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.
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 meet the snow dogs, Alaskan Malamute vs. Siberian Husky.
Knowing the history of a dog’s breed can give you a great insight into what to expect. The personality, exercise needs, and temperament of a dog differ 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 Alaskan Malamute and the Siberian Husky are in the Arctic. A harsh, cold environment that needed stamina, independent thinking, and hard work.
The Alaskan Malamute is a descendent of domesticated wolf-dog hybrids. As such, they are one of the most ancient dog breeds.
Used as both hunting dog and pack animal, the Alaskan 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 seals, protecting the nomads from polar bears, and 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 the Alaskan 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 Alaskan Malamute grew to be known as the “M’Loot” strain.
The American Kennel Club recognized 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 Husky’s early development is unclear, it is one of the oldest recognized breeds.
The Siberian Husky was not only a family dog but a means of transportation for the Chukchi people. 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 as effective sled dogs over long distances.
Siberian Huskies came to Alaska in 1908. Known for their high energy, 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 sled 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 1920s. 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 its border to Siberia. In the same year, the American Kennel Club recognized the Siberian 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 100lbs.
Slightly longer than it is tall, the Alaskan malamute is 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.
Alaskan Malamutes come in various colors, including 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. One distinctive characteristic is the husky’s piercing blue eyes, although other colors are also common. Its tail is brush-like and carried sickle-like over its back when at attention.
Siberian Huskies come in various colors, 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 thick 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
Alaskan Malamutes are 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 with 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 bred to pull heavy loads 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, 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 Siberian 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.
Siberian 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, Siberian Huskies can none the less be talkative. The Husky’s independent thinking was a plus to the Chukchi people, and this trait remains. If you are looking for an obedience champion or a dog that walks to heel, then move on. The Husky was bred to pull light loads, including their family.
The high-energy 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 Siberian 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 moderate.
Husky vs Malamute health
If you choose a Siberian 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.
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Progressive retinal atrophy
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,
- Hip dysplasia
- Hemeralopia (Day Blindness)
Husky vs Malamute Exercise
Malamutes and huskies are descendants of working dogs. As such, they need a fair amount of exercise to keep them happy.
Stamina is a characteristic of both dog breeds, so a minimum of 2 hours of exercise a day is ideal. As neither the malamute and husky are good off-leash, 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 behavior.
Alaskan Malamute vs Siberian Husky grooming
Both Alaskan malamutes and Siberian huskies ‘blow’ their coats twice a year with some constant shedding throughout.
Grooming can help with the management of shedding. During heavy molting, 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 Siberian Husky or the Alaskan Malamute, try to meet the breeds before you decide.
The husky is a smaller, more nimble dog and has a higher prey drive making it impossible for off-leash exercise. Whereas in some instances, a Malamute can successfully have off lead time
Both Malamutes and Huskies 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, you may want to find a less chatty breed.
Both dog breeds have big personalities and will keep you on your toes. So if you want a lot of dog, then either of these two breeds could be the right for you.