Alaskan Malamutes

Alaskan Malamute

Large Breed is a Sought-After Family Dog

Due to their similarly-colored fur coats and markings, the Alaskan malamute is often mistaken for a Siberian husky.

The malamute, however, is a notably different dog with a distinct personality that makes it a top choice as a family companion.

The Alaskan malamute does, in fact, have deep-seeded roots in Alaska. Nearly 3,000 years ago, its ancestors coexisted with the Mahlemuits tribe of Eskimos who lived in the upper western region of Alaska.

There is some scientific speculation that the breed may be able to trace its origins even farther back: Archeologists recently uncovered remains of a dog that closely resembles the Alaskan malamute. The remains, nearly 30,000 years old, would make the malamute one of—if not the—oldest dog in history. DNA on the malamute also indicates that it is one of the oldest breeds in existence.

The Alaskan malamute has a distinguished background: Used as a utility dog during the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1800’s, members of the breed also accompanied Admiral Richard Byrd on his expedition to the South Pole in 1928 and the breed also served primarily as search and rescue dogs in Greenland during World War II.

One of the reasons the Alaskan malamute was incredibly useful during Alaska’s Gold Rush, on Byrd’s Arctic expedition and in Greenland’s blistering cold climate during WWII was due to its ability to survive extremely cold temperatures.

The Alaskan malamute has a dense, double fur coat, with a rough outer layer and a thick and woolly, oily undercoat.

The breed is a large, heavy dog weighing more than 100 pounds. The dog’s coat can be a variety of colors, including gray and white, sable and white, black and white, seal and white, red and white, or solid white. A purebred Alaskan malamute has brown eyes, unlike the Siberian husky, which can have blue or brown eyes.

No longer considered a utility dog, the Alaskan malamute is more of a recreational dog who participates in sledding (or “mushing”) and other cross-country sports such as cani-cross, where runners are hooked to the harness of a malamute and receive the additional benefits of the dog pulling the runner.

These days, the Alaskan malamute is in high demand with families. The breed is very loyal to its owners and can make itself at home even in the smallest of dwellings, as long as they get enough exercise outdoors. The Alaskan malamute is also known for its intelligence and occasional stubbornness, which requires routine training in order to maintain an even temperament around children and other pets.

Unlike the typical dog, Alaskan malamutes are, on average, very quiet. Perhaps their tribal background groomed them for their occasional howling; malamute owners will often relay stories of how their dogs talk to them with a “woo woo” instead of the normal bark.

While the Alaskan malamute can suffer from heart defects, the leading cause of death for the breed is cancer. The medical conditions listed below are known to occur in the breed; however, some are relatively common and others are very rare. Your Alaskan malamute will not necessarily develop these conditions.

  • Cataracts are an opacity of the lens of the eye and may cause blindness if not treated surgically. Symptoms include enlargement of the pupil and a gradual change in color of the eye. Progressive loss of vision occurs and is most noticeable at night due to the lens opacity.
  • Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joints that causes arthritis. The conditions is especially crippling in large breeds of dogs.
  • Inherited Polyneuropathy is a collection of peripheral nerve disorders that often are breed-related, usually involving motor nerve dysfunction, also known as lower motor neuron disease. Symptoms include decreased or absent reflexes and muscle tone, weakness, or paralysis. It often occurs in the rear legs and is bilateral. Most are chronic problems with a slow onset of symptoms, but some occur suddenly.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an adult-onset condition which typically occurs between ages 4 and 10. Symptoms include night blindness leading to total blindness between the ages of three and five.

As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.