The ancient Alaskan dog that was almost wiped out by the gold rush

It is one of the oldest breeds in the world and living proof of where the maxim that a dog is man’s best friend originated.

It is large, extremely hardy, loves the cold and movement, and the survival of the people who bred it depended on it.

But it’s not husky. It is a Malamute, also known as an Alaskan Malamute. The two breeds have a lot in common, and maybe a common ancestor, but also a lot of differences.

It is believed that the Malamute crossed the Bering Strait with people from Siberia thousands of years ago and gradually adapted to the Alaskan climate and the lifestyle of the local tribes.

That’s where his name comes from – from the Inuit tribe of Malemuts, who bred these dogs. Humans have relied on animals for their survival – hauling loads, getting around, hunting and protection from predators.

This is also one of the differences with the Siberian Husky – it was bred by the Chukchi in Eurasia, although for similar purposes.

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Centuries of pulling heavy sleds in Alaska have turned the malamute into a working dog, with strong muscles and thick fur. It is extremely durable, powerful and heavy. This is not a racing dog – for millennia its job has been to pull sleds slowly and survive in extremely extreme conditions.

Therefore, this breed is not used for today’s popular dog sled races – this is mainly what the so-called Alaskan Huskies, which are a different type of dog and were selected specifically for speed and endurance, but not so much as a workforce. For their selection, malamutes and Siberian huskies were used, as well as other northern breeds, as well as a German shepherd.

The Malamute is considerably larger than both the Siberian and Alaskan Huskies. It reaches about 65 cm in height and weighs 38-43 kg. Its fur is thick and dense and has two layers – outer and inner. It is also longer than that of huskies. And no blue eyes, only brown.

The animal was of great importance to the Inuit, because without it there was no way for them to move to Alaska in search of food. Malamutes also helped to hunt seals and guard against bears. They lived with humans and often slept with them to keep them warm.

When the Alaska gold rush occurred at the end of the 19th century, dogs with the characteristics of the Malamute became extremely valuable, and because of the huge demand for pack dogs, it began to be indiscriminately crossed with other breeds.

This almost led to the extinction of the original breed, but due to the isolation of the Malemute tribe, they had enough dogs with pure genes left, and it is from there that all today’s representatives of the breed originate.

Photo: iStock

Although there are dogs left today who lead the life of their ancestors with the Inuit, the vast majority of the breed has become a normal pet.

Normal according to the characteristics of such a dog, of course.

Malamutes are neither suitable for an apartment nor for guard dogs. They, like huskies, have enormous energy and need serious exercise – at least 1-2 hours a day.

Because of its long proximity to humans and life in a pack – ie. harness, are very friendly and friendly to everyone, including strangers. That’s why they don’t become guards – they adore attention from people. However, their role back in the day was to protect from bears, not from other tribes.

As pack animals, they have a strong sense of hierarchy, so they are difficult to train if their owner is unable to play the role of alpha leader. If the dog does not recognize the handler in the “pack” at home, he will try to personally take this role, after which nothing good follows.

Malamutes are extremely intelligent, but they get bored easily, and without enough exercise and mental stimulation, this can lead to destructive behavior.

Photo: iStock

Because of their characteristics, they are suitable pets for people who spend a lot of time outside and are physically active, especially in winter. They are generally suitable for families with children, but because they are huge and affectionate, there is always a risk of them falling and injuring the smaller ones.

Malamutes are confident and independent and strong willed. This usually leads to conflicts with other dogs, especially of the same sex.

In addition, they have a strong hunting instinct and rarely forgive other animals in which they see prey, so they cannot live with rabbits, birds and even cats.

Let’s not forget the fur. It is plucked, and once a year it is replaced and requires brushing at least once a day. But the good thing is that Malamutes are the type of dog whose fur cleans itself, does not retain dirt and does not develop odor. They don’t even need to be bathed more than once a year.

The Malamute is hardly your next dog, but it is certainly an interesting breed that deserves deep respect.


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