Known for their strength and endurance, Alaskan Malamutes originated in the United States and were bred for hauling heavy freight. One of the oldest Arctic sled dog breeds, their early ancestors were found living among the Mahlemut tribe (known today as the Kobuk) of Northwestern Alaska in the 1700s. They are believed to have descended from wolfdogs that accompanied early hunters who migrated to North America over 4,000 years ago. The Malamute, a member of the Spitz family, is closely related to the Akita, Samoyed, Finnish Spitz, and others. The breed was used during the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s to travel around the cold tundras of Alaska and also by the military during World War II to assist and even save downed pilots in areas that were only accessible by the use of sled dogs.
With a broad head and well-muscled body, the Malamute is a large breed that has a coarse, oily, and water-resistant topcoat, which helps to trap warm air inside the dense and wooly undercoat. This thick double coat gives them the ability to survive in temperatures of 70 degrees below zero in their native homeland of Alaska. Their heavy-boned characteristics, wide chest, and powerful back legs help propel this strong dog when pulling sleds or other heavy freight through frozen tundras. They have dark almond-shaped eyes, triangular-shaped ears that stand up on end, and a large muzzle with a black, brown, or lighter streaked "snow nose." Similar to many Northern breeds, Alaskan Malamutes have a large fluffy tail that curls over on itself and sits on top of the lower back.
Regardless of the Alaskan Malamute's appearance, they are not all work and no play. They can be very affectionate, friendly, and playful despite their hard-working background, but do not take their hard exterior as being an acceptable option for guard dog duty. Although not recommended for first-time dog owners due to their intelligence and stubbornness, they can be trainable and are known to excel in various sports and training tasks if given proper motivation with positive reinforcement and praise from a consistent, firm owner. The Malamute is considered a fairly quiet breed that is not a nuisance barker, but they can vocally express themselves by howls and "woo-woo" sounds like many other Northern breeds. These large dogs are known to be friendly towards others as well as many other pets and require at least an hour of daily exercise to keep them healthy, busy, and out of trouble. Malamutes thrive in cold environments but can adapt to living in a warmer climate. As a responsible owner, these fluffy, double-coated dogs should be paid close attention to when outdoors in hot weather and should have access to shade or air conditioning. Best suited for a family who can handle their energy and working needs, the Alaskan Malamute will do anything to make sure their family is pleased with them.