Alaskan Malamute vs Siberian Husky — Would You Pick a Gentle Giant or an Expressive Ball of Fluff
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Alaskan Malamute vs Siberian Husky — Would You Pick a Gentle Giant or an Expressive Ball of Fluff?

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Choosing between the Alaskan malamute vs Siberian Husky can be a torturous decision. We totally get it!

I mean, think about it. Two dogs that bring in the cuteness factor, protect you and stay loyal to the end.

From a double coat, to hypnotic eyes, you may think you are looking at the same breed.

That’s the reason why we have compiled this post to hopefully make that decision a lot easier for you. Let’s jump right in and check out these two breeds in finer detail.

Alaskan MalamuteSiberian Husky
 Alaskan MalamuteSiberian Husky
Size and WeightHeight at the shoulder is 23 to 35 inches and weight is from 75 to 85 poundsStands at a height of 20 to 23.5 inches at the shoulders and has a weight ranging from 30-65 pounds
AppearanceBred as a working dog of the arctic, it has a thick weather-proof double coat with strong heavy-boned compact build with a deep chest and a plumed tail. The facial features are fox-like and typical of spitz family dogs. The ears are upright, triangular and erect. Eyes are almond-shaped and deep set with a playful and sparkling look. Malamutes come in various colors and markings.The face is handsome, loveable and resembles a fox. The breed has an alert look that is pronounced by exquisite blue or brown eyes as well as pricked triangular ears. The thick weather-proof double coat, solid body frame with lean muscle suggests the breed was built for scarcity and speed in very cold environments. The coat comes in a variation of beautiful colors and patterns. The breed has a fluid gait and moves very gracefully.
TemperamentThis breed is incredibly loyal, affectionate and playful. If your idea of a pet is a great fluffy canine to come home to, the Alaskan malamute’s temperament fits that bill. The breed is not a one man dog as it will devote to the entire family as well as friends. The malamute demeanor is amiable and impressively dignified.Bred as a pack dog, the husky has an amiable temperament that tolerates other dogs and effortlessly gets along with his human family. Huskies are so friendly and good natured that they barely show any hostility even towards strangers. As such they do not make good guard dogs but are an excellent family pet.
Life Expectancy10-16 years12-14 years
Health IssuesMalamutes are prone to bloat, peripheral neuropathy, hip dysplasia, obesity, infections.Huskies are more susceptible to glaucoma, allergies, patellar luxation, hypothyroidism, obesity, cataracts and chylthorax.
GroomingThe breeds grooming requirements can be on the heavier side when it comes to maintaining the coat.Grooming need is moderate.
TrainabilityTheir trainability is rated as moderate. They are highly intelligent as well as independent. Training from early puppyhood with a loving but firm hand should result in a trusty and obedient companion. Unless well socialized, they may not get a log so well with other dogs that are not like minded.The breed’s trainability can be rated as moderate. They are highly intelligent and quick learners, they are also highly independent may choose to ignore you commands. Overcoming their independent streak in training is where the challenge lies.
Alaskan Malamute vs Siberian Husky Comparison Table

Related post: Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Are You Cut Out for These Dog Breeds?

1. Mally vs Husky Sibe — Quick Fact Check

Alaskan Malamute vs Siberian Husky

As we have established earlier, both the Alaskan Malamute and the Siberian Husky have many similarities in appearance.

But a closer inspection will also reveal stark differences between the two breeds. In this section of the post, we break down the differences AND overlapping traits in these two stellar breeds.

The Alaskan Malamute (also known as ‘Mal’ or Mally‘) is a member of the Spitz group of dogs and is also related to the Akita, Chow Chow, Elkhound, Finnish Spitz, and Samoyed to name a few as they all belong to the same group of dogs.

The Siberian Husky (nicknamed ‘Husky Sibe’) is not to be left behind as it also belongs to the same group. This in part explains some of the similarities shared between the Malamute and the Husky.

It is only until more recently that the Alaskan Malamute has been exposed to the world. That’s because the breed has remained almost completely native to Alaska.

2. Appearance

The Alaskan Malamute has a heavier build that stems from its denser bone structure. This is evident in the general size and heft of the Malamute in comparison to the Siberian husky.

Although the husky has a compact build, the appearance is more trim and nimble. This difference is well reflected in the respective weights of both breeds and their genders as shown below.

