Although often for mistaken for each other, the Alaskan malamute and the Siberian husky are separate breeds. Both were bred as sled dogs in harsh northern climates, but the malamute generally pulled heavier loads. Because of their origins, these dogs can live as house dogs or outdoors in moderate climates.
The malamute is the older of the two breeds, taking his name from the Inuit tribe of the Mahlemuts. Originally draft animals, after Europeans settled in the upper western section of Alaska the malamutes were also used for dog-sled racing, according to the American Kennel Club. The Chukchi people of northeastern Asia originated the Siberian husky as a sled animal. The Chukchis did not outcross the husky with other dogs, maintaining the breed as pure into the late 19th century. Huskies were brought to Alaska by Americans in the early years of the 20th century to compete in dog-sled racing.
The malamute is somewhat larger then the husky. Adult malamutes range between 75 and 85 pounds, standing between 23 and 25 inches tall at the shoulder. Males are larger than females. The full-grown husky weighs between 35 to 60 pounds, standing between 20 to 23.5 inches tall at the shoulder. Again, females are smaller than males.
The malamute is a heavily boned, sturdy dog, His thick coat runs from light gray to red. The only solid color permissible under the AKC breed standard is pure white. His top coat is coarse, while the undercoat is oily. This combination protects him in severe cold. Malamutes have dark, not blue, eyes. The husky's coat is more furry and much softer than the malamute's. His undercoat, while dense, is also soft. Any coat color is acceptable. While huskies are known for their blue eyes, brown or an eye of each shade is common.
While both breeds can make good pets, the husky probably edges out the malamute in the temperament department, although this might not hold true in individual dogs. Malamutes are good with people, but somewhat more dignified than their Siberian neighbors. He makes a loyal companion for his person. While friendly, huskies need the constant presence of their people or other dogs to feel secure. They are definitely pack animals. Huskies also aren't watch dogs. To them, there is no such thing as a stranger. Highly prey-driven, huskies aren't particularly trustworthy with cats.
Both breed require daily grooming. Without regular brushing, mats can form in the hair, eventually growing into the skin, causing infection. You also don't want husky or malamute hair all over your house, and these guys shed a lot.
- American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Alaskan Malamute
- American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Siberian Husky
- Siberian Husky Club of America: So ... You Want A Siberian Husky?
- Alaskan Malamute Club of America: Grooming and Care
- American Kennel Club: Alaskan Malamute - History
- American Kennel Club: Siberian Husky - History
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.