How do you tell Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies apart?
The Alaskan Malamute and the Siberian Husky are hard to tell apart to the untrained eye, but once you know their history, it allll makes sense! The hardest part is that both breeds have grown in such popularity, that the standard is neglected by unscrupulous breeders. However, for well bred dogs, the differences are easy to spot.
Both breeds are similarly coloured Spitz dogs, with a very lengthy history. They both were bred to be resilient in extreme climates with their thick double coats, born to run across cold, desolate expenses, designed to pull, and they’re both incredibly smart.
However, like their name suggests, they come from completely different continents. The Husky hails from Siberia – Russia, and the Malamute, from Alaska. And they were bred for different jobs for their native people.
The Husky owes its beginnings to the Chukchi people, native to Siberia. Due to its remote location and cold, harsh climate, the Chukchi perfected the breed by crossing Spitz breeds with the Laika – which means “Barker” in Russian – which explains the many vocalisations, or ‘singing’ that the Siberian Husky is known for today. They were selectively bred to run in groups, quickly and efficiently, sharing the relatively light load with their pack, across huge distances. You can see their “racey” structure in their body type, light and nimble to just run, run, run.
Other outward differences can also be spotted, such as Siberians can have striking blue eyes, either in both, or as single irises – the Malamute will only ever have eyes in shades of brown. Their ears also point upwards towards the sky, directly on top of their skull. And the tail on the Siberian as per their standard, should never curl over the back.
Alaskan Malamutes on the other hand, are one of the older of the Arctic sled dogs, believed to have originated among the nomadic Inuit tribe Mahlemut in northwestern Alaska on the Kotzebue Sound. These dogs were bred to pull, just like Siberians, however, they are freighters rather than racers…. They pull heavy loads at a steady pace, on their own across shorter distances. They were also kept close to their handlers to help hunt seals on the ice (hence their love for digging!) and even fend off polar bears. This means that although they love a long run like their Husky peers, they would rather carry a weighted pack or saddle bags and go for a steady hike or swim. This will scratch that itch that all dogs have, of doing the job they were bred to do in a more modern setting.
Due to the need for carrying a heavy load, Alaskan Malamutes can be almost twice as heavy as a Husky! They are weight lifters, rather than sprinters, packed with muscle but also double the fluff! Their fur is much thicker, especially in their tail that waves upwards and curls over the back. Their padded ears point forward rather than upwards and appear smaller and rounder. They also reportedly prefer spending time alone, rather than with other dogs – but I do believe that depends on the individual dog. Siberians on the other hand, supposedly thrive in packs, but I know of many handlers who keep a single dog quite happily!