Alaskan Malamute vs Siberian Husky: All You Need to Know
You’re sure that you want a northern breed, one that looks like a wolf, big, scary and beautiful. You have visions of walking proudly 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 had one as a pet before, you really need to know what you’re letting yourself in for.
Yes they are beautiful, intelligent and can be the most affection dogs you could ever ask for but they can also be extremely challenging. So let’s get down to the basics.
Knowing a dog’s breed history can give you a great insight into the characteristics, exercise needs and temperament of your chosen dog.
If you fancy a lap dog but find that your dog of choice was originally 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 can be found in the arctic. A harsh, cold environment that needs stamina, independent thinking and hard work.
The Malamute is believed to be one of the most ancient dog breeds, descended from domesticated wolf-dog hybrids. Used both as a hunting dog, as well as a pack animal, the Malamute migrated into the North American continent along with Palaeolithic man over 4,000 years ago. And are named after the Inuit Mahlemut tribe who settled in the North Western part of Alaska.
Originally bred for strength and endurance, Malamutes were used for hunting seal, protecting the camps from polar bears and to pull large sledge loads.
Early explorers reported that the working dogs kept by these Inuit tribes were less wild than some of the other breeds that they had encountered.
Not only that, they were impressed by their size, strength and the amount of work that they were capable of doing.
- The modern dog
During the 1896 gold rush, a lot of dogs of different breeds were bought into Alaska to work. These were interbred with native breeds with the result that a lot of the ‘pure’ breeds of Alaska were lost.
However, the Malamute survived as a pure breed mainly because of the isolation of the Mahlemuts and two early adopters of the breed, Arthur T. Walden and Paul Voelker.
Having both established breeding programs, two different strains of Malamute were developed. Walden and later Milton and Eva Seeley focused on reproducing dogs that were found in the Norton Sound area of Alaska.
Dogs from this breeding line became known as the Kotzebue strain. While Voelker’s Malamutes became known as the “M’Loot” strain. The American Kennel Club recognised the Alaskan Malamute in 1935 with the first dogs being introduced into the UK in 1959.
The Siberia Husky;
Not much is known about the origins of the Husky, although we do know they originated from Eastern Siberia. The Husky was used by a tribe of Siberian nomads called the Chukchi.
Who not only used the dogs to pull sleds for transportation, but also appreciated them as family dogs. The dogs often slept with the families and their children in order to help keep them warm at night in the harsh conditions.
Siberian Huskies were imported to Alaska in 1908 and used extensively in the Gold Rush. Well known for their stamina and speed, one of the most famous episodes of their history is an epic 674 mile journey across Alaska to bring diphtheria medication to the town of Nome.
Known as the Great Race of Mercy a relay of 22 dog sled teams with around 150 dogs fought their way to bring the antitoxin back to Nome and the surrounding communities to stop the epidemic.
- The modern dog
Siberian Huskies were first introduced into the US in the 1920’s by Leonhard Seppala. Seppala’s original kennel was in Nenana, Alaska but he later moved to New England where he partnered with Elizabeth Ricker and established the Poland Springs Kennel.
The last Siberian Husky was exported in 1930 when the Soviet government closed the borders to Siberia. Coincidentally, in the same year the Husky was recognised the American Kennel club.
Malamute vs. Husky appearance
The Alaskan malamute is a large, powerfully built dog, typically ranging from 58cm to 64cm in height and 75 to 85lbs in weight. Although it’s not uncommon for there to be an even larger size range, with some dogs lighter than 75lbs while others weigh upwards of 100lbs.
Slightly longer than it is tall, malamute’s are powerful, sturdy and heavy-boned. They have a deep and broad muzzle, small wedge-shaped upright ears and a furry tail that curves gently over its back in a plume.
Malamutes come in a variety of colours including shades of pale grey ranging 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 which is around 2.5 to 5cm thick and is dense, oily and woolly and provides insulation from water and cold temperatures.
While 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 in between 35 to 60lbs.
It is light on its feet, with a deep chest in a well balanced body. The husky has been described as 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 in between.
Like the Malamute they often have masks and caps in different shades. The Husky has a medium length, double coat. With the undercoat being soft and dense while the outer, guard coat is longer and straight.
This combination insulates the husky in cold weather and keeps them cool by reflecting the heat in warm weather.
Temperament and characteristics
The Malamute is described as affectionate, loyal and friendly. They tend to be friendly with everyone though, so if you are looking for a guard dog then look again!
