What is the Difference Between Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian, and Alaskan Huskies?

Picture of Husky in the snow

If you are the proud owner of one of these distinctive breeds of Nordic descent, you have more than likely had someone mistake your dog for one of the other aforementioned breeds. Though there are similarities between the Alaskan Malamute, the Siberian Husky, and the Alaskan Husky, there are very distinct differences as well. If you are currently a dog-less family looking to add one of these beautiful dog breeds to your home, it will be important for you to learn the differences between them as some of them may be better suited to life with your family than others, particularly if you are planning to add more dog goes to your brood in the not too distant future.

The Alaskan Malamute

The Alaskan Malamute lays claim to being the official mascot dog of the great state of Alaska. A member of the Spitz family of dog breeds, the Alaskan Malamute became an officially recognized dog breed by the American Kennel Club in 1935. A northern sledding breed, the Alaskan Malamute has been reputed to be the product of an early mating between a domesticated wolf and a very early version of the dog. Many Alaskan Malamute breeders vehemently deny the veracity of this claim.

One of the oldest breeds traced back to the continent of North America, ivory carvings which contain images of the Malamute have been found which are estimated to be between 12,000 and 20,000 years old, indicating that the Alaskan Malamute is indeed an ancient breed. It is believed that in as many as 4,000 years of breed history, the Malamute conformation and overall appearance remains virtually unchanged.

History asserts that the Alaskan Malamute owes its name to the region of the world were they originated. A breed championed by an Inuit tribe known as the Mahlemuts, the Alaskan Malamute’s original purpose was to assist its owners in the hunt for seals as well as to pull and deliver supply sleds and people to various locations on a hunt.

In comparison with the Siberian Husky and its Alaskan counterpart, the Alaskan Malamute is taller of stature and heavier-boned. The ideal Alaskan Malamute will reach a full grown height of 23”-25” at the withers (shoulder) with a balanced weight of 75-85 lbs to complement the dog’s height.

One distinctive feature which easily distinguishes an Alaskan Malamute from other northern breeds is its eyes. They differ in both set and color. The Alaskan Malamute’s eyes are brown, and his eye set should be wide and well positioned in a broad headpiece. The tail carriage of the Alaskan Malamute also differs from that of the Husky brothers, being quite furry and voluminous in nature and carried over the back.

When it comes to temperament, the Alaskan Malamute bears some similarities to the Siberian and Alaskan Husky. Like the other Nordic breeds in the scope of this article, the Malamute is a dog that possesses extremely high prey drive and a love of running. A master escape artist, the Malamute is far more prone to dig than he is to jump due to the bulk of his substantive frame. A breed of high intellect, the  Malamute can be very difficult to train due to his stubborn nature. Affectionate to family and friends, the Malamute greets those he loves with confidence, but unlike the Husky boys, this dog breed can exhibit same sex dog aggression. Care must be taken in introducing dogs of the same gender into the home.

The Siberian Husky

By comparison, the Siberian Husky traces its origins to the other side of the globe in Siberia. A breed recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1930, the Siberian Husky is also an old, well-established breed.

Most commonly associated with a group of early Siberian people known as the Chukchis, the Siberian Husky was developed to meet the demand for a dog with the stamina and power to travel long distances while pulling light supply loads and during far less than optimal weather conditions. The Siberian Husky was selectively bred to produce a thick double coat with the properties to conserve and retain heat for warmth. Known for its penchant for racing, the Siberian Husky made its first appearance in Alaska in 1909 to participate in local dog sled racing opportunities.

Much smaller-boned than the Alaskan Malamute, the Siberian Husky is both smaller of stature and weight. The breed standard for this type of Husky favors a height of 20” to 23.5” and a weight of 35-60 lbs, a dramatically smaller dog. But size is not the only area where the Husky differs from the Malamute. The Siberian Husky’s eyes can be a cornucopia of colors including brown, one brown and one blue, green, blue, or even parti-colored. This variant of Husky also possesses a far less broad face and its eyes are closer set together as are its ears.

The tail of the Siberian Husky is quite distinctive. When alert, it is held so as to appear sickle-shaped. When at rest, the Husky’s tail retains the same shape but is held at a lower, more relaxed angle.

When it comes to personality, the Siberian Husky shares nearly all of the same traits as the Malamute except one. Intended to work in tandem with other dogs on dog sled teams, the Siberian Husky loves the company of other canines and gets along well with them.

The Alaskan Husky

The only Nordic dog breed on this list not recognized by any kennel club, the Alaskan Husky is a true working dog and is considered a type of Husky rather than a specific breed of its own. This particular strain of Husky was selectively bred to produce a dog of stellar working ability, and as such, little conscious effort was put into maintaining a specific consistent appearance. There is no set breed standard for the Alaskan Husky unlike the officially recognized Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky.

Though still a purposefully bred dog which also traces its origins to the Spitz family of breeds, the Alaskan Husky is an amalgamation of many different Nordic breeds with the intent of producing the optimal specimen for dog sledding. As such, the Alaskan Husky is long-legged and is extremely lean of body. In height, he falls somewhere between the shorter Siberian Husky and taller Alaskan Malamute with his weight ringing in between 35-50 lbs. In overall appearance, he most closely resembles a cross between the Malamute and Siberian variant of Husky.

The Alaskan Husky also shares a similar temperament with the other Nordic boys but is also prized for its ability to pull extremely heavy loads of supplies and even people when called upon to do so. This dog type is more commonly found as a working dog than as a family companion though it certainly would be up to the task of both.

Similarities Between the Three Dogs

With a better understanding of the differences between these three dog breeds, it is also a great idea to consider the similarities amongst this family of dogs.

  • A thick double coat
  • Stubbornness/a challenge to train
  • Keen intelligence
  • Exceptionally high prey drive
  • A love of running
  • A penchant for digging
  • Master escape artists

If you are considering adding a Nordic breed to your home, one of these handsome boys just might fit the bill! Contact a reputable breeder to find the right fit for your family today!



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