Showsight Presents The Alaskan Malamute

BACK TO BASICS: The Alaskan Malamute


By Robin Haggard and Jim Kuehl

he Alaskan malamute is the heavy freighting dog of the north. Malamutes pull heavy loads at slow speeds. Th ey are not racing dogs. Th e Mala-

registered dogs to maintain the breed. Th e Malamute Club modified the original 1935 standard in 1960 to accommodate the new bloodlines. Th is change in the standard and admission of new lines caused a great deal of strife in our Club over the years. Th e one dog that unites all of these lines is Ch Toro of Bras Coupe. He rep- resented our breed for many years in the “AKC Complete Dog Book.” Toro is behind every Malamute alive today because of his use in blending all three Malamute strains. He was bred by Earl and Natalie Norris of Alaska and won the Breed at Westminster in 1952. Th e Malamute standard stresses the anatomical features that allowed these dogs to survive in the harshest environ- ment. Th e dogs lived outside in weather that often got to 50 degrees below zero. When food was scarce they ate only every few days and still worked extremely hard. To protect the dogs in these extreme con- ditions, the Mals need a coarse, stand-o ff coat with a dense, wooly undercoat. A soft or long coat will separate in the wind and let the weather get to the skin. Good feet are also important for survival in the Artic. Th e Standard calls for large compact feet which help the dog spread its weight in the snow. Small, thick, well furred ears are less likely to freeze. Almond shaped, obliquely set eyes minimize the glare of sun on snow. A round or bulgy eye is at risk of freez- ing. Th e flat back skull, bulky muzzle, and slightly sloping stop do not provide a place for snow to accumulate on the dog. Th e Malamute standard uses the word ‘moder- ate’ to describe most aspects of conforma-

tion. Extremes in structure are usually not a successful survival strategy. Type features in our standard, such as the plume tail, ear placement, and dark eyes are not neces- sary for the dog to survive, but they help to make the dog a Malamute. Th is “Important” note comes from the Malamute standard: “In judging Malamutes, their func- tion as a sledge dog for heavy freighting in the Arctic must be given consideration above all else. Th e degree to which a dog is penalized should depend upon the extent to which the dog deviates from the descrip- tion of the ideal Malamute and the extent to which the particular fault would actu- ally a ff ect the working ability of the dog. Th e legs of the Malamute must indicate unusual strength and tremendous propel- ling power. Any indication of unsoundness in legs and feet, front or rear, standing or moving, is to be considered a serious fault.” Th e character of the Malamute was shaped by the environment as well. Th e dogs lived in small family packs. Th e Inuit are a nomadic people and traveled around the arctic, rarely meeting other family groups. Th e Malamute is not a guard dog, but he will tell you if any critter is around. He is not particularly loyal to one person or family, but should be a ff ectionate with all people. Most Malamutes love children. Since they never knew where their next meal was coming from, Mals are prey oriented and will attack any furry, feath- ered or finned creature they encounter. If they are raised with cats or other animals, they will generally be fine with them, but strange cats are fair game. Malamutes can

mute’s breed characteristics developed from the harsh environment they endured as much as from the lifestyle of the Inuit, the people of the North American Arctic coasts. Th ese Arctic dogs were a necessity for Inuit survival. Th e dogs not only pulled sledges, they carried backpacks in the summer, they located seal breathing holes in the coastal ice, and they distracted Polar bears for hunters. Th e Inuit are one culture from the coast- al areas of Alaska to Greenland. Th eir dogs are essentially one breed across that large geographic area. Di ff erences in these dogs that we see today, such as length of leg or coat, color and markings, result from the geographical separations of these nomadic people. Th e dogs Robert Peary used in the 1890’s to explore the Arctic could compete in our show rings today. Th ere are still dogs used by the Inuit in Greenland that are true to Malamute type. Th e Malamute gene pool today is made up of three basic strains. Th e AKC recog- nized the original Kotzebue strain, regis- tered in 1935. Th e AKC opened the Mala- mute Studbook and admitted the M’Loot and Hinman strains in the late 40’s and early 50’s. Th e Army had drafted most sled dogs for service during World War II. In accordance with US military protocol, the Army destroyed most of those dogs at the end of the war, so that there were too few

“Malamutes were bred TO PULL HEAVY LOAD S AT SLOW SPEED S.”

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