You’re sure that you want a northern breed, one that looks like a wolf, big, scary and beautiful. You have visions of walking down the street, the magnificent dog by your side. So, let’s meet the snow dogs, Alaskan Malamute vs Siberian Husky.
If you are a big fan of northern breeds but have never owned one, you need to know what you’re letting yourself in for. They are beautiful, intelligent and affectionate, but they can also be extremely challenging.
So, let’s get down to the basics.
Knowing the history of a dog’s breed can give you a great insight into what to expect. Personality, exercise needs and temperament of a dog differs based on their breeding. If you decide you want a lap dog but your dog was bred to hunt rabbits or chase rats then you may be in for a bit of a shock.
The breed histories of both the Malamute and the Husky are in the Arctic. A harsh, cold environment that needed stamina, independent thinking and hard work.
The Malamute is descendent from domesticated wolf-dog hybrids. As such they are one of the most ancient dog breeds.
Used as both hunting dog, and pack animal the Malamute migrated into the North American continent over 4000 years ago. Taking its name from the Mahlemuts, an Inuit tribe who settled in the North Western part of Alaska. The Malamute’s strength and endurance were highly prized. They played many roles within the camps. From hunting seal, protecting the nomads from polar bears as well as pulling large loads.
Malamutes impressed early explorers with their strength, endurance and size. Not only that, but they seemed much less wild than other breeds that they had encountered.
During the 1896 gold rush, a great many dogs were imported into Alaska to work. Native breeds interbred with these dogs eliminating a lot of the ‘pure’ Alaskan breeds.
However, the Malamute survived. Primarily because of the isolation of the Mahlemuts and two early adopters of the breed. Arthur T. Walden and Paul Voelker both established breeding kennels. Through their work, two different strains of Malamute emerged. Walden and later Milton and Eva Seeley focussed on dogs from the Norton Sound area of Alaska. These became known as the Kotzebue strain. Meanwhile, Voelker’s line of Malamute grew to be known as the “M’Loot” strain.
The American Kennel Club recognised the Alaskan Malamute in 1935. Whereas the first dogs introduced in the UK was in 1959.
The Siberian Husky
The Husky originates from Eastern Siberia, and a tribe of nomads called the Chukchi. While the Huskies early development is unclear, it is one of the oldest recognised breeds.
The Husky was not only a family dog but a means of transportation for the Chukchi. In winter the dogs would sleep with the children to keep them warm. And as a nomadic tribe, the Husky provided an essential means of transport.
Huskies came to Alaska in 1908. Known for their stamina and speed, they were used extensively during the Gold Rush.
One of the most famous episodes of their history is an epic journey across Alaska to bring diphtheria medication to the town of Nome. A relay of twenty-two dog sledge teams fought their way to bring the diphtheria serum back to Nome and stop the epidemic.
It was Leonhard Seppala who first introduced Siberian Huskies into the US in the 1920’s. Although Seppala’s original kennel was in Nenana, Alaska he later moved to New England. And this is where he partnered with Elizabeth Ricker establishing the Poland Springs Kennel.
The last exported Siberian Husky was in 1930 just before the Soviet government closed it’s border to Siberia. In the same year, the American Kennel Club recognised the Husky as a distinct breed.
Malamute vs Husky appearance
The Alaskan malamute is a large, powerfully built dog. The malamute ranges from 58cm to 64cm in height and 75 to 85lbs in weight, although it’s not uncommon to find dogs outside this range. With some dogs lighter than 75lbs while others weigh upwards of 100lbs.
Slightly longer than it is tall, malamutes are strong, sturdy and heavy-boned. With a deep and broad muzzle and small wedge-shaped upright ears. The Malamute carries a furry tail curved gently over its back in a plume.
Malamutes come in a variety of colours. These include shades of pale grey through to black, gold through shades of red and liver and white. White is always visible on the under-body, feet and mask markings.
The Malamute has a double coat. The undercoat is around 2.5 to 5cm thick and is dense, oily and woolly which provides insulation from water and cold temperatures. The outer, guard coat is coarse, thick and stands out from the body especially around the neck.
The Siberian husky is a medium-sized dog ranging from 51 to 60cm and weighing between 35 to 60lbs. It is light on its feet, with a deep chest in a well-balanced body. Fox like in appearance with a tapering muzzle and medium-sized erect ears. Its tail is brush-like and carried sickle like over its back when at attention.
Huskies come in a range of colours including grey, brown, tan, white and various shades between. Like the Malamute, they often have masks and caps in different shades.
