Malamute vs Husky: What’s the Difference Between These Fluffy Sled Dog Breeds

As an owner of an Alaskan Malamute mix-breed dog, I hear ‘What a beautiful Husky!’ several times a day. I’m grateful for the compliment of his shiny coat and happy face, but I wonder what would happen if people started to realize he isn’t just a Husky. He’s a Malamute–but what doesn’t that mean exactly?

Malamute vs Husky

Alaskan Malamute vs. Siberian Husky Breed Histories

Even though these dog breeds look (and even act) so similar, Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes each have their own ancestry and history. It may be easy to guess that Huskies come from a snowy region of Siberia in Russia, while Malamutes hail from rural Alaska–but the roles they played in their communities actually varied, too.

The Siberian Husky was bred by the indigenous people of Siberia as a method of transportation for objects and people. These nomadic hunters followed herds of animals and traveled to the most abundant sources of food, and these dogs helped them move faster and more efficiently. They were literally essential for survival in such a harsh climate! They often ran for a long time with very little food and were prized for their sleek efficiency.

Malamute vs Husky
Two Siberian Huskies, via @cricketinthethicket

In Alaska, the Mahlemut tribe (and the breed’s namesake) raised a dog to be both a companion and a worker. Mals were beloved family pets as well as motivated helpers, assisting with pulling heavy loads, leading sleds, and hunting. Some even acted as guard dogs against polar bears! They were also extremely hearty and regularly faced near-starvation during long winters.

Husky vs Malamute: The Physical Differences

Because these working dogs have slightly different jobs, you can probably guess that they have some physical differences, too. Their most notable difference is in their size, though this could be more difficult to discern if you’re comparing two fluffy dogs. According to the American Kennel Club. the breed standard size of a Siberian Husky is 35-50 pounds for a female and 45-60 pounds for a male. In contrast, the standard weight for an Alaskan Malamute is about 75 pounds for females and 85 pounds for males.

Malamute vs Husky
Alaskan Malamute, via @bloom_and_more

However, these dogs also have slightly different builds. The Alaskan Malamute typically “has a broader chest and stockier overall build,” while Siberian Huskies tend to be leaner with a shorter body length. Both breeds have thick double coats that keep them warm in harsh winter climates, though the Malamute comes in both a standard and long coat variety. So if you see a Husky-looking sled dog with fluff as big as their bodies–it’s probably a Malamute!

Siberian Husky vs Alaskan Malamute Behavior

You may also have guessed that these cousin breeds also have similar, but not identical, personality traits. Of course, every individual dog has their own behaviors and tendencies, but learning about a breed’s skills and needs can help you learn what to expect.

Malamute vs Husky

Both of these working dog breeds have high needs for mental and physical stimulation. This includes exercise, of course, but it should also include a number of mentally challenging activities like obedience training, puzzle toys, or even an extra-long sniff around a new park! When your dog uses their body and their brain, they’re much more likely to feel satisfied.

But be warned: both of these breeds can be escape artists. Their sled-pulling histories mean that they both love to run, but Malamutes are more likely to seize an opportunity and then return to their people. Huskies, on the other hand, can see a locked door or closed gate as a challenge. Even a yard with secure fencing may not be enough to hold them in, but escape artist behavior may also be a sign it’s time to incorporate more stimulating activities!

Alaskan husky vs malamute: What’s the Difference?

While the differences between Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies can be easy to understand after a while, it gets more complicated when you add Alaskan Huskies to the mix. While the Alaskan Husky isn’t a recognized breed of its own, it refers to a dog whose ancestry falls under a certain group of breeds, including–of course–the Siberian Husky.

Iditarod racers and other sled dog owners breed Alaskan Huskies purely for performance, so no two dogs look the same. For a mixed-breed dog to be an Alaskan Husky, one parent has to be a purebred Siberian Husky, while the other parent can be from a number of athletic breeds.

Malamute vs Husky
Alaskan Husky via @alex_roamwild

Husky vs Alaskan Malamute: Frequently Asked Questions

A brief comparison and contrast of the breeds can’t answer every question, but here are a few more things you may want to know about.

Malamute dog vs Husky dog sled pulling: Do they have the same jobs?

Even though both dog breeds were bred to pull sleds (among other tasks, in the case of Mals), even their sled-pulling duties can vary. Thankfully, Lenore Demmin, the president of the Siberian Husky Club of America, came up with a wonderful analogy to compare and contrast these important jobs.

“The Siberian Husky was bred to pull light loads over long distances,” Demmin explained. “The Alaskan Malamute was bred to pull heavy loads over short distances. I like to compare the Siberian to a marathon runner – light and nimble. The Malamute is the weightlifter – big and strong.”

How do you decide to adopt an Alaskan Malamute vs Husky?

Siberian Husky with heterochromia, via @everyday.everWhen comparing Malamute vs Husky, it’s important to consider the whole picture. What kind of schedule do you want to have while taking care of your dog? How much exercise can you commit to giving them? A dog’s size may also play a role in your decision, but the best thing you can do is to reach our to your local shelter to see if there’s a Husky or Malamute who could be your perfect match.
When comparing Malamute vs Husky, it’s important to consider the whole picture. What kind of schedule do you want to have while taking care of your dog? How much exercise can you commit to giving them? A dog’s size may also play a role in your decision, but the best thing you can do is to reach our to your local shelter to see if there’s a Husky or Malamute who could be your perfect match.

Malamute vs HuskySiberian Husky with heterochromia, via @everyday.ever

Why do these breeds talk so much?

If you love hearing those famous Husky woo woos, you’re certainly not alone. Both Huskies and Malamutes have gone viral for their impressive vocals–but why do they talk so much?

Like many of their behaviors, the breeds’ histories have a lot to do with it. While pulling heavy loads through snowy environments, their loud voices are the only way they can communicate with one another. It’s especially easy to get lost in a snowstorm, but the sound of a pack member’s howl could be the lifeline that leads a lost dog back to their home.

Are there risks to breeding Malamutes or Huskies?

Truthfully, there are risks and downsides to breeding any dogs, but you’ll be glad to know that Huskies and Malamutes are typically healthy dogs. However, that doesn’t mean health problems are nonexistent. Many large breed dogs like Malamutes and Huskies suffer from hip dysplasia, which can range from uncomfortable to debilitating, so make sure to research responsible breeders in your area before meeting your potential new pup.

Why do Huskies have different colored eyes? Can Malamutes have this?

You may have noticed that some Siberian Huskies have brown eyes while others have blue. Every now and again, though, you may meet a dog who has one of each! It’s so fascinating to see heterochromia, or what it’s called when someone has an iris color inconsistency, but not as fascinating as a pair of piercing blue eyes. Huskies may be famous for their charming stares, but this can happen to Malamutes, too!

While Huskies and Malamutes are often grouped together, it’s finally time for that to change. These are two different breeds, after all, and I’m so glad I got got to learn about them both.

Malamute vs HuskySiberian Husky with heterochromia, via @thethitewo1f.koda

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