|Alaskan Malamutes - The Beginning
The word 'Malamute" comes from the Inuit words 'Mahlemute' or 'Mahlemuit'. The Inuit people inhabited the northwestern regions
of Canada in what is now Alaska. The original purpose of the Malamute was to pull heavy sleds over long distances. The people
that created the breed had a high regard for their dogs that meant so much to their existence. They practiced some of the very best
breeding practices on Earth and recognized the value of health, strength and intelligence. The dogs were treated well, and had a
place in the family, even babysitting the children. For this reason, sound temperaments were important. There were no horses in this
region, so Malamutes filled the need. Families depended on the Malamute for transportation and every day existence.
Some believe that the Alaskan Malamute is the closest related dog to the ancient type, or protodog. Having lived with one of these
magnificent, intelligent, and primal creatures, I believe it is entirely possible that this breed is the most unchanged dog living among us.
The Alaskan Malamute as a breed began over 10,000 years ago. There are cave paintings dating thousands of years ago that
resemble the Malamute we know today. They were used for heavy freighting – hauling heavy loads over long distances, meaning
these dogs had to possess stamina, strength and endurance. While those who read the story of the serum run in Alaska, which the
Iditirod honors each year, or who as children watched the animated classic “Balto” will remember, Malamutes were prominent in that
storied event, however, as a breed they were not known for their racing speed.
While walking our Malamute, the most common question we hear: “Is that a wolf?” All dogs have the wolf as their ancestors.
There are thought to be wolves in more recent generations, 12 – 15 generations back, in Malamutes, but similar statements can be
made about other breeds. What sets the Malamute apart and results in the close-to-wolf appearance is the pureness of the breed.
The founders of the breed recognized and valued the survival traits of the wolf and chose NOT to try and change the perfection that
nature had created. They were not altered to fit a special purpose – these dogs lived and did what their closest relative did – survive
in the harsh elements. These dogs had to survive in the same climate as the wolf so there was no need to introduce changes. What
did occur was that the Malamutes that were chosen to live with man were those who showed the best temperaments.
At first glance, our Malamute Alosia may resemble a wolf, particularly in low light when she is focused and walking. Her head and
tail will lower and she will go into a working zone. Closer inspection will show the differences from a wolf. Malamutes have a
broader, deeper chest, stockier build, broader muzzle and plumed tail carried over their backs. Both wolves and Malamutes love to
hunt. They will kill small prey that comes into their territory. On a walk, they can spot movement quicker than any dog I have ever
owned, and will jump, cry and pull to get to their target. I have no doubt that a Malamute could easily become feral much quicker
than other domesticated dogs.
During the Gold Rush (1896 - 1899). the Alaskan Malamute was in great demand. The native people did not want to part with their
valuable dogs who were so important to their survival. Small teams of Malamutes are reported to have brought over $1500 and
some individual dogs were purchased for over $500. To the native people, this must have been a lot of money – their gold on four
paws. As the Gold Rush continued and populations grew, the dogs were cross bred with smaller faster dogs for sled dog racing
and with more aggressive dogs for dog fights and weight pulling (remember Buck in “The Call of the Wild?” Pure bred Malamutes
almost disappeared during this time. This explains, also, why we see such variety in size today, from the “giants” to those considered
ideal “breed standard”. In the early 20th century, a group of fanciers brought Malamutes from Alaska to revive the breed. In 1935,
the Alaskan Malamute was recognized by the American Kennel Club and the Alaskan Malamute Club of America formed.
There is a natural variety in type among Malamutes. Below are the three recognized types/strains that influenced the breed.
The Kotzebue strain is smaller and more compact. They have beautiful, typey heads. They were wolf gray in color with dark eyes.
The "Kotzebue" derived directly from Eva Seeley's dogs in the 1920’s. With her husband Milton, she became the most famous
American breeder of Alaskan Malamutes. She owned the first dog recognized by the AKC - Gripp of Yukon. Seeley's Malamutes
accompanied Admiral Byrd's first expedition to Antarctica, and they were used in World War II. Unfortunately, their loyalty was not
rewarded following these brave adventures. After an Antarctica expedition, they were chained to an iceberg and destroyed by
explosives. The Kotzebue type was almost eradicated. An important figure in Malamute history is Arthur Walden, who had dogs
resembling the Malamute type. Alexander met Eva Seeley and showed her one of his dogs. This dog was Rowdy of Nome. They
continued to make trips to Alaska to acquire dogs of this Malamute type.
The M’Loot line was established by Paul Voelker. M'Loots were known to be taller but had narrower chests, bigger ears and longer
noses. Their rears were better and had a wide variety of colors, including red. Robert Zoller, the owner of Husky-Pak Kennels,
decided to cross the two. Most Malamutes today are descended from a combination of both lines. There are very few pure
Kotzebues or pure M'loots left today. The original M'Loots were not registered with the AKC. Some breeders promote “giant”
Malamutes and attribute them to the M’Loots. They are registered with the AKC, but are often larger than the Alaskan Malamute
ideal size described in the breed standard. The M’Loots can be black/white, white, gray/white, and varying shades of red. Reds
can have amber eyes. Malamutes do NOT have blue eyes.
This strain involved only a few dogs but made important contributions to breed quality. The Hinman line in combination with the
M'Loot strain produced some of the best representatives of the breed. The Hinman strain also figured strongly in combination with
M'Loot and Kotzebue in development of the "Husky-Pak" line, and produced many champion and foundation dogs for the breed.
Following the tragic events after World War II, the AKC recognized that the breed had very few Malamutes to support it.
Registration was open with rigid specifications. Malamute quality had to be proved by showing the dog and obtaining ten
championship points to qualify for registration. At this time M’Loot and Hinman strains joined the Kotzebues. As quickly as it
opened, the AKC closed the registration. All registered Alaskan Malamutes today go back to the original Kotzebues or to dogs
registered during the open period in the late forties.
Malamutes can be found all around the world thanks to the dedicated breeders and fanciers over the past 100 years who worked
hard to preserve one of the oldest and most special dog breeds on Earth. Thank you to those who made our Alosia possible – we
love her so.