Alaskan Malamute vs Siberian Husky — Weight and Height
Alaskan Malamute vs Siberian Husky — Weight and Height

The difference in size helps explain the similar yet different job histories that both breeds were built for. The Alaskan malamute is considered as one of the oldest Arctic sled dogs and the big boned build was designed for working as part of a pack in hauling heavy sleds and loads over long distances and more often than not at a slow but steady pace.

The Siberian husky on the other hand was designed with a trim makeup with speed in mind in Northern Asia Arctic conditions. The husky excelled at hauling lighter loads at a much quicker pace over long distances. Historically, this helps explain why they became a well-known breed for their racing prowess and favorites for winning sled races in the early 1900s.

Eyes

The eyes are an effective way of distinguishing between the two breeds. They share almond-shaped eyes but the color of the eyes is the distinguishing factor.

The Alaskan Malamute’s breed standard shows that the breed should have dark eyes or brown eyes and NEVER blue eyes. The malamute eyes are deep set in their sockets just as they are in huskies. But the size differs noticeably with the huskies eyes being slightly larger than those of a malamute.

The color of the Siberian husky’s eyes can be either blue or brown. In some cases, the husky may have one eye that’s blue and the other that’s brown. This condition is known as heterochromia and is fairly common in huskies, but never happens with the Malamute.

siberian husky with heterochromia

Coat

Both breeds were bred as sled dogs for the harsh arctic climatic conditions, so it comes as no surprise that they both have a dense double coat that would shield them from the rough weather.

If you happen to live in Alaska, Siberia or similar areas, you’ll definitely want to curl up against the pooch while sleeping!

A detail in their coat that helps tell them apart is that the Malamutes coat hair is noticeably longer. The inside coat is thick and wooly to keep the canine warm in the extreme cold, while the outer guard coat varies in length across the canine’s body.

The coat is relatively short to medium along the sides of the body, but becomes increasingly longer around the shoulders and neck, along the back, over the rump, and in the breeching as well as the plume. But during the summer, you can expect a Malamute to have shorter and a less dense coat in warmer months.

The Siberian husky’s coat has a medium length which displays a well and evenly furred appearance. The outer coat never gets too long at any part of the body to obscure the clean-cut outline of the dog. The coat is fairly even across the entire body. During warmer summer months, the husky may lose its entire undercoat to regulate heat.

When it comes to coat colors, both breeds can have the same colors that range from gray, white, black, and rust. The distinguishing factor between the two breeds comes from the marking on their coat.

Some Malamutes will often have distinguishable face markings that make them look like they have a cap on their heads.

As for Huskies, most will have what appears to be a white mask on their faces, with coloring showing around or over their eyes and down their nose area.

While we are on the coat, we must mention the bushy tail of the malamute and husky.

The Mal tail is carried over the back when not working. But it is NEVER curled tight against the back.

The Husky’s tail, on the other hand, has a typical fox-brush shape and is set right below the level of the top line. When the dog is at attention, the huskies tail can be observed to be over the back in a graceful sickle curve. If nothing else, this physical trait makes it easier to tell the two breeds apart.

Ears

The medium-sized, triangular-shaped ears of the malamute are not high set and do not sit on top of the skull.

Instead, the slightly rounded tipped ears are set wide apart on the outside back edges of the skull and are in line with the upper corner of the eyes. The ears of the breed are erect and slightly pointed forward, but a notable point is that when the dog is at work, the ears are sometimes folded against the skull.

On the other hand, the huskies ears are set high on the head and fit closely together giving the impression that they are slightly larger than those of the malamute. They are triangular in shape with slightly rounded tips. The ears of the husky are erect and slightly arched to the back.

Both canines’ facial features have an uncanny resemblance to a fox. The triangular shaped and erect ears add to the impression.

It’s one big, stocky fox!

Teeth

malamute and husky showing teeth

Both the Alaskan malamute and Siberian Husky’s teeth are well aligned and strong. Both breeds have scissors bite when they clamp their jaws.

Musculature

The Malamute is a powerful breed with dense bones, compact build and an impressively muscled frame.

The power of this breed can be seen when viewed from the side. It’s a strong rear drive from the hindquarters that transmit through a well-muscled loin to the forequarters. The forequarters receive the drive from the rear with a smooth reaching stride propelling the canine forward with a burst of almost effortless power.

The gait of the Malamute is steady, powerful but balanced and controlled. For the Malamute’s size and build, it has remarkable agility. At a fast trot, the feet will converge toward the centerline of the body displaying an effortless glide in motion.

Being a medium sized dog, the Siberian Husky is moderately compact and well-muscled exuding a light appearance than its burly cousin the Malamute. While both the breeds were bred as sled dogs, the lighter and trim build of the husky explains why it was preferred for faster travel on the arctic tundra.