The Husky has a double coat of medium length. The undercoat is soft and dense while the outer, guard coat is long and straight. Insulating the dog in cold weather and reflecting the heat in warm weather.
Temperament and characteristics
The Malamute is affectionate, loyal and sociable. They tend to be friendly with everyone though so if you are looking for a guard dog then look again.
Seldom barking, the Malamute is nether the less a talkative dog that has a distinctive ‘woo-woo’ sound. They are intelligent, curious and independent. But can be destructive if left alone or bored.
Although generally placid towards humans. The Malamute is not always tolerant of other dogs, especially of the same sex. What’s more, if you have other pets, especially small animals then the Malamute may not be the best option for you. If you do have other pets, make sure they are well secured.
Malamutes are born to pull and are incredibly strong, which isn’t surprising given their history. So, if you are on the small side, consider how you would manage a Malamute that is easily capable of pulling you over.
What’s more, a secure garden is a must as Malamutes like to dig and are excellent escape artists. While intelligent, Malamutes are not known as dogs that are easy to train. It’s not that they don’t understand it’s just that they lack the willingness!
If you are not a fan of dog hair, then please don’t get a Malamute. They have a lot of fur; they shed a lot of fur, you will be covered in a lot of fur!
Talk to any Husky owner and they will tell you the same thing. Never let your Husky off lead. It’s a mistake to think that this intelligent and independent dog will come when called. Many have tried and have watched as their Husky runs for the hills at exceptional speed.
Huskies are friendly, playful and gregarious. Like the Malamute, they are not one person dogs but love everyone they meet.
Although bred to be a pack dog, they can be selective with other dogs. And due to their very high prey drive are not recommended if you have any other pets.
Infrequent barkers, Huskies can none the less be talkative. The Huskies independent thinking was a plus to the Chukchi, and this trait remains. If you are looking for an obedience champion or a dog that walks to heel then move on, the Husky isn’t for you.
A Husky that lacks physical and mental exercise is likely to become destructive. This is especially true through their teenage years. A secure garden is a must. Huskies are exceptional escape artists, proficient diggers and accomplished climbers.
As with the Malamute you will need to embrace all things fur if you get a Husky. Most online sources will tell you they are moderate shedders. But ask anyone that owns one how much hair they produce in a week, they are anything but modest.
As with the Malamute you will need to embrace all things fur if you get a Husky. Although most online sources will tell you they are moderate shedders, ask anyone that owns one how much hair they produce in a week!
Husky vs Malamute health
If you do choose a Husky for your companion you can expect to share your life with him or her for around 10 -14 years. Although considered to be a healthy breed, Huskies are prone to several health issues.
If the Malamute is the right dog for you, then you can expect to share your life with this big bundle of fur for 10-12 years. Like the Husky, the Malamute is generally a healthy breed. There are some conditions that they tend to be prone to,
Husky vs Malamute Exercise
Both the Husky and the Malamute are descendants of working dogs. As such, they need a fair amount of exercise to keep them happy.
Stamina is a characteristic of both dogs, so a minimum of 2 hours exercise a day is ideal. As both breeds of dog are not good off lead, this would need to be on a leash or as part of an activity like canicross.
Not only that, but mental stimulation is equally essential to keep your dog happy. If your dog is destructive, uncooperative or just plain ‘naughty’, it could be boredom. Increase both physical and mental exercise as it helps to reduce unwanted behaviour.
Alaskan Malamute vs Siberian Husky grooming
Both the Malamute and the Husky breeds will ‘blow’ their coats twice a year with some constant shedding throughout.
Grooming can help with the management of shedding. During heavy moulting, you can help both you and your dog by grooming them daily with an undercoat rake.
If you are house proud, allergic or hate dog fur, neither of these breeds will suit you. They both have an enormous amount of hair!
Alaskan Malamute vs Siberian Husky summary
If you love the outdoors, are into exercise, and like a dog that has a mind of its own then you are in the right place. If you are still undecided between the two, then do try to meet the breeds before you make a decision.
The husky is a smaller more nimble dog and has the higher prey drive making it impossible for off lead exercise. Whereas in some instances Malamute’s successfully have off lead time
Both dogs are affectionate and playful with their families. In fact, they are generally welcoming to everyone, making them terrible guard dogs.
Although neither breed barks much they are often vocal and ‘talk’ a lot. So if you are looking for a quiet dog, then you may want to find a less chatty breed.
Both breeds have big personalities and will keep you on your toes. So if you want a lot of dog then either the Malamute or the Husky could be the right breed for you.