It’s not always easy to tell the difference between two dog breeds. Understandably, the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute are often confused. They share some physical characteristics and well, of course, they’re both sled dogs bred to strive in cold climates. However, there are differences between these two furry dog breeds and as we’ll find out they may not be for everyone. Let’s get to know these fabulous dogs. Siberian Husky vs Alaskan Malamute
Siberian Husky vs Alaskan Malamute History
Both breeds are what are known as Spitz breeds, making them some of the oldest breeds we have today.
Siberian Husky History
The Siberian Husky is believed to have originated among the Chukchi, a tribe of nomads from the Siberian region. The breed’s history is relatively unknown but DNA tests confirm that the Siberian is among the oldest dog breeds.
The Chukchi used the dogs as transportation and the dogs interacted with the Chukchi as family companions, often sleeping with the children and providing warm comfortable beds for them.
The Siberian Huskies were imported to Alaska in 1908 and were used as sled dogs during the gold rush. The last Siberian Husky was exported from Siberia in 1930 when the borders were closed by the Soviet government.
However, the breed continued to thrive in North America. And although they have changed slightly from their Siberian foundation dogs, they still maintain many of the wonderful qualities of the Chuchki Sled Dogs.
Alaskan Malamute History
One of the oldest Arctic sled dogs, the Alaskan Malamute’s forebears crossed the Bering land bridge from Siberia to Alaska with native peoples thousands of years ago.
One tribe, known as the Mahlemuts, settled in the northeastern area of the Seward Peninsula and it’s there that the modern Alaskan Malamute was developed. The dogs were used to hunt seals, chase away polar bears, and pull heavy sleds loaded with food or camp supplies.
The native people treated their dogs well and valued them highly. The gold rush of 1896 brought a great influx to Alaska of dogs of many sizes and breeds who could survive the weather. Many native dogs to Alaska were interbred with other dogs brought to the area with prospectors and pure types were lost.
But, the Mahlemuts were a relatively isolated tribe, and so the Alaskan Malamute survived the incursion better than some other breeds. Through successful breeding programs to keep the Malamute true to its origins, we have the Malamute we know and love today.
Siberian Husky vs Alaskan Malamute Personality
Siberian Husky Personality
According to the American Kennel Club Standard, the Siberian Husky “does not display the possessive qualities of the guard dog, nor is he overly suspicious of strangers or aggressive with other dogs.” Their exotic, wolf-like appearance makes Siberian Huskies appealing to many people, and their even temperament, love of other dogs and indifference to strangers makes them ideal family dogs.
Huskies have a zest for life that is unmatched by few breeds.
They may seem like a good family dog for first-time dog owners, but Huskies can often be “too much dog” for the novice owner. But avid Husky owners agree, you get out of a Siberian Husky what you put into it, and these reliable dogs are worth the effort.
Alaskan Malamute Personality
Hardy working dogs, Alaskan Malamutes are really just big puppies. Though they take their jobs pulling sleds or searching out lost humans very seriously, they love to run, romp and play and have a never-ending energy reserve. Their playful, easy-going nature and friendliness toward strangers also makes them a great family companion.
Alaskan Malamutes will win you over with their playful, outgoing dispositions. They greet everyone as a friend—even strangers and first-time house guests—so they don’t make good watchdogs, but they are extremely loyal to their family.
A word of caution, a male Alaskan Malamute may not get along well with other male dogs, including other male Malamutes.
Both breeds are pack animals and enjoy spending time with their human pack, insisting on being included in all family activities.
Neither is big on barking.
Both breeds do have a high prey drive, so living with other non-dog pets may not be an option, but they can be trained to get along with the family cat.
Siberian Husky vs Alaskan Malamute Coat
Both breeds share a well-insulated warm double coat. Hence, neither should be kept in warm climates.
Both breeds shed a lot. Regular brushing is required most of the year, but even that won’t be enough when the dogs “blow their coat” when their hair falls out in large clumps. This happens usually twice a year.
If you decide to have one of these dogs in your life, invest in a good vacuum cleaner, and lint rollers. And you’re just going to have to be comfortable with dog hair everywhere, perhaps including your breakfast cereal. Dog hair is a way of life for the Husky or Malamute family.
The Malamute is a larger, stronger dog. The breed is considered a large dog breed. Males stand 25 inches high at the shoulder and should weigh about 85 pounds; females tend to stand 23 inches high and weigh about 75 pounds.
However, it’s not unusual for a well-muscled adult male to weight over 100 pounds. In rare instances, so-called “giant” Malamutes top 140 pounds, but the Malamute body is not designed to carry that excess weight.
Considered a medium-sized dog, an average male Siberian Husky stands between 21 and 23.5 inches high while the female averages 20 to 22 inches. The male weighs between 45 and 60 pounds and the female 35 to 50 pounds.
Exercise needs and shedding aside, the Siberian and Malamute are small enough for apartment life and do quite well there.
Siberian Husky vs Alaskan Malamute Trainability
As pack dogs, both breeds need a firm leader.
Overall, the Siberian Husky is more intelligent than the Malamute, but this may or may not be a helpful trait when it comes to training, as your Husky will try to outsmart you.
This breed is notoriously difficult to train and are generally not well suited for first-time owners. Huskies require firm leadership and 100% consistency when it comes to boundaries and rule enforcement. Their expressive eyes can be used to manipulate the softies of the house, so all family members must also be “trained” to be consistent with rules and leadership.
Though they instinctively love to work, Alaskan Malamutes are also difficult to train in the home. Independent and willful dogs, a patient, consistent hand is needed when working with this breed. They like to be in charge, so the moment they see an opening to manipulate a situation, Malamutes will take it.
Needless to say, if you’ve never trained a dog, neither breed is probably a good choice.
Both breeds love to run. That’s what they were bred for. And by run, we don’t mean just sprinting around like your average dog. These dogs are distance runners with almost limitless endurance.
The Alaskan Malamute is, however, a calmer breed indoors than the hyper Siberian Husky.
The Siberian Husky is a faster runner and needs a lot more vigorous exercise than the Malamute. While you need to exercise both, the Husky needs hiking, jogging, even sled pulling in its life on a regular basis to be a truly happy and healthy dog.
Either dog will become unhappy, bored and most likely destructive if not exercised on a regular basis. If you don’t want to get off the couch, again, probably not the breed for you.
Health and Lifespan
The Siberian Husky has a bit longer lifespan, living on average 12-15 years compared to an average lifespan of 10-12 years for the Alaskan Malamute.
Common ailments affecting the Siberian Husky are numerous including epilepsy, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, juvenile cataracts, basal cell tumor, perianal gland adenoma, chronic superficial keratitis, progressive retinal atrophy and a lot of other stuff I just can’t pronounce reliably.
The Malamute’s list is similarly large. Breed health concerns may include autoimmune hemolytic anemia, bloat, cancer, dwarfism, diabetes, epilepsy, eye problems, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and skin problems. Malamutes also can have a genetic defect causing malabsorption of zinc, which leads to skin lesions despite adequate levels of zinc in their diet.
Along with shedding hair and a stubbornness to training, vet bills are probably going to be a big concern when getting into either of these breeds.
I’m not trying to be overly negative about these breeds, because they are overall wonderful dogs. But, also we do have to realize that all people are not suited to all dogs. These are tough dogs to own, not for novice owners and we don’t want these dogs ending up in shelters due to an owner being overwhelmed.
But, remember, if you’re considering one of these awesome dogs and you are up to the task, there are breed specific rescue organizations all over the world that are usually a simple Google search away.
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