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All About Alaskan Malamutes

A Brief History

The Alaskan Malamute is an ancient breed—they may even be one of the oldest Arctic sled dogs. Thousands of years ago, the Malamute’s ancestors journeyed with various native tribes across the Bering Strait, from Siberia to Alaska. One of these tribes, the Mahlemuts, settled in northwest Alaska near Norton Sound, and people believe that the modern-day Malamute was derived from this tribe’s dogs.

In the harsh conditions of northern Alaska, tribes utilized Malamutes for many tasks. These canines helped with seal hunting, protected their family by chasing away polar bears, pulled heavy sleds full of supplies, and helped transport big game back from hunting excursions. The Mahlemut people highly valued their dogs, and they were treated just like family.

Alaskan Malamute sitting in the snow

During the gold rush in 1896, there was a large influx of people going to Alaska, and as a result, the demand for sled dogs increased. Although many people began utilizing the powerful Malamute, others brought their own dogs into Alaska.

To help keep up with the high demand for dogs, people began breeding native Alaskan dogs with these other dogs. Thankfully, the Mahlemuts were a relatively isolated tribe, so their Alaskan Malamutes remained rather unaffected. Plus, the Malamute genes proved to be mainly dominant, so even these new mixed breed dogs still had many Malamute traits.

Around the 1920s, a small group of dog-racing enthusiasts who resided in the New England region took an interest in breeding and reviving the Alaskan Malamute breed. This strain of the breed became known as the “Kotzebue” strain, and many of these dogs were used during the Byrd Antarctic Expeditions during the 1930s. Another strain of Alaskan Malamutes, which were from a different breeder, became known as the “M’Loot” strain, and they were given jobs in World War II and on another one of Byrd’s expeditions.

Unfortunately, after wars and expeditions, the Malamute population was quickly decreasing. Although it isn’t always easy tracking the detailed history of the Alaskan Malamute breed, people often agree that if it wasn’t for a few breeding efforts, it is likely that the Malamute would not still be around today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Picture of a Black and White Alaskan Malamute

Alaskan Malamutes are a fascinating and unique dog breed, and there’s a plethora of information to learn about their history, personality, and behaviors. Before adopting a Malamute, many dog parents first have questions about the breed that they want to be answered. Common questions include:

  • Where Did Alaskan Malamutes Originate?

  • Like their name states, Malamutes originated in Alaska, specifically in the more northern regions of the state.

  • Do Alaskan Malamutes Shed?

  • The Malamute’s thick, double coat does shed at a constant rate. Having this type of fur means they will need brushed multiple times every week, and you should be prepared to run your sweeper just as often.

    Twice a year, typically around the time of spring and autumn, a Malamute will blow their coat. In other words, they will experience heavy shedding where they lose most of their undercoat. When it is shedding season, your arctic friend will most likely need brushing every single day, and your vacuum and lint rollers will be working into overtime.

  • How Big Do Alaskan Malamutes Get?

  • These canines typically measure around 23-25 inches in height, with males usually standing taller than females.

  • What’s the Average Alaskan Malamute Weight?

  • Malamutes sit comfortably in the large to extra-large dog category. These sizable canines have an average weight ranging from 75-85 pounds, but it is not unusual for a Malamute to tip the scale at 100 pounds or more.

  • How Long Do Alaskan Malamutes Live?

  • An Alaskan Malamute’s average lifespan is 12-15 years—a relatively high number for such a large dog. Although this is the average, every dog is unique, and they can have a shorter or longer life. Not to mention, a dog’s life expectancy can be affected by many factors, including their diet, activity level, living conditions, and overall health.

Malamutes in the Home

Alaskan Husky puppy on leash

Even though Malamutes are known to get along well with children, it is still essential to monitor your dog’s interactions with children, especially those of a younger age. Because of their boisterous personality and broad stature, a Malamute can easily knock kids, and adults for that matter, over. Be sure to teach kids how to respect your dog and their space.

When it comes to having other pets in the house, it’s vital first to consider your Malamute’s temperament, training, and socialization. For the most part, Malamutes seem to do better in a multi-pet household when they can grow up with the other dogs or cats already around them. However, Malamute parents need to recognize their dog’s instinct to hunt small prey. It is crucial that you do not leave your pal alone with cats or other small dogs until you are certain there will be no confrontation.

Some people believe that this hunting instinct can be trained out of a Malamute so that they can cohabitate with smaller pets. While this may work with pets in your house, keep in mind that any small animal your Malamute finds outside will be fair game to them.