The Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky are so similar in appearance that many people cannot tell them apart, especially if they’ve never owned either of these breeds. Not only that, these dogs both have history in Alaska where they were used to pull sleds. Although the two breeds have a lot in common, there are a number of differences that set them apart.
In order to compare and contrast these breeds, we went straight to the authorities. Information gathered from the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Siberian Husky Club of America (SHCA), and the Alaskan Malamute Club of America (AMCA) has been used throughout this article in order to provide a detailed look at these beautiful dogs.
- Alaskan Malamute vs Husky: Height, Weight, Lifespan, and Appearance
- Where Do Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies Come From?
- Alaskan Malamute vs Husky: Temperament
- Proper Nutrition for Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies
- Alaskan Malamute vs Husky: Grooming
- Alaskan Malamute vs Husky: Exercise Needs
- Training Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies
- Alaskan Malamute vs Husky: Health Risks
- Alaskan Malamute vs Husky: How Much Do These Breeds Cost?
- Alaskan Malamute vs Husky: The Differences in a Nutshell
Alaskan Malamute vs Husky: Height, Weight, Lifespan, and Appearance
Part of the working group, the Alaskan Malamute (nicknamed “Mal”) looks quite similar to the Siberian Husky. However, Malamutes are bigger. Males and females weigh 85 and 75 lbs respectively, with males being about 25 in tall and females being 23 in. Their lifespan is 10 to 14 years long.
(1) Alaskan Malamutes are much larger than Siberian Huskies.
Often called Siberians or Huskies, this breed is formally known as the Siberian Husky and is part of the working group. Female Huskies tend to be smaller, weighing between 35 and 50 lbs and standing at around 20 to 22 in tall. Males are between 45 and 60 lbs and are about 21 to 23.5 in tall. The Siberian Husky’s lifespan is 12 to 14 years long.
(2) Siberian Huskies often have blue eyes, a trait that is not commonly seen in Alaskan Malamutes.
When looking at photos, it can be difficult to tell these two breeds apart as size isn’t always apparent in pictures. Both breeds have thick coats, but the Malamute is usually fluffier than the Husky. Another giveaway is the eyes. It’s quite common for a Siberian Husky to have blue eyes, whereas the AKC considers blue eyes to be a fault for Malamutes. Therefore, you will most often see Mals with brown eyes.
Where Do Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies Come From?
Alaskan Malamutes are believed to be descended from wolf-dogs that lived 4,000 years ago and crossed the Bering Strait to North America with Paleolithic peoples. Their more recent roots are found in northwestern Alaska, where they were once bred and raised by an Inuit tribe called the Mahlemiut (Sound familiar? Mahlemiut became Malamute). At this time, they were used to haul large loads over long distances, to distract bears for hunters, and to discover the breathing holes used by seals. There were originally three different types of Alaskan Malamutes, all of which contribute to the genes of today’s Mals.
The Siberian Husky was originally developed as a working dog by the Chukchi people of, you guessed it, Siberia. The breed made its way to Alaska in 1909 where it was used in sled races. In 1925, a team of Siberian Huskies delivered a lifesaving treatment for diphtheria to Nome, a city in Alaska that was suffering from an outbreak. This team of dogs and their musher travelled 658 miles in five and a half days. The incident became so famous that a statue of the lead sled dog, Balto, was erected in Central Park in New York City. Similarly, Universal Pictures released an animated children’s movie called Balto in 1995. Today, the Siberian Husky remains a well-loved breed, and is kept both as a companion animal and used as a sled dog.
(3) The Siberian Husky became a popular choice of sled racing dog due to its incredible endurance and weather-proof coat.
Though both Siberians and Malamutes were used to pull sleds across long distances, the main difference is that Huskies were used for light loads and were thus much faster. Mals, however, carried heavier loads at a slower speed. The AKC describes Siberian Huskies as “racers” and Alaskan Malamutes as “freighters.”
Alaskan Malamute vs Husky: Temperament
Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies are affectionate, friendly, social dogs. Their genial nature means they are not suitable for the role of guard dog, but they are great with children. While Huskies typically get along well with other dogs, Malamutes sometimes have problems with those of the same sex. This doesn’t mean that Mals cannot live with other dogs; they were bred to function in a pack, after all. Both the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute are intelligent and strong-willed and will need a confident, patient trainer. Of the two, Mals can be especially stubborn and independent; they need proper leadership or they will become the leaders instead.