The breed is light on its feet and quite athletic with lean muscle definition. The husky has a great drive from the hindquarters and an excellent reach by the forequarters which culminates in a springy burst for power to cover much ground and a faster pace.

Both breeds make excellent pets because of their amiable temperaments and demeanor. They both shed an awful lot in shedding season.

If you prefer a breed that has larger physical presence, the Malamute will deliver on that front, but if you prefer a trimmer medium sized dog that is active the Husky fits the bill.

3. Grooming Alaskan Malamute vs Siberian Husky

person grooming alaskan malamute

Brushing

Well, the Malamutes and Huskies coats are gorgeous and keeping them that way can be a scary thought in terms of brushing required. It’s important to understand that these breeds shed lightly for the most part of the year and shed heavily during the two shedding seasons when their coats gets “blown”.

While it’s true that both breeds do require some considerable grooming efforts, the Malamute is higher on maintenance when it comes to brushing their coat and getting rid of the dead hair. Malamute’s thick coats require daily brushing to prevent matting and the breed will need a bath every six to eight weeks to help mitigate shedding.

Brushing and maintaining the huskies coat seems like a walk in the park compared to dealing with the malamute’s coat. Brushing the coat of the husky once a week will work and is sufficient in keeping the coat looking plush while getting rid of dead fur.

Unlike, say, a Golden Retriver, the husky doesn’t need frequent baths because it’s a fastidious self-cleaner. One to two baths in a year are more than enough for the husky breed.

A bath using a deshedding shampoo will go a long way in helping to get rid of the dead hair. If you are up for it, you can get your canine to a groomer for a vacuum de-shed treatment but several of those can quickly add up to a substantial bill.

With regular brushing and a high quality deshedder tool or Furminator, you stand a good chance of grooming the coat of both breeds to perfection and at a more reasonable cost.

While both breeds will shed HEAVILY in shedding season, the malamute coat generally needs more attention than that of a husky.

Cleaning the ears

Both breeds, like many other dogs, can easily be susceptible to ear infections and ear mites.

Most ear infections are as a result of debris accumulation in the ear which can also cause an unpleasant odor that wafts from the ear.

So the best way to determine if everything’s okay in the ear department is by sniffing it out.

But you should also take a look inside. The ears of the two breeds should be checked once or twice a week. Any indication of redness may signal an infection and is best to have your vet take a look.

If the ears look healthy, you should still clean them with a quality dog ear solution and a clean towel or cotton ball.

Just beware that the experience can get MESSY. If you have poured the dog cleaning ear solution into your canine’s ears and he decides to give its head a good shake, you are likely to be spluttered with the gunk from the ear (yikes!).

So, watch out and be ready to duck!

Cutting the nails

man checking paw and nails of a siberian husky

The nails of both breeds grow at more or less the same pace. Examining the nails ONCE A MONTH and trimming accordingly is advised.

The best tool for this task can be a nail grinder or a dog nail clipper. Trimmed nails support a comfortable foot and gait whether walking or running.

Brushing the tail

Don’t overlook the tail of both breeds when brushing the coat. They both have well-endowed tails that are densely covered in fur.

That’s why you should also generously brush the tail to catch any dead fur that would otherwise end up on your house furniture.

Cleaning the teeth 

Fortunately, both breeds have fairly elongated snouts that give easy access to the teeth.

Whichever breed you settle for, it is advisable to start teeth brushing at puppy hood so that your pooch can get comfortable with teeth brushing from puppy stage. The teeth of these two breeds can be cleaned using a dog toothbrush and dog toothpaste or dental wipes.

Both breed’s teeth need to be brushed two to three times a week and an annual visit to the dentist for a dental check-up is highly recommended.

4. Training an Alaskan Malamute vs a Siberian Husky

Training the malamute or the Husky should ideally begin at seven or eight weeks of age. You can begin at even six weeks if the husky is agreeable.

