Alaskan Malamute

The Alaskan Malamute is a generally large, wolf-like breed of domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) originally bred for use as an Alaskan sled dog. It is sometimes mistaken for a Siberian Husky, but in fact is quite different in many ways.

Appearance

The American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard calls for a natural range of size, with a desired freighting size of 23 inches (584 mm) and 75 pounds (34 kg) for females, 25 inches (635 mm) and 85 pounds (39 kg) for males. Heavier individuals (90 lb (41 kg)) and dogs smaller than 75 pounds (34 kg) are commonly seen. There is often a marked size difference between males and females. Weights upwards of 120 pounds (54 kg) are occasionally seen, but this is uncommon and such dogs are produced primarily by breeders who market a 'giant Malamute.' These large sizes are not in accordance with the breed's history or show standards.

The coat is a dense double northern dog coat, somewhat "harsher" (in a certain sense) than that of the smaller Siberian Husky. The usual colors are various shades of gray and white, sable and white, black and white, red and white, or solid white. Blue and white (slate gray with gray pigment) also is seen in the breed. Eyes are almond-shaped and are always various shades of brown (from dark to light, honey or hazel brown); blue eyed Malamutes will be disqualified in conformation shows, as they would not be a purebred Malamute, but mixed with perhaps a Siberian Husky. The physical build of the Malamute is compact with heavy bone, in most (but not all) cases. In this context 'compact' means that their height to length ratio is slightly longer than tall, unlike dogs like Great Danes which are longer and lankier in their ratios.

The primary criterion for judging the Malamute in a show is its function to pull heavy freight as a sled dog; everything else is secondary. As many an owner has found out, the pulling power of a Malamute is tremendous.

According to the AKC breed standard, the Malamute's tail is well furred and is carried over the back like a "waving plume". Corkscrew tails are occasionally seen but are faulted in the AKC breed standard (a corkscrew tail is commonly seen in the Akita). The Malamutes' well-furred tails aid in keeping them warm when they curl up in the snow. They are often seen wrapping the tail around their nose and face, which presumably helps protect them against harsh weather such as blowing snow. Their ears are generally upright.

Temperament

A few Malamutes are still in use as sled dogs for personal travel, hauling freight, or helping move heavy objects, some however are used for the recreational pursuit of sledding also known as mushing, also skijoring, bikejoring, and canicross. However, most Malamutes today are kept as family pets or show dogs or performance dogs in Weight pulling Dog agility or packing. The Malamute is generally slower in long-distance dogsled racing against smaller and faster breeds and their working usefulness is limited to freighting or traveling over long distances at a far slower rate than that required for racing. They can also help move heavy objects over shorter distances.

The Malamute retains more of its original form and function than many other modern breeds. If a dog owner cannot cope with a dog that will not comply with the owner's every command, a more compliant breed should be selected. This dog has a long genetic foundation of living in the harshest environment imaginable, and many of its behaviors are evolved to conform with "survival of the fittest." Independence, resourcefulness and primitive behaviors are common in the breed. While intelligent, they are widely believed to be one of the most difficult dogs to train. However, if the training is kept fun for the dog and not repetitively boring, success is within reach.

There is reason to believe that Alaskan Malamutes sometimes cope greatly with smaller animals, including other canines; however, this has been difficult to document in detail beyond observational data. It is difficult to pinpoint why many Malamute owners have observed this behavior with smaller animals, though some might speculate this is due to the Malamute's uniquely divergent ancestry, at one point cross-breeding with wolves. Due to their naturally evolved beginnings, the Malamute tends to have a heightened prey drive when compared to some other breeds of dog. So while Malamutes are, as a general rule, particularly amiable around people and can be taught to tolerate other pets, it is necessary to be mindful of them around smaller animals and children.

Malamutes are quite fond of people, a trait that makes them particularly sought-after family dogs. Malamutes are nimble around furniture and smaller items, making them ideal house dogs, provided they get plenty of time outdoors meeting their considerable exercise requirements. If they are year-round outdoor dogs, letting them play in a baby pool filled with cold water in summer keeps them cool. In the winter, they love snow.

The majority of Malamutes are fairly quiet dogs, seldom barking like most other dog breeds. When a malamute does vocalize, more often than not they tend to "talk" by vocalizing a "woo woo" sound. They may howl like wolves or coyotes, and for the same reasons.

They should always be under leash control or fenced in. It is in their nature to run off.

History

The Malamute is a descendant of dogs of the Mahlemuts tribe of upper western Alaska. These dogs had a prominent role with their human companions � working, hunting, and living alongside them. The interdependent relationship between the Mahlemut and their dogs fostered prosperity among both and enabled them to flourish in the inhospitable land above the Arctic Circle.

For a brief period during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896, the Malamute and other sled dogs became extremely valuable to recently landed prospectors and settlers, and were frequently crossbred with imported breeds. This was often an attempt to improve the type, or to make up for how few true Malamutes were up for sale. This 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 Rear Admiral Richard Byrd to the South Pole, and the miners who came to Alaska during the Gold Rush of 1896, as well as serving in World War II primarily as search and rescue dogs in Greenland, although also used as freighting and packing dogs in Europe. This dog was never destined to be a racing sled dog; instead, it was used for heavy freighting, pulling hundreds (maybe thousands) of pounds of supplies to villages and camps in groups of at least 4 dogs for heavy loads.

The Alaskan Malamute is a member of the Spitz group of dogs, traced back 2,000 to 3,000 years ago to the Mahlemuits tribe of Alaska.

"In shape, the Paleolithic dogs most resemble the Siberian husky, but in size, however, they were somewhat larger, probably comparable to large shepherd dogs," stated Germonpr�, a paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. This description of recently-found dog remains (30,000 years old) fits the Alaskan Malamute very closely. Though not scientifically confirmed, the Alaskan Malamute may be the closest living relative to the "First Dog".

A bill in the Alaska House has been passed to name the Malamute the official state dog of Alaska.

Alaskan Malamute Pictures

Alaskan Malamute - Classifieds