Friday, January 21, 2011

The Alaskan Malamute, a True Arctic Breed

By Ruthie Bently

The Alaskan Malamute’s origins go back 2,000 to 3,000 years, and their creation is credited to the Mahlemut Inuit tribe of northern Alaska. Most experts agree that the Malamute is one of the earliest dog breeds of North America. It is debated that they owe their existence to the breeding between domesticated Arctic wolves and early dogs owned by the tribe. It has not yet been scientifically confirmed, but the Alaskan Malamute might be the nearest living relative to the “First Dog” according to Mietje Germonpré, a paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. He feels that 30,000 year old dog remains recently found closely resemble the Alaskan Malamute due to their size.

I find it easy to believe that this breed is descended from wolves, as they do tend to howl more than they bark. I have had the chance to hear wolves howling, and the similarity is interesting. An extended family member owns a Malamute with ice blue eyes (this is a disqualification in the confirmation ring). When she looks at you, you get the impression that she is looking into your soul.

The Malamute was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1935. An adult male may range in height from 24 to 26 inches at the withers and weigh between 80 to 95 pounds. An adult female may range in height from 22 to 24 inches and weigh between 70 to 85 pounds. They have a life expectancy of twelve to fifteen years. A Malamute is a large, deep-chested breed and is prone to hip dysplasia, cataracts and bloat. It is a member of the AKC’s working group and is a good example of the group.

Malamutes have a long, dense double coat of hair, well suited to the northern climes and cold weather. If you live in a state like Arizona, you might want to think twice before getting a Malamute. They blow coat profusely in the spring and the fall, and brushing several times a week outside is suggested. The undercoat comes out in clumps. Coat colors can be solid white, black and white, sable and white, red and white, blue and white, or gray and white.

The early Mahlemuts used Malamutes (their only mode of transportation) for pulling travel sleds, hauling sleds loaded with supplies and food, and for hunting polar bears. Malamutes were highly prized for their willingness to work and their endurance and strength. They are still used for hauling freight over long distances and moving heavy objects.

Highly athletic dogs, Malamutes are frequently used for skijoring, bikejoring, canicross (the sport of cross-country running while hitched to a dog), agility, backpacking, carting, dog sledding, jogging, mushing, packing, search and rescue, and weight pulling. In long distance races, they are slower and heavier than their smaller cousin, the Siberian Husky.

As sled dogs, Malamutes are suited more for hauling and transport due to their accomplished sense of smell, courageous tenacity and sense of direction. These traits make them an invaluable addition to any expedition. Malamutes were used in 1896 during the gold rush in the Klondike. They were used frequently in Admiral Byrd’s expeditions to the South Pole and were used during World War II for search and rescue in Greenland, as well as being immortalized in books written by Rudyard Kipling and Jack London. The Alaskan Malamute was voted as the state dog of Alaska in 2010.

Malamutes need daily exercise. They like to wander, and a stout fenced yard or a dog run is suggested. If you build a dog run, the fence should be buried several inches below ground, as they will dig their way out. They make a good family pet, but if there are smaller household pets, care should be taken due to the Malamute’s strong prey drive. Due to their size, care should be taken when they are around small children, as they may knock them over. Obedience training is strongly suggested, and Malamutes need to be properly socialized with other dogs and humans. This breed needs an owner who is a strong alpha; otherwise they may be unruly and try to rule the roost. 

If you live in a northern climate, love exercise and winter sports, and don’t mind cleaning up dog hair, this affectionate, versatile arctic dog may be the right one for you.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

1 comment:

  1. We live in northern Sweden together with our seven magnificent Alaskan Malamutes. You can read more about our adventures together in our blog: Welcome!


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