You may have seen viral videos of Huskies and Malamutes howling, but neither are prone to barking. They can be quite vocal when they are bored or want to play, though.
Malamutes can be quite vocal, like the dog in this video that probably wants to play instead of sit.
Both breeds can live indoors or outdoors and are happy with either as long as the climate isn’t too hot; in fact, they prefer colder weather. These breeds’ double-layered coats keep them warm and cozy even in the winter, and Huskies are known to dig pockets in the snow to get out of the wind.
Alaskan Malamutes are better off living in a home with a yard, but apartment living isn’t impossible. However, it would require extra work or money. You may be able to live with a Mal in an apartment if you provide plenty of exercise, such as walks before and after work, or a run in the dog park. If you don’t meet your Malamute’s exercise needs, you may be left with an unruly, even destructive dog. For those who live in apartments, a good option would be making use of services like dog walkers, dog sitters, or doggy daycares. For homeowners, a fenced-in yard is a must for this breed. Malamutes are escape artists who enjoy going on adventures, and they can travel quite some distance in a short period of time. The fence needs to be built into the ground; otherwise, a Mal will simply dig its way under and out. If you have small animals in the house, a Malamute may be able to live with them harmoniously, but this usually requires proper socialization during puppyhood.
(4) Malamutes are better-suited to homes than apartments.
Though better-suited to apartment living than the Alaskan Malamute, the Siberian Husky is an athletic dog that loves nothing more than running. If you live in an apartment, only adopt a Husky if you are certain you can provide ample exercise and activity to make up for the small living space. Daily walks are a great way to exercise your dog and yourself, but you would be doing this breed a disservice if you never allow a good run. At the same time, it is important to note that Huskies have a considerable prey drive; not only does this make them the wrong choice for households with small pets like cats, hamsters, and rabbits but it also means they should never be left to run freely, especially in urban environments where there is danger of being hit by a car. Huskies should only be allowed to run in enclosed spaces or while attached to a lead. Just like Malamutes, Huskies require a fenced-in yard.
(5) Because of their high prey drive, Huskies should never be off-leash unless they are fenced-in.
Both Malamutes and Siberians love to dig, which is something to be aware of if you are an avid gardener. It is often difficult to modify this behavior through training, so many owners prefer to provide their dogs with designated areas where they can dig, like sandboxes. Allowing the dog to dig in an acceptable area will keep the rest of your yard prim. Just make sure to clean their paws off before letting them in the house.
Proper Nutrition for Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies
When it comes to nutrition, the advice for the Husky and Malamute is the same. If your pet is a companion rather than a working dog, you can feed any high quality kibble. However, a working dog may need higher levels of protein, and its diet should be considered carefully. You should only feed your dog kibble that follows AAFCO guidelines, and don’t go grain-free unless your veterinarian specifically recommends it. There is a correlation between grain-free foods and dilated cardiomyopathy which the FDA is still researching.
The world of pet nutrition is exceedingly confusing; you could scour the internet for hours, and you’ll often end up having more questions than you started with. So, instead stressing over labels, find a brand you trust that offers products within your budget; you can always supplement your dog’s kibble with fresh foods like eggs, meat, and vegetables. Trustworthy brands will have information about their manufacturing and safety practices on their websites. If you call to learn more information, they should be able to answer any questions you present with ease.
(6) It’s hard to know for sure which dog food is best. Choose brands you feel you can trust.
To determine how much to feed your Husky or Malamute, you can follow the guidelines on the bag of kibble. You can also calculate your dog’s calorie needs using this tool offered by the Ohio State University’s Veterinary Medical Center. Whichever you choose, understand that these are only guidelines and your dog may need more or less than what is recommended. It is easy to tell when your dog is being fed too much — it gains weight. However, it can be hard to tell if your dog needs more food, especially if it isn’t underweight or losing weight. Dogs should be fed more when performing demanding tasks such as hunting or pulling a sled. If they seem to run out of energy sooner than expected, they may be in need of more calories. In this instance, you should also consult with your vet to make sure nothing else is wrong.
