also helped keep the shelters warm with their body heat.

Way back when the peoples who partnered with the malamute dogs hunted polar bears, seal and walruses. These dogs helped in the hunt by chasing and attacking polar bears. They also helped in the hunt for seals and walrus. They did not function, like many breeds do, as guard dogs since a nomadic people have few visitors. The strangers they do see are welcome for trading and such.

  1. For modern people who keep these dogs as pets, they are not generally watch dogs because they lack guard instinct
  2. Attacking humans is not one of their instincts
  3. They do not recognize property lines as nomadic people, of course, did not have any.

Llop, an Arctic wolf/Alaskan malamute hybrid and a female European wolf at Lobo park, Antequerra, Spain
Llop, an Arctic wolf/Alaskan malamute hybrid and a female European wolf at Lobo park, Antequerra, Spain | Source

The website Omalmalamute.com says that adult malamutes do not retain puppy characteristics which they imply other breeds do. Because of that the dog may have a problem in dog parks because they consider the other dogs immature and may feel a need to straighten them out. They also consider themselves your equal, so the strong alpha leadership on the part of the owner is important.

These dogs are still used as sled dogs for personal travel and hauling freight. They also participate in sports such as mushing, weight pulling, dog agility and packing. They are in search and rescue operations also. Many are simply family pets, which they are well suited to as they have a natural liking for people. They are, however, strongly independent and need a strong Alpha leader as owner.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized them in 1935 as the largest and oldest of the Arctic sled dogs.

Working Group

Standard:

23 in 75lbs female

25 in 85lbs male

Coat:

Double coat

Undercoat oily,wooley texture thick as two inches

Outer coat (guard coat) course

Ears-small in proportion to the body, erect.

Colors:

Shades of gray and white, sable and white, black and white, red and white, solid white.

Markings:

Face markings, blazes, splash at nape of neck,

Strong with substance, bone and snowshoe feet.

Tail furred and curled over back (their tail helps keep them warm when the curl up to sleep. This is true of other northern dogs such our Siberian husky)

Characteristics
  • Adult Malamutes may not be playful in the sense a puppy is but the do have a sense of humor..
  • May not be obedient unless trained by a strong Alpha leader. Are not inclined to be subservient

They look enough like wolves that they may be used as wolves in movies.

They are sometime bred with wolves and sold as wolf dogs. Sometimes some breeders might sell one that looks like a wolf and claim it is a wolf dog hybrid.

The Alaskan malamute may look like a big husky but they are different dogs, although related. The Malamute is a very old breed that more or less evolved with primitive peoples and its traits came naturally from the lives they led. The Siberian husky is not such an old dog and it was primarily raised for racing.

Sources:

Dogbreed.com

Wikipedia

Omalmalamutes.com

Copyright 2012 Don Hoglund

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Comments 16 comments

drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

Thank you for this intelligent and informative treatise on Malamutes, dahoglund. I learned many things about them I did not know, especially that they are not the best choice for guard dogs since they may lack guard instinct and do not recognize property lines. Very interesting.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

drbj,thank you for commenting.They would probably watch the thief as he took everything away.


Rusti Mccollum profile image

Rusti Mccollum 4 years ago from Lake Oswego, Oregon

This hub was wonderful. A few months ago we lost our purebred alaskan malamute (porsha).She was my girl. One day she just couldn't walk anymore. She was in the hallway looking up at me with her brown eyes, like help me mom. So I got her on a blanket skooted her in my room,. Had marc pick up those bedliners that have plastic underneath the padding.She had lost all control of her bladder bowels. I kept her with me even laying on the floor at night to comfort her. I was hoping her feeling would come back. Two weeks later my husband said "Rusti you have to accept that something we didn't know was going on was and had been . I couldn't hardly hug her so hard because he was taking my girl. I know she was 15. She was a wonderful dog. I loved her so very very much. Marc told me he stayed with her at all times until she passed.I made him promise to hold her. See I have a really weak heart. I have had2 surgeries, he was afraid if I actullay see her put to sleep , I'd have another stroke or heart attack. When he left I had been crying so hard , I had to take heart meds.Go to bed.I wish I could show you how beautiful she was. Ironically the vet said she had cancer She would have passed in less than two weeks. She was never in pain. and some dogs especially big dogs, can have cancer and no one know it until it's too late. This story made me miss her so. Well written. thanks for sharing information people should know, if they are considering one.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi Rusti,losing a dog you have had an attachment to is difficult.A malamute is probably not a dog we would get primarily = because of size although our previous dog, a Siberian Husky, German shepherd mix probably came close. Getting a dog is often a matter of matching the qualities of the dog to the household.I hope you find another one you love as well as the one you lost.Thanks for commenting.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

My sister has two dogs; one is half wolf and half Husky; the other is half Malamute and wolf. They are a handful, but amazing, beautiful and affectionate dogs once they get to know and trust you. The male had separation anxiety; before she trained him, he would chew holes in the wall if she left him alone for longer than 30 minutes. Very interesting article!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi Genna,My dogs have been mistaken for wolfdogs but I have never had one. I previously wrote about them and put a link here if you are interested.I think it takes special people to handle such dogs.Thanks for reading this hub and leaving your comments..

http://hubpages.com/animals/Wolfdogs


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 4 years ago

Interesting and well put together hub. I learned a lot from reading this. Thanks for sharing this information. Voted up, useful, awesome and interesting.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

toknowinfo, Thank you for reading and commenting on this hub. I am glad you found it and interesting and useful read.Thanks for the votes, also.


Diana Lee profile image

Diana Lee 4 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

These are beautiful. Dogs really are man's best friend. Good hub. Voted up.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi Diana.Thank you for reading this hub and commenting. Thanks also for the vote.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

I love the way you introduce an excellent detail for Alaskan Dog. I have to admit that I learn many things from this hub. Good job, brother. Voted up and useful!

Prasetio


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi prasetio. The more I explore the history of dog breeds the more interesting I find it. If I can pass some of that on to my readers like you it will be a good thing.I'm glad you found the Malamute interesting.Thanks for commenting.


beadreamer247 profile image

beadreamer247 4 years ago from Zephyrhills, FL

Hi dahoglund,

good introduction to this breed. I also learned that many purchase this dog for their beauty, which is totally wrong. Yes, as everybody comments here, they are beautiful also from the outside. Yet, they have needs and when you don't meet their needs - which means matching a dog breed with what you can give them - they might show unwelcome behaviors. This is a working dog that needs exercise and a certain amount of room to live. I have come across a student with a puppy once in a very small studio apartment and my heart sank for this dog....There are so many dog breeds available that we should be able to find a dog that we can give what they need. And not just for their beauty.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi beadreamer,

I agree with you. I wish I could convince my wife of that.We are getting old and most of the dog walking falls to me. Some dogs can be exercised by playing games. We have a Siberian Husky, which is not as big but still needs exercise, who will not chase a ball, or any other dog games I know.I used to have a Collie that did well with playing ball--we didn't have Frisbees then.

Thanks for reading and commenting.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Thanks for the interesting history and background of this breed. I love the looks and behavior of these dogs and feel certain that my Buddy Lee was probably a Malamute. We found him running loose by the highway when he was about 6 months old. He was a faithful and loving, dedicated companion who lived to be 12. What a great dog! My wonderful boy followed me everywhere. Thanks for a great write up about them.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi PegCole, Whether your dog was a Malmute or not, he sounds like a great dog. Thanks for commenting.

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