Alaskan Malamute
Overview
 
The Alaskan Malamute is a generally large breed
Dog breed
Dog breeds are groups of closely related and visibly similar domestic dogs, which are all of the subspecies Canis lupus familiaris, having characteristic traits that are selected and maintained by humans, bred from a known foundation stock....

 of domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) originally bred for use as a utilitarian dog and later an Alaskan sled dog
Sled dog
Sled dogs, known also as sleigh man dogs, sledge dogs, or sleddogs, are highly trained types of dogs that are used to pull a dog sled, a wheel-less vehicle on runners also called a sled or sleigh, over snow or ice, by means of harnesses and lines.Sled dogs have become a popular winter recreation...

. They are sometimes mistaken for a Siberian Husky
Siberian Husky
The Siberian Husky is a medium-size, dense-coat working dog breed that originated in north-eastern Siberia. The breed belongs to the Spitz genetic family...

, but in fact are quite different in many ways. As pets, once mature, Malamutes have a very quiet, dignified temperament and are loyal to their owners.
The American Kennel Club
American Kennel Club
The American Kennel Club is a registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States. Beyond maintaining its pedigree registry, this kennel club also promotes and sanctions events for purebred dogs, including the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, an annual event which predates the official...

 (AKC) breed standard calls for a natural range of size, with a desired freighting size of 23 inches (58 cm) and 75 pounds (34 kg) for females, 25 inches (64 cm) and 85 pounds (39 kg) for males.
Encyclopedia
The Alaskan Malamute is a generally large breed
Dog breed
Dog breeds are groups of closely related and visibly similar domestic dogs, which are all of the subspecies Canis lupus familiaris, having characteristic traits that are selected and maintained by humans, bred from a known foundation stock....

 of domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) originally bred for use as a utilitarian dog and later an Alaskan sled dog
Sled dog
Sled dogs, known also as sleigh man dogs, sledge dogs, or sleddogs, are highly trained types of dogs that are used to pull a dog sled, a wheel-less vehicle on runners also called a sled or sleigh, over snow or ice, by means of harnesses and lines.Sled dogs have become a popular winter recreation...

. They are sometimes mistaken for a Siberian Husky
Siberian Husky
The Siberian Husky is a medium-size, dense-coat working dog breed that originated in north-eastern Siberia. The breed belongs to the Spitz genetic family...

, but in fact are quite different in many ways. As pets, once mature, Malamutes have a very quiet, dignified temperament and are loyal to their owners.

Appearance

The American Kennel Club
American Kennel Club
The American Kennel Club is a registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States. Beyond maintaining its pedigree registry, this kennel club also promotes and sanctions events for purebred dogs, including the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, an annual event which predates the official...

 (AKC) breed standard calls for a natural range of size, with a desired freighting size of 23 inches (58 cm) and 75 pounds (34 kg) for females, 25 inches (64 cm) and 85 pounds (39 kg) for males. Heavier individuals (90 lb (41 kg)) and dogs smaller than 75 pounds (34 kg) are commonly seen. There is often a marked size difference between males and females. Weights upwards of 120 pounds (54 kg) are occasionally seen, but this is uncommon and such dogs are produced primarily by breeders who market a 'giant Malamute.' These large sizes are not in accordance with show standards and tend to experience many orthopedic problems as a results of their great size.

The coat is a dense double northern dog coat, somewhat "harsher" (in a certain sense) than that of the smaller Siberian Husky
Siberian Husky
The Siberian Husky is a medium-size, dense-coat working dog breed that originated in north-eastern Siberia. The breed belongs to the Spitz genetic family...

