An Alaskan Malamute
|Country of origin
|Classification and breed standards
||Group 5 Section 1 #243
||Group 6 - (Utility)
||Group 3 - (Working Dogs)
|Not recognized by any major kennel club
|This breed of dog is
The Alaskan Malamute is a large northern
breed originally developed for use as a
Their breed standard calls for a weight of 75 to 85 pounds (34-38.5 kg) and a
height of 23 to 25 inches (58-63.5 cm) but much heavier individuals (120 to 140
pounds) are commonly seen. The coat is a dense double northern dog coat,
somewhat harsher than that of the
Siberian Husky. The usual colours are various shades of grey and white,
sable and white, black and white, red and white, or pure white. The physical
build of the Malamute is compact with heavy boning. In this context 'compact'
means that their height to length ratio is fairly even, unlike dogs like Great
Danes which are longer and lankier in their ratios.
Malamutes are easily distinguished from Huskies by eye color; Malamute eyes
are always brown, whereas Huskies may have one or two blue eyes.
Although still in use as sleddogs for recreational
Malamutes today are kept as family pets or show dogs. They are unable to compete
successfully even in long-distance
dogsled racing against smaller and faster breeds and their working
usefulness is limited to freighting.
The Malamute is one of the most "unaltered" of breeds, retaining its original
form and function. Responsible breeders will want to preserve this heritage of
the Malamute's working abilities. They are a widely regarded as handsome,
affectionate toward humans, intelligent, resourceful, and hardworking.
While they may bark like other dog breeds, Malamutes normally tend to "talk"
by vocalizing a "woo woo" sound. They may howl like wolves or coyotes when
feeling excited, sad, or lonely.
Temperament and behavior
Malamutes need plenty of exercise.
Understanding Malamute behavior requires understanding life in an aboriginal
Malamutes were originally bred to think and act independently for the sake of
protecting the sled team. Hazardous and unpredictable Arctic trail conditions
rewarded the ability of a Malamute to rely on its own senses and, when
necessary, override the sled driver's judgment and commands. As such, the breed
is notorious for displaying a highly independent streak that manifests itself as
stubbornness. Malamutes are sometimes downright insubordinate toward their human
handlers and may ignore commands, particularly when young.
At the same time, Arctic life required that Malamutes be bred to behave as
consummate members of the sled team, family, and village community. As such,
they are usually very affectionate to members of their own pack - both human and
dog members alike. A Malamute may talk in glee in greeting a returning family or
pack member after a period of separation, and howl in protest when it feels
ignored, neglected, or excluded from group activities. Also, Malamutes are
usually friendly to other humans outside their own pack, often demanding their
attention and affection as well. The Malamute's gregariousness and tendency to
openly, unreservedly give affection make them highly attractive to many dog
owners; these same qualities make a Malamute a poor guard dog.
The harsh conditions for which Malamutes were bred rewarded a strong prey
drive, as food was occasionally scarce. Consequently, Malamutes may
instinctively attack animals such as house cats, squirrels, rabbits, chickens,
quail, and even deer (however, many households enjoy harmonious, mixed "packs"
of cats and Malamutes). Historic competition for food is also a reason why
Malamutes may regard dogs outside their own pack or team with disdain or
Malamutes dug for food when required, and digging is now a common way in
which Malamutes deal with boredom. It is not uncommon to see a Malamute digging
madly in pursuit of a mouse, mole, or gopher. Malamutes may also dig to escape a
fenced yard, and have been known to dig escape tunnels underneath houses. The
Malamute tendency to dig can be frustrating to owners who also maintain yards or
gardens; one owner has wryly described Malamutes as being "enthusiastic but
Owing to the Malamute's independent nature, physical strength, and its high
levels of energy and intelligence, most experts on the breed advise that
Malamutes not be adopted by people who:
- are inexperienced in training dogs
- lack the time, energy, and space to exercise them, or
- lack the patience and stamina to repeatedly engage in contests of
willpower with a large, powerful animal without becoming angry.
Health issues in the Malamute are
inherited polyneuropathy, chrondo displacia and the usual northern-breed eye
problems (particularly cataract and progressive retinal atrophy).
While Malamutes have been successfully raised in places such as Arizona,
their dense coats generally make them unsuited for hot climates. When the
weather gets hot, they—even more than other dogs—need plenty of water and shade.
Also, being a winterised breed they will grow a winter coat and subsequently,
come spring, shed it again. Mixed with sheeps wool their thick, heavy hairs can
be spun into a garment of unusual warmth.
The Malamute is a descendant of dogs of the
Mahlemuit tribe of upper western
For a brief period during the Gold Rush, the Malamute and other sled dogs
became extremly valuable to recently landed prospectors and settlers, and were
frequently crossbred with imported breeds. This was often a misguided attempt to
improve the type, or to make up for how few true Malamutes were up for sale.
This genetic dilution seems to have had no long standing effect on the modern
Malamute, and recent DNA analysis shows that Malamutes are one of the
oldest breeds of dog, genetically distinct from other dog breeds.
The Malamute dog has had a distinguished history; aiding
Admiral Richard Byrd to the South Pole, and the miners who came to Alaska during
the Gold Rush
of 1896. This dog was never destined to be a racing sled dog; instead, it was
used for heavy freighting, pulling thousands of pounds of supplies to villages
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