AskDefine | Define malamute

Dictionary Definition

malamute n : breed of sled dog developed in Alaska [syn: malemute, Alaskan malamute]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Etymology

After the Mahlemuit people of western Alaska.

Noun

  1. A ancient northern breed of dog of the husky type, particularly used as a sled dog.

Extensive Definition

The Alaskan Malamute is a large breed of domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) originally bred for use as an Alaskan sled dog and is often mistaken for a Siberian Husky.

Description

Appearance

The AKC breed standard calls for a natural range of size, with a desired freighting weight of 75 to 85 pounds (34–39 kg) and a height of 23 to 25 inches (58–64 cm). Heavier individuals (100+ pounds) and dogs smaller than 75 pounds are common—there is often a marked size difference between males and females. Weights upwards of 140 pounds or more are occasionally seen; these dogs are uncommon and are produced primarily by breeders who market a "giant" Malamute. These "giant" sizes are not in accordance with the breed's history or show standards.
The coat is a dense double northern dog coat, somewhat harsher than that of the Siberian Husky. The usual colors are various shades of grey and white, sable and white, black and white, red and white, or pure white. Eyes are almond-shaped and are always brown; blue eyes are an indication of mixed breeding and will disqualify the dog in shows. The physical build of the Malamute is compact with heavy bone. In this context 'compact' means that their height to length ratio is slightly longer than tall, unlike dogs like Great Danes which are longer and lankier in their ratios.
According to the American Kennel Club, the primary criterion for judging the Malamute in a show is its function to pull heavy freight as a sled dog; everything else is secondary. As many an owner has found out, the pulling power of a Malamute is tremendous.
The malamute has a plume like tail that is well furred and hangs just over the back like a "plume". This is the written standard written in the breed book. Corkscrew tails can now be seen but is not the breed description . A corkscrew tail is what you would see in the Akita. The malamutes' tails, well-furred, aid in keeping them warm when they curl up in the snow . They wrap the tail around their nose and face which helps protect them against harsh weather like blowing snow.
Though superficially similar to wolves, there are several physical differences. When compared to a similarly sized wolf, the malamute's head is not as wide, shorter, and generally smaller. Their necks are generally the same size, though the malamute is bigger in the chest by a few inches. The malamute stands two inches shorter, is three inches shorter in the leg, and eight inches shorter in the body. The wolf's tail is longer and has no tendency to curl over its back as the malamute's can. The wolf's track is nearly twice the size of the dog's.

Temperament

While a few Malamutes are still in use as sled dogs for personal travel, hauling freight, or helping move heavy objects, some are used for the recreational pursuit of sledding also known as mushing, also skijoring, bikejoring and canicross. However, most Malamutes today are kept as family pets or show dogs. Although in 1994 Nancy Russell ran a team of Malamutes in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, completing 600 miles of the roughly 1,150 mile race before pulling her team, the Malamute is generally slower in long-distance dogsled racing against smaller and faster breeds and their working usefulness is limited to freighting or traveling over long distances at a far slower rate than that required for racing. They can also help move heavy objects over shorter distances.
The Malamute is one of the most "unaltered" of breeds, retaining its original form and function. Their affectionate nature does not make them useful as watch or guard dogs. If a dog owner cannot cope with a dog that will not comply with the owners every command, a more compliant breed should be selected. This dog has a long genetic foundation of living in the wilderness with man surrounded by other domesticated animals of approximately the same size.
There is reason to believe that Alaskan Malamutes cope poorly with smaller animals, including canines. However, this has been difficult to document in detail beyond observational data. It is difficult to pinpoint why many Malamute owners have observed this behavior with smaller animals, though some might speculate this is due to the Malamute's uniquely divergent ancestry, at one point cross-breeding with wolves. So while Malamutes are, as a general rule, particularly amiable around humans and children and in some instances friendly with smaller dogs, it is probably a good rule of thumb to be mindful of your Malamute around smaller animals until you have become acquainted with its behavior.
Generally speaking, time and experience will show if a dog can be left unwatched with other household pets. In this respect, it is also important to understand that just because your Malamute is comfortable with your other pets, this does not mean it will be comfortable around other animals it encounters. And while Malamutes aren't normally thought of as territorial dogs, they may react unfavorably to unfamiliar house guests. Like many canines, Malamutes may become aggressive around other unfamiliar dogs, especially if they are not neutered or spayed. This is important to note due to their powerful, deep chest and large head. Male dogs are of particular note, as they are generally the more aggressive sex, due to factors like testosterone acting on the brain, which is one of the major reasons veterinarians recommend neutering as a puppy. They may howl like wolves or coyotes, and for the same reasons. When they howl, the howl is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish from the wolf.