Alaskan Malamute vs Husky: Grooming
Mals are a bit high maintenance when it comes to their grooming needs. Their coats are so thick and fluffy that they should be brushed daily to prevent matting. The AMCA recommends using brushes with firm bristles, such as a slicker brush. A rake brush can be helpful during shedding seasons (which happen twice a year), but Furminators and the like can cut through the coat’s guard hairs and should not be used. It is also advised that Malamutes be bathed every six to eight weeks; this will help maintain the coat by reducing matting and loosening dead fur.
(7) Malamutes have a double-layered coat with medium length fur and need daily brushing to prevent matting.
One of the great things about Huskies is that they don’t need a lot in the way of maintenance, despite their thick coats. They have little to no doggy odor and will only need baths a few times per year. They require weekly brushing to prevent matting and to keep their coats in good condition. Unlike some other breeds, Huskies do not shed year-round; instead, they renew their coats twice per year and require extra brushing during this time.
Both Huskies and Malamutes may need to have the hair between their feet trimmed. This hair would normally insulate the feet, which is great for sled dogs, but not necessary for companion dogs. Like the rest of the fur, it can become matted if it is not taken care of.
All breeds should have their nails trimmed as needed and their teeth brushed regularly. Both Huskies and Malamutes have erect ears, which means they are less prone to getting ear infections. However, ears should still be checked for infection on a regular basis. Signs include redness, persistent earwax buildup (especially when brown in color), and strong or uncommon odor from the ear. Dogs may also scratch at their ears or shake their heads a lot when they have ear infections.
Alaskan Malamute vs Husky: Exercise Needs
(8) Malamutes and Huskies need exercise or they can become unruly. They make great hiking partners.
Exercise is especially important for Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies. These dogs were bred to pull sleds across frozen tundras, so they have a lot of energy. They can benefit from doggy playgroups and dog parks that provide ample space to run. If you’re a very active person who loves outdoor activities like hiking, bring your Husky or Mal along; their energy and endurance makes them fantastic hiking partners. The amount of exercise a dog needs will vary by individual, but your dog will let you know if it is not getting enough exercise by displaying certain behaviors. For instance, it may resort to chewing up your couch cushions or other such destruction. Or, it may pester you by relentlessly following you around with a favorite toy. Both Huskies and Malamutes are known to become vocal when they want to play or want attention. When dogs don’t get enough exercise, they often find something to keep them occupied, and you may not always like their choices. If your dog has a naughty streak, it may benefit from a game of fetch or a jog around the block.
Training Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies
Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies aren’t always the easiest dogs to train because they can be too smart for their own good. They are the type of dog that may realize they don’t have to listen to you when they’re not on a leash, for instance. Therefore, it’s important to make training sessions engaging and fun; this will keep these dogs interested and teach them that good things happen when they listen to you. Because these dogs are high energy, training sessions may be more successful after they’ve had exercise.
Positive reinforcement motivates dogs by rewarding good behavior with food or play. Zak George demonstrates how to train a Husky using this technique.
Even though Huskies and Mals are gentle and friendly by nature, socialization is still very important. Without proper socialization during puppyhood, a dog may become afraid of unfamiliar objects, animals, or people later in life. Malamutes have a higher likelihood of exhibiting dominant behaviors than Huskies do, so socialization is especially important for this breed. For a puppy to become a well-mannered, confident adult, it must have positive exposure to as many people, animals, places, objects, and sounds as possible.
(9) Socialization is an incredibly important part of your puppy’s training.
Alaskan Malamute vs Husky: Health Risks
Our dogs are our family members, and we want them to live happy, healthy lives. While this will be the case for most Mals and Siberians, there are still a number of health risks to be aware of. If we know the risks our dogs may face, then we can be more prepared should they ever happen.
Alaskan Malamutes are at risk for the following health issues according to the AMCA and AKC:
- A type of dwarfism that can result in shortened front legs, especially those that are bowed or otherwise deformed.
- A condition that affects a Malamute’s ability to walk, run, and jump due to lack of coordination or balance.
- Alopecia X
- A type of alopecia (abnormal hair loss) believed to be caused by a malfunction in the hair follicles.