. The usual colors are various shades of gray and white, sable and white, black and white, red and white, or solid white. However, some Malamutes exhibit an extremely rare brown or fawn colouration known as 'Agouti'. Blue and white (slate gray with gray pigment) also is seen in the breed. Eyes are almond-shaped and should be various shades of brown (from dark to light, honey or hazel brown); blue eyed Malamutes will be disqualified in conformation shows, as they would not be a purebred Malamute, but mixed with perhaps a Siberian Husky. The physical build of the Malamute is compact with heavy bone, in most (but not all) cases. In this context 'compact' means that their height to length ratio is slightly longer than tall.
According to the AKC breed standard, the Malamute's tail is well furred and is carried over the back like a "waving plume". Corkscrew tails are occasionally seen but are faulted in the AKC breed standard (a corkscrew tail is commonly seen in the Akita). The Malamutes' well-furred tails aid in keeping them warm when they curl up in the snow. They are often seen wrapping the tail around their nose and face, which presumably helps protect them against harsh weather such as blowing snow. Their ears are generally upright.

Temperament

A few Malamutes are still in use as sled dogs for personal travel, hauling freight, or helping move heavy objects; some however are used for the recreational pursuit of sledding, also known as mushing
Mushing
Mushing is a general term for a sport or transport method powered by dogs, and includes carting, pulka, scootering, sled dog racing, skijoring, freighting, and weight pulling. More specifically, it implies the use of one or more dogs to pull a sled on snow or a rig on dry land...

, as well as for skijoring
Skijoring
Skijoring is a winter sport where a person on skis is pulled by a horse, a dog or a motor vehicle. It is derived from the Norwegian word skikjøring meaning ski driving.- Dog skijoring :...

, bikejoring
Bikejoring
Bikejoring, is a dog mushing activity related to skijoring, canicross, and dog scootering. It is a recreation or sport where a harnessed dog or team of dogs attached to a towline, pull and run ahead of a cyclist. Bikejoring is a non snow season activity...

, carting, and canicross
Canicross
Cani-cross is the sport of cross-country running while hitched to a dog. It is popular in Europe. It is related to the winter dog-powered sport of skijoring and bikejoring, wherein a skier or cyclist is hitched to one to three dogs....

. However, most Malamutes today are kept as family pets or as show or performance dogs in weight pulling
Weight pulling
Weight pulling is a dog sport involving a dog pulling a cart or sled loaded with weight a short distance across dirt/gravel, grass, carpet, or snow. It is a modern adaptation of freighting, in which dogs were used as freight animals to move cargo. Many breeds participate in this sport, with dogs...

, dog agility
Dog agility
Dog agility is a dog sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy. Dogs run off-leash with no food or toys as incentives, and the handler can touch neither dog nor obstacles...

, or packing. The Malamute is generally slower in long-distance dogsled racing
Dogsled racing
Sled dog racing is a winter dog sport most popular in the Arctic regions of the United States, Canada, Russia, and some European countries. It involves the timed competition of teams of sleddogs that pull a sled with the dog driver or musher standing on the runners...

 against smaller and faster breeds and their working usefulness is limited to freighting or traveling over long distances at a far slower rate than that required for racing. They can also help move heavy objects over shorter distances.

The Malamute retains more of its original form and function than many other modern breeds. If a dog owner cannot cope with a dog that will not comply with the owner's every command, a more compliant breed should be selected. This dog has a long genetic foundation of living in the harshest environment imaginable, and many of its behaviors are evolved to conform with "survival of the fittest." Independence, resourcefulness, and natural behaviors are common in the breed. Because of their intelligence, they can be one of the most difficult dogs to train. However, if the trainer understands the malamute and how to keep them motivated, success is within reach.

There is reason to believe that Alaskan Malamutes sometimes cope poorly with smaller animals, including other canines; however, this has been difficult to document in detail beyond observational data. Many Malamute owners have observed this behavior with smaller animals, though some might speculate this is due to the Malamute's uniquely divergent ancestry, at some points cross-breeding with wolves. Due to their naturally evolved beginnings, the Malamute tends to have a heightened prey drive when compared to some other breeds of dog. So while Malamutes are, as a general rule, particularly amiable around people and can be taught to tolerate other pets, it is necessary to be mindful of them around smaller animals and children.