Health

Mortality

There is only one known health survey of Alaskan Malamutes, a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey with a small sample size of 14 dogs. The median lifespan of 10.7 years measured in that survey is very typical of a breed their size.. The major cause of death was cancer (36%).

Morbidity

The most commonly reported health problems of Alaskan Malamutes in the 2004 UK Kennel Club survey (based on a sample size of 64 dogs) were muskuloskeletal (hip dysplasia), and Hereditary Cataract.
Malamutes in the US have been known to suffer other problems (see below)
Other health issues in Malamutes include inherited polyneuropathy, chondrodysplasia, and eye problems (particularly cataract and progressive retinal atrophy).

Climate and Malamutes

While Malamutes have been successfully raised in places such as Arizona, their dense coats generally make them unsuited for hot climates. When the weather gets hot, like any other breed of dog, the malamute needs plenty of water and shade. They will grow a winter coat and subsequently, come spring, shed it again.

History

The Malamute is a descendant of dogs of the Mahlemuits tribe of upper western Alaska. These dogs had a prominent role with their human companions - working, hunting, and living alongside them. The interdependent relationship between the Mahlemut and their dogs fostered prosperity among both and enabled them to flourish in the inhospitable land above the Arctic Circle.
For a brief period during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896, the Malamute and other sled dogs became extremely valuable to recently landed prospectors and settlers, and were frequently crossbred with imported breeds. This was often an attempt to improve the type, or to make up for how few true Malamutes were up for sale. This seems to have had no long standing effect on the modern Malamute, and recent DNA analysis shows that Malamutes are one of the oldest breeds of dog, genetically distinct from other dog breeds.
The Malamute dog has had a distinguished history; aiding Admiral Richard Byrd to the South Pole, and the miners who came to Alaska during the Gold Rush of 1896. This dog was never destined to be a racing sled dog; instead, it was used for heavy freighting, pulling hundreds (maybe thousands) of pounds of supplies to villages and camps in groups of at least 4 dogs for heavy loads.
The Alaskan Malamute is a member of the Spitz group of dogs, traced back 2,000 to 3,000 years ago to the Mahlemuits tribe of Alaska.

See also

External links

malamute in Czech: Aljašský malamut
malamute in Danish: Alaskan malamute
malamute in German: Alaskan Malamute
malamute in Spanish: Alaskan Malamute
malamute in French: Alaskan Malamute
malamute in Croatian: Aljaški malamut
malamute in Italian: Alaskan Malamute
malamute in Hebrew: אלסקן מלמוט
malamute in Lithuanian: Aliaskos malamutas
malamute in Hungarian: Alaszkai malamut
malamute in Dutch: Alaska-malamute
malamute in Japanese: アラスカン・マラミュート
malamute in Norwegian: Alaskan malamute
malamute in Polish: Alaskan Malamute
malamute in Portuguese: Malamute do Alaska
malamute in Russian: Аляскинский маламут
malamute in Slovak: Aljašský malamut
malamute in Serbian: Аљаски маламут
malamute in Finnish: Alaskanmalamuutti
malamute in Swedish: Alaskan malamute
malamute in Turkish: Alaska Malamutu
malamute in Chinese: 阿拉斯加雪撬犬
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