- Day blindness
- Being unable to see in bright light; day blindness is usually accompanied by general sensitivity to light.
- Epilepsy (Seizures)
- Elbow dysplasia
- Hip dysplasia
- Von Willebrand’s disease
- This is a disorder in which blood does not clot properly because the protein needed, called von Willebrand factor, is either defective or low in number. Dogs who have this disease may bleed spontaneously from their noses, mouths, and reproductive, urinary, or intestinal tracts.
- A disorder that causes malfunctions in blood platelets; this can lead to difficulty or inability to form blood clots.
(10) You can prepare for unexpected health issues by putting aside emergency savings for your dog or by purchasing pet insurance.
Huskies are at risk for the following health issues according to the SHCA:
- Eye problems
- Juvenile cataracts
- Corneal dystrophy
- X-linked progressive retinal atrophy
- Hip dysplasia
- Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joint does not fit properly into its socket. It develops within two years of a dog’s life, and often gets worse as the dog ages.
- Epilepsy (Seizures)
- An undescended testicle.
Though these breeds have the potential to develop serious health issues, there are tests that can be performed before breeding. These tests ensure the parent animals are healthy and will produce offspring that are less likely to suffer from any hereditary defects. Responsible breeders always have their dogs tested and are happy to share the results. No matter what breed you’re interested in, it’s always best to purchase from a breeder who health tests their dogs.
Alaskan Malamute vs Husky: How Much Do These Breeds Cost?
Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes are not cheap, but when you purchase from a responsible breeder you will have peace of mind that your puppy will grow up healthy. However, if the typical cost of purchasing a Husky or Malamute is a bit too high for you, there are rescues dedicated solely to these breeds. Since these rescues’ main goal is to find good homes for their dogs, you’ll be able to adopt a Husky or Malamute for a much more affordable price.
(11) Adopting a Husky or Mal from a rescue is an affordable option that creates space for rescues to save even more of these dogs.
Huskies and Malamutes do not have to be more expensive to keep than other medium to large-breed dogs. What they need is the usual: leashes and collars, bowls, toys, food, routine veterinary care, etc. However, there are a few costs you may need to consider:
- Some owners of Alaskan Malamutes prefer to have their dogs professionally groomed every six to eight weeks (but you can definitely brush and bathe your Mal at home).
- If you cannot dedicate enough time to your Husky or Malamute, then you may need to hire a dog walker or doggy daycare.
- If you don’t already have one, a fenced-in yard is a must for these breeds as it provides a safe place for your Husky or Mal to enjoy the outdoors.
Remember that dogs can become more expensive in their old age because it is not uncommon for them to develop problems like arthritis. These problems can often be managed with medication, but dogs who are suffering may need more expensive treatments like surgery. It’s important that we as dog owners set aside some of our finances in order to care for the needs of our fur babies. You can also look into purchasing pet insurance.
Alaskan Malamute vs Husky: The Differences in a Nutshell
We’ve taken a broad look at both breeds, and there are a lot of similarities between the two. Here’s what we’ve learned about their differences:
- Huskies are smaller, weighing between 35 and 60 pounds, whereas Malamutes are typically 75 to 85 pounds.
- Though both are sled dogs, Huskies were built for sled-racing, whereas Malamutes were built for sled-hauling.
- Huskies have a high prey drive and may not do well living with small pets like cats, hamsters, bunnies, etc. Malamutes have a better chance at getting along with small pets as long as they have been properly socialized.
- Malamutes are a bit more stubborn and independent.
- Huskies are better-suited to apartment living than Malamutes, but a house with a fenced-in yard is preferable for both.
- Malamutes require more grooming than Huskies. Mals should be brushed daily and bathed every six to eight weeks, whereas Huskies only need to be brushed once a week and bathed a few times per year.
- Huskies are reported to be friendly with other dogs, whereas Malamutes may sometimes exhibit dominant behavior toward those of the same sex.
- Though there is some overlap, Huskies and Malamutes face a different set of health risks.
As you can see, there are a number of differences between Huskies and Malamutes that are worth considering when choosing between the two.
Either way, both are beautiful, friendly breeds that can be a great addition to any family that is prepared to meet their needs.