A common misconception is that Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes are the same breed. Some may even confuse the two breeds, or use the names interchangeably. However, despite their arctic trappings, there are many differences between the two breeds.
One of the key differences between the two breeds are their origins.
Siberian Huskies, as the name implies, originated in Siberia and were originally bred by the Chukchis people to serve as both working dogs and companions. In the early 20th century huskies were brought to America through Alaska where their sledding prowess and aid in delivering a life saving diphtheria vaccine earned them widespread acclaim.
Ever since then they quickly surged in popularity to become one of America’s most beloved dog breeds. The AKC recognized the breed in 1930.
Alaskan Malamutes can trace ancestry back to Siberia as well, but were developed by the Mahlemut tribe in Alaska. Not dissimilar to Huskies, Malamutes were also developed to serve as working dogs. Malamutes were also bred to assist with hunting, and to even ward off Polar bears. Malamutes would become recognized as a breed in 1935 by the AKC.
History aside, another big difference between the two breeds are their physical characteristics. They both have fluffy exteriors to assist with life in frigid climates but Malamutes tend to be a much larger breed than the Siberian Husky. This is because they were designed to carry much heavier loads over long distances.
Huskies were designed to pull lighter loads but at quicker speeds and thus are smaller than Malamutes. Another interesting difference between the two breeds is that the piercing blue color or heterochromatic eyes of a Siberian is considered uniquely Husky. A full Malamute will only have brown eyes unless they’re a Husky mix. Uniquely Malamute traits would be their smaller ears, and stouter muzzles. Again, they are usually larger than Huskies.
Noted below are the typical weights for Huskies and Malamutes. A male Malamute can even reach upwards of 120 pounds.
- Husky Male: 60-70lbs
- Husky Female: 40-55lbs
- Malamute Male: 75-100lbs
- Malamute Female: 75lbs
Despite their differences, Malamutes and Huskies do share a fair amount of similarities in temperament. Since they are both working dogs both breeds need ample exercise or they can be prone to destructive behaviors. But they are both incredibly friendly, to the detriment of being typically poor guard dogs.
Both breeds share the same characteristically high prey-drive which means they are often not suited for homes with smaller animals. The shared love of running does also make them flight risks so robust fencing and leashing is a must.
Their shared frigid roots do not disqualify them from living in warmer climates. Both breeds are highly adaptable to warm climates and the rampant shedding found in both Huskies and Mals helps to keep them cool. Notably, they will have at least two massive blowouts of their coats a year. As you should with any dog, as long as they are provided with adequate access to water and aren’t left outside for inordinate amounts of time, Huskies and Mals do great in warm weather.
Lastly, both Huskies and Malamutes can make exceptional family pets when paired with a family or owner that is firm, confident, and consistent with training. Both breeds are pack motivated and get along great with other dogs. The ideal home for a husky or a mal would be one that has other dogs for them to bond with.