  • The two breeds are trainable because they are both highly intelligent, but the challenge also comes because they are quite stubborn with a natural independent streak that can get in the way of their training.
  • It’s always a good idea to start them slow with basic training such as house breaking, potty training, crate training as well as leash training.
  • Obedience training for both breeds is crucial and teaching commands such as sit, come and stay is a good start. Over and above training in general commands, the training should also be customized to surround the activities that you intend to engage in together with your mal or husky.
  • For instance, if you intend to jog, walk and frequent the dog park, then you want to make sure to teach commands that will allow you to direct your pooch effectively in such environments. If you intend to hike wild trails, or go snowshoeing with your canine buddy, it’s imperative to teach him a good recall and other commands that will foster good communication between the two of you. The same goes for those who intend to frequent high traffic places with your buddy, car travelling, outdoor restaurants and so forth.
  • Malamutes are more dominant and may not get on as well with dogs that are not like minded. Huskies on the other hand are less dominant and seem to get along fine with just about any other dog. Both breeds have a humorous side and revel in some activities just for fun. Another thing worth noting: it is important to NOT engage your Mal in activities that over-stimulate him or feed into his aggressive behavior. For example, tug-of-war can get out of hand with the wrong Malamute. So such play is best avoided with the Mal.
  • Keep the training session fun, varied and short. Remember to have some good amounts of treats for your buddy to reinforce good behavior and obedience while keeping him engaged.

5. Exercise and Health

Malamutes and huskies were bred as working dogs and have a good deal of stamina.

That’s why both mal and husky need a good deal of daily exercise. Preferably, once to twice a day outdoors exercise sessions of one hour. If you love to run or jog, leash your buddy and let him accompany you. Alternatively long walks will also work for both breeds.

Alaskan malamute walking while holding a ball

Due to their high intelligence, incorporating puzzle-like toys in their rest area is a good idea for their mental stimulation. Exercise helps keep these two breeds on an even keel and helps deter destructive behavior out of pent up energy and boredom.

Mals and Huskies can be prone to specific diseases that you need to be aware of. 

Health Conditions Affecting Alaskan Malamute versus Siberian Husky

Hip Dysplasia is VERY common in most dog breeds including the Mal and the Husky.

The Mal is particularly susceptible because of its heavier set frame. Although the husky is leaner, it’s still prone to this condition. The condition results in displacement of the thighbone and hip joint which can eventually lead to lameness and difficulty in normal everyday movements for a canine such as walking, running and jumping.

Fortunately, severe cases in both breeds can be corrected through surgery to help restore mobility to the hip.

Dental disease affects 80% of canine breeds including the Mal and the Husky. Dental issues on your Mal and Husky starts with tartar build-up on the teeth. It then progresses to infect the gums and roots of the teeth.

If there is no medical intervention, the canine may lose her teeth and be in danger of damaging her kidneys, liver, heart, and joints. The life of an Alaskan Malamute and a Siberian Husky can be unnecessarily cut short by one to three years because of dental diseases.

Obesity can impair the lifestyle and encourage health problem in the Alaskan Malamutes as well as the Siberian Husky. Not only does it worsen joint problems such as hip dysplasia but also creates a conducive environment for other health issue such as metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease to take root.

Bloat is also known as Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus which is abbreviated as GDV. The condition is common in deep and narrow chested canines such as the Mal as well as the husky. The condition can quickly turn fatal, at times a dog may die in as little as 30 minutes from the onset of the symptoms.

The Malamute is more likely to get torsion compared to the Husky.

Fortunately, the condition is easily preventable by spacing meals and allowing adequate rest to your canine buddy after meal before engaging in any vigorous activity.

6. Price Comparison — Alaskan Malamute Puppy vs Siberian Husky Puppy

alaskan malamute puppy and siberian husky puppy

With such a rich history, amazing looks and heft, and a temperament to match, the Alaskan Malamute puppy does not come cheap.

The breed’s popularity has risen steadily over the years, which doesn’t help to lower down the price! According to AKC, the breed popularity in the States is ranked at 58th out of 197 breeds. The cost of an Alaskan Malamute puppy is approximately between $500-$2,500.

The popularity of Husky in the states and all across the globe has risen impressively over the years. In the States, the husky is ranked as 14th out of 197 breeds in popularity. If you decide to settle on a husky, a puppy will cost you approximately $200 to $400. However, if a puppy is from an approved lineage of champions in sled racing, it can fetch as high as $2,500.

7. History & Fun Facts About Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies

The history of the malamute is shrouded in mystery. Most naturalists subscribe to the idea that the Alaskan Malamute is a product of the early dog and domesticated wolf from many centuries ago.

But most Inuit cultural experts with the help of their elders beg to differ and vehemently refute this claim.

They do so by pointing out the anatomical differences between dogs and wolves.

Paul Voelker was an early and respected Malamute breeder. His two cents on the subject suggest that the Alaskan Malamute is the oldest breed on the North American continent and arguably the breed longest associated with man. Per Voelker, bone and ivory carvings dated as far back as twelve to twenty thousand years depict the Malamute very much as he is today.

