The Alaskan malamute is a powerfully built dog of Nordic breed type, developed to haul heavy loads rather than race. It is slightly longer than it is tall. It is heavy-boned and compact, designed for strength and endurance. Its gait is steady, balanced and tireless. Its coat is thick and double, with a coarse outer coat and dense, wooly, oily undercoat, providing the ultimate in insulation. Although its eyes have a "wolf-like" appearance, its expression is soft.
The Alaskan malamute is powerful, independent, strong-willed and fun-loving. Its idea of great fun is to pull a sled or cart, but it also loves to run and roam. It is family-oriented, and as long as it is given daily exercise, it is well-mannered in the home. Without proper exercise, it can become frustrated and destructive. It is friendly and sociable toward people, but it may be aggressive toward strange dogs, pets or livestock. Some can be domineering. It tends to dig and howl.
Like most of the dogs of the spitz family, the Alaskan malamute evolved in the Arctic regions, shaped by the adverse climatic conditions. Its origin is unknown, but it was first described living among the native Inuit people known as the Mahlemuts, who lived along Norton Sound on Alaska's northwest coast. The word Mahlemut comes from Mahle, an Inuit tribe name, and mut, meaning village. The dogs served as hunting partners for big game (such as seals and polar bears), and hauled the heavy carcasses back home. These dogs were, of necessity, large and strong rather than fast, enabling one dog to do the work of many smaller dogs. They were an essential cog in the Inuits' lives and were treated almost as one of the family, although they were never pampered as pets. The unforgiving environment meant that a less than optimal dog would probably not have been kept. When the first outside explorers came to the region in the 1700s, they were impressed not only by the hardy dog but also by their owners' obvious attachment to them. With the discovery of gold in 1896, a flood of outsiders came to Alaska; for entertainment, they staged weight-pulling contests and races among their dogs. The native breeds were interbred with each other and those brought by settlers, often in an attempt to create a faster racer or simply to provide the vast numbers of dogs needed to supply the gold rush. The pure malamute was in danger of being lost. In the 1920s, a New England dog-racing enthusiast obtained some good specimens and began to breed traditional malamutes. As the breed's reputation grew, some were chosen to help Adm. Byrd in his 1933 trek to the South Pole. During World War II, malamutes were once again called into service, this time to serve as freight haulers, pack animals and search-and-rescue dogs. In 1935, the breed received AKC recognition and began a new phase as an imposing show dog and loyal pet.
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