Alaskan malamute The Alaskan malamute is the workhorse of the sled dog world, built to haul hefty loads over great distances. Shaped by harsh Arctic conditions, it is one of the most unaltered of breeds, having retained its original form and function over hundreds of years. The malamute is known for its extraordinary endurance, but not for speed. Powerful and independent, yet sociable by nature, it is well suited to a family environment as long as it has plenty of exercise and space to roam.
Though its origin is unknown, the Alaskan malamute is named after the native Inuit tribe called Mahlemuit. The Mahlemuit lived along the northwest shores of Alaska and used the dogs as their hunting partners. The dogs hauled the heavy seal and polar bear carcasses that the tribe used for meat over many miles to their villages. This arduous work required them to be large and strong, rather than fast. An essential component of the Inuits' lives, the dogs were treated as members of the family.
The promise of gold in 1896 brought a flood of outsiders -- and their dogs -- to Alaska. In order to supply the vast numbers of dogs needed during the gold rush, native dogs were interbred as well as bred with dogs brought by the settlers. The pure Alaskan malamute was in danger of being lost.
In the 1920s, a dog-racing enthusiast began to breed them for sled racing, and they rebounded. But it was their reputation as hard workers and faithful companions that ensured the breed's survival. Some were chosen to assist Admiral Byrd in his trek to the South Pole in 1933, while others were called into service during World War II to work as freight haulers, pack animals, and search-and-rescue dogs.
Although they are still used as sleddogs for recreational mushing, most malamutes today are unable to compete successfully against the smaller and faster breeds used in dogsled races. But their versatility keeps them employed as pack dogs, weight pullers, and show dogs.
Height: 23-25 inches
Weight: 75-85 pounds
Special Adaptations for Work: The largest of the sled dogs, the Alaskan malamute is heavy-boned and compact, designed for strength, balance, and endurance. Its dual-layer coat consists of a long, coarse guard coat and a short, dense, oily undercoat, providing the ultimate in insulation.