Malamutes are quite fond of people, a trait that makes them particularly sought-after family dogs. Malamutes are nimble around furniture and smaller items, making them ideal house dogs, provided they get plenty of time outdoors meeting their considerable exercise requirements. If they are year-round outdoor dogs, letting them play in a baby pool filled with cold water in summer keeps them cool. In the winter, they love snow.

The majority of Malamutes are fairly quiet dogs, seldom barking like most other dog breeds. When a malamute does vocalize, more often than not they tend to "talk" by vocalizing a "woo woo" sound. They may howl like wolves or coyote
Coyote
The coyote , also known as the American jackal or the prairie wolf, is a species of canine found throughout North and Central America, ranging from Panama in the south, north through Mexico, the United States and Canada...

s, and for the same reason.

Longevity

There is only one known health survey of Alaskan Malamutes, a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey with a small sample size of 14 dogs. The median lifespan of 10.7 years measured in that survey is very typical of a breed their size. The major cause of death was cancer (36%).

Morbidity

The most commonly reported health problems of Alaskan Malamutes in the 2004 UK Kennel Club survey (based on a sample size of 64 dogs) were musculoskeletal (hip dysplasia), and hereditary cataracts.

Other health issues in Malamutes include inherited polyneuropathy
Polyneuropathy in dogs and cats
Polyneuropathy in dogs and cats is a collection of peripheral nerve disorders that often are breed-related in these animals. Polyneuropathy indicates that multiple nerves are involved, unlike mononeuropathy. Polyneuropathy usually involves motor nerve dysfunction, also known as lower motor neuron...

, chondrodysplasia, heart defects, and eye problems (particularly cataract
Cataract
A cataract is a clouding that develops in the crystalline lens of the eye or in its envelope, varying in degree from slight to complete opacity and obstructing the passage of light...

 and progressive retinal atrophy
Progressive retinal atrophy
Progressive retinal atrophy is a group of genetic diseases seen in certain breeds of dogs and, more rarely, cats. Similar to retinitis pigmentosa in humans, it is characterized by the bilateral degeneration of the retina, causing progressive vision loss culminating in blindness...

).

Climate and Malamutes

While Malamutes have been successfully raised in places such as Arizona
Arizona
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

, their dense coats generally make them unsuited for outdoor living in hot climates. When the weather gets hot, like any other breed of dog, the Malamute needs plenty of water and shade. A malamute should not be shaved in the summer, as their double coat protects them against the heat as it does the cold. They will grow a winter coat and subsequently shed it in spring to prepare for the summer and in the fall to prepare to put on their winter coat. When they shed, they do it in large clumps of undercoat that can easily cover an entire back yard of hair. Daily brushing is recommended during this time to hasten the process and to make the dog comfortable.

History

The Malamute is a descendant of dogs of the Mahlemut tribe of Inuit
Inuit
The Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Canada , Denmark , Russia and the United States . Inuit means “the people” in the Inuktitut language...

  in upper western Alaska. These dogs had a prominent role with their human companions – as a utilitarian dog, working, hunting, and living alongside them. The interdependent relationship between the Mahlemut and their dogs fostered prosperity among both and enabled them to flourish in the inhospitable land above the Arctic Circle
Arctic Circle
The Arctic Circle is one of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. For Epoch 2011, it is the parallel of latitude that runs north of the Equator....

.