What is not in dispute is the fact that the Alaskan malamute came from Siberia to America via the Bering Strait, as a trusty companion of the indigenous tribe called the Mahlemuts. This explains where the name of the breed originated from. The tribe depended on the breed for survival in the harsh arctic environment.

The tribe used the Alaskan Malamute dogs in hunting seals by using their keen sense of smell to identify where the seal holes were on the ice. They also used the breed for fending off polar bears as well as for pulling heavy loads on sleds over long distances.

History shows that the Siberian Husky originated in Northeast Asia, from the Chukchi people. The tribe’s purpose of developing the breed was specifically for use as a sled dog.

Just like the Mahlemut tribe and the Alaskan Malamute, the Chukchi’s reliance on the Siberian Husky was a matter of survival. It is estimated that the Siberian husky was developed about 4,000 years ago. The breed’s slimmer trim and lean muscular breed would help the Chukchi move quicker across the tundra.

At the tail end of the 19th century, 1896 to be precise, the demand for sled dogs rose sharply because of the gold rush. For the reason mentioned above, the Mahlemuts tribe could not afford to part with their dogs at any cost because they were their lifeline.

This resulted in prospectors crossbreeding their sled dogs with other breeds, almost leading to the extinction of the Alaska Malamute. Fortunately, because of the isolated existence of the tribe, the dogs of the Mahlemuts remained pure and were saved from extinction.

Many decades later, Mrs. Seeley composed the first standard of the breed and is largely responsible for having the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognize the breed in 1935. It also so happens to be the same year that AKC was formed. Mrs. Seeley standard was based on the ‘Kotzebue’ line.

All the Alaskan Malamute as we know them today descended from three lines: The Kotzebue’ line, Paul Volkers M’Loot line, and the Hinman strain.

In order to safeguard the Alaskan malamute, the breed standard has been reopened and modified to ensure that the lines belong to the official standard.

While the Siberian husky was never in danger of extinction, the breed became known to the world for the jaw-dropping run that would deliver a life-saving serum to the isolated town of Nome, Alaska in 1925. The town of Nome was suffering from a diphtheria epidemic and the only way and fastest means to Nome from Seward was through a relay team of huskies pulling on the vital supplies.

On his turn in the relay, the legendary dog sled driver known as Leonard Seppala led a team of Siberian Huskies for a whopping 658 miles in only five and a half days to successfully deliver the serum and help save many lives in the small town of Nome!

Perhaps this heroic story, coupled with the unapologetic good looks of the husky is what propelled the husky to such popularity.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the Siberian husky in 1930.

The roles of the Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky as sled dogs would diminish with the advent of the snowmobile.

But their heroic roles in the survival of the Mahlemut and the Chukchi tribes can never be diminished. The two breeds with such remarkable character, dignity and plenty of quirks can continue to be companions to a human pack in less foreboding circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions

malamute with shiny fur

How I deal with heavy mats on my Mal

Matting is a common issue in Malamutes because of their slightly longer fur. There is a special tool that resembles a very long-toothed rake that you can buy. Most owners with Mals have mentioned that the tool does a good job of detangling fur.

If the mats are really, really bad, you can consider using the rake in conjunction with a detangler- spray. The best approach, however, is to diligently brush the coat daily and prevent the matting in the first place.

So much fur, what do you do with it?

Creative Mal and husky owners in the shedding seasons have taken to placing the copious amounts of fur somewhere where the birds can access it and use it to make their nests.

And, if you know of any knitting stores around you or someone who spins yarn, they would be more than happy to take the fur off your hands!

Bottom Line: Which One is Better for You – Siberian Husky or Alaskan Malamute?

It is admittedly hard to choose between these two loveable breeds.

For the pet owner who wants a bulkier Arctic dog, the Alaskan Malamute seems to be the obvious choice. Just be ready and armed with the right brushing and deshedding tools to manage her fur.

On the other hand, the ever-popular Siberian Husky is quite a find for someone who may lack the time to brush the coat on a daily basis but desires a furry canine with an imposing presence and unmatched hypnotic eyes. Not to mention their uncanny ability to ‘say’ (loudly!) what they want — proof on the video below!

Both dogs may not be a good fit for first time doggie parents. 

No matter which breed suits your fancy, just remember that both breeds are active dogs and will require PLENTY of exercise. For persons who have an active outdoor lifestyle, either breed, will fit right into your human pack.


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