Although they seldom bark, the Malamute is known to be quite a talkative dog that has a distinctive ‘woo woo’ sound. Intelligent, curious and independent, they can be destructive if left alone or not provided enough exercise or mental stimulation.
Generally placid in nature towards humans, the Malamute is not always tolerant of other dogs, especially of the same sex. If you have other pets, especially small animals, the Malamute may not be the best option for you unless they are kept separate and well secured.
They are incredibly strong and are known for pulling, which isn’t surprising given what they were bred to do. However this does need to be considered as if you are on the small side, as a large Malamute is easily capable of pulling someone over.
Malamutes like to dig and are good escape artists so a secure garden is required. Although intelligent and food motivated, they are not known as dogs that are easily trained. It’s not that they lack the understanding 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 constantly be surrounded and covered in a lot of fur!
Talk to any Husky owner and they will tell you the same thing. Never let your Husky off the lead.
If you do make the mistake of thinking that this highly intelligent dog is well trained enough to come when called then remember that when you see your Husky running for the hills at exceptional speed. Huskies are friendly, playful and gregarious.
Like the Malamute they are not one man dogs, but love everyone they meet. Although bred to be a pack dog, they can be choosy about other dogs.
If you have any other smaller pets, huskies are not recommended due to their very high prey drive. Again, like the malamute they do not bark much, but they are quite ‘talkative’ with whines, yawns and whimpers.
Huskies were bred to be independent thinkers and this trait remains. If you are looking for an obedience champion, or a dog that walks to heel, waiting on your every command, then move on, the Husky isn’t for you.
If they lack the exercise and mental stimulation to keep them entertained, Huskies will become destructive. This is especially true during those troublesome teenage years.
Known escape artists, notorious diggers and efficient climbers, it’s essential that your garden is completely secure.
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 them for around 10 -14 years. Although generally considered to be a healthy breed, there are several health issues that tend to be more common in Huskies.
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 considered to be a generally robust breed. There are some conditions that they tend to be prone to:
Husky vs Malamute Ongoing Care
Both the Husky and the Malamute are descendants of working dogs. As such, they need a fair amount of exercise to keep them happy. Both dogs have been bred for stamina so a minimum of two hours a day would be required.
As both breeds of dog are known for not being good off-lead, this would need to be taken on a leash or as part of an activity like Canicross.
If you provide additional mental exercise for your dog, as well as physical exercise then you should have a happy dog.
If you find that your dog is being destructive, uncooperative or just plain ‘naughty’ then try upping the exercise or provide more mental stimulation and see if it reduces the unwanted behaviour.
Both the Malamute and the Husky breeds will ‘blow’ their coats twice a year with some continuous shedding throughout the year. Grooming can help with the management of shedding and during heavy moulting you can help both you and your dog by grooming them daily with an undercoat rake.
However, If you are house proud, allergic or just hate having dog fur everywhere neither of these breeds will suit you, they both have an enormous amount of fur!
Alaskan Malamute vs Siberian Husky at a glance
58-64cm (at withers)
51-60cm (at withers)
Light grey through to black, gold through shades of red to liver. Always with white on under-body, parts of legs, feet and part of mask markings
Moderate increasing twice a year when coat is blown
Moderate increasing twice a year when coat is blown
Affectionate, friendly and loyal
Friendly and gentle, alert and outgoing
2 hours a day minimum
2 hours a day minimum
Husky vs Malamute
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 both breeds before you make a decision.
While the husky is a smaller more nimble dog it arguably has the higher prey drive. Whereas, the Malamute has been known to have off lead time successfully, huskies are notorious runners.
Both dogs are affectionate and playful with their families and generally welcoming to everyone. However this also means that they don’t make great guard dogs.
Although neither breed barks much they are often vocal and ‘talk’. If you are looking for a quiet dog then you may want to find a less chatty breed.
Highly entertaining, 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 just the dog you’re looking for. Good luck!
Check out Malamute Matters, a non-profit charity run entirely by volunteers who support rescue dogs and assist individual rescue dogs in need.
Petcationz provide an excellent overview of dog breeds including Malamutes and Huskies, as well as offering great pet information and support for pet lovers in Australia and New Zealand.
Marina from Treeline Tales talks about her experience of dogsledding and the background to the famous 1800 km long Iditarod Trail International Sled Dog Race.