For a brief period during the Klondike Gold Rush
Klondike Gold Rush
The Klondike Gold Rush, also called the Yukon Gold Rush, the Alaska Gold Rush and the Last Great Gold Rush, was an attempt by an estimated 100,000 people to travel to the Klondike region the Yukon in north-western Canada between 1897 and 1899 in the hope of successfully prospecting for gold...

 of 1896, the Malamute and other sled dogs became extremely valuable to recently landed prospectors and settlers, and were frequently crossbred with imported breeds. This was often an attempt to improve the type, or to make up for how few true Malamutes were up for sale. This seems to have had no long standing effect on the modern Malamute, and recent DNA analysis shows that Malamutes are one of the oldest breeds of dog
Ancient dog breeds
Fourteen ancient breeds of dog have been identified through advances in DNA analysis. These breeds of domesticated dog show the fewest genetic differences from wolves...

, genetically distinct from other dog breeds.

The Malamute dog has had a distinguished history; aiding Rear Admiral Richard Byrd to the South Pole
South Pole
The South Pole, also known as the Geographic South Pole or Terrestrial South Pole, is one of the two points where the Earth's axis of rotation intersects its surface. It is the southernmost point on the surface of the Earth and lies on the opposite side of the Earth from the North Pole...

, and the miners who came to Alaska during the Gold Rush
Klondike Gold Rush
The Klondike Gold Rush, also called the Yukon Gold Rush, the Alaska Gold Rush and the Last Great Gold Rush, was an attempt by an estimated 100,000 people to travel to the Klondike region the Yukon in north-western Canada between 1897 and 1899 in the hope of successfully prospecting for gold...

 of 1896, as well as serving in World War II primarily as search and rescue dogs in Greenland, although also used as freighting and packing dogs in Europe. This dog was never destined to be a racing sled dog; instead, it was used for heavy freighting, pulling hundreds (maybe thousands) of pounds of supplies to villages and camps in groups of at least 4 dogs for heavy loads.

The Alaskan Malamute is a member of the Spitz
Spitz
Spitz-type dogs are a type of dog, characterized by long, thick, and often white fur, and pointed ears and muzzles...

 group of dogs, traced back 2,000 to 3,000 years ago to the Mahlemuits tribe of Alaska.

"In shape, the Paleolithic dogs most resemble the Siberian husky, but in size, however, they were somewhat larger, probably comparable to large shepherd dogs," stated Germonpré, a paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. This description of recently-found dog remains (30,000 years old) fits the Alaskan Malamute very closely. Though not scientifically confirmed, the Alaskan Malamute may be the closest living relative to the "First Dog".

A bill in the Alaska House has been passed to name the Malamute the official state dog of Alaska.

See also

  • Canadian Eskimo Dog
    Canadian Eskimo Dog
    The Canadian Eskimo Dog is an Arctic breed of dog , which is often considered to be North America’s oldest and rarest remaining purebred indigenous domestic canine. Other names include Qimmiq...

  • Eight Below
    Eight Below
    Eight Below is a 2006 American adventure film directed by Frank Marshall and written by David DiGilio. It stars Paul Walker, Jason Biggs, Bruce Greenwood and Moon Bloodgood...

    (Film, 2006)
  • Dead to Rights: Retribution
    Dead to Rights: Retribution
    Dead to Rights: Retribution is a 2010 third-person action game. It is the reboot of the Dead to Rights franchise. Featuring, Grant City police officer Jack Slate and his canine companion Shadow. Developed by Volatile Games and published by Namco Bandai Games for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3,...

  • The Good Dog
    The Good Dog
    The Good Dog is a children's novel by Newbery Medalist Edward Irving Wortis published under his pseudonym, Avi, in 2001. Written for ages 8–12, the book has been described as having "a very cinematic feel" comparable to the movies The Incredible Journey and Beethoven.-Plot summary:The story takes...

    (book, 2001)
  • Nikki, Wild Dog of the North
    Nikki, Wild Dog of the North
    Nikki, Wild Dog of the North is a 1961 Walt Disney film directed by Jack Couffer and Don Haldane.This story, based on the novel "Nomads of the North" by James Oliver Curwood, is about the adventures of a malamute dog named Nikki. Nikki and his kind master, Andre Dupas, are traveling via canoe...

    (Film, 1961)

External links

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