September 1, 2009
By Joe Henderson
Alaskan Malamutes have been on this planet for a long time and recent DNA testing shows they are one of the world’s most ancient breeds. Throughout history we have called upon the malamute for the toughest jobs—dragging sleds to the North and South Poles, hauling U.S. mail across Alaska, and packing ammunition for our soldiers in WWII. But why are there so many myths about Alaskan malamutes?
In order to bust some of the myths, first we need to explore their history and origin. The Mahlemuit people or Inuit, whom they are named after, used the Alaskan malamute breed over 10,000 years ago and possibly earlier. The malamutes crossed the Bering Straits with the Inuit from the arctic regions of Siberia. They were used as pack dogs, hunting dogs, and sled dogs and protected the Inuit families from bears. It must have been a rugged life back then and the dogs had to conform to their environment or else they wouldn’t survive. They had to be stout and have stamina to carry a pack or pull a sledge. Their coats had to be lush with just the right length and thickness to hold their body heat and repel whipping snow during blizzards. And malamutes had to be intelligent, trusting, and loyal since they lived with people who valued them as part of their family.
It’s also believed the dogs ate when the family ate which meant during famines they had to develop a digestive system that allowed them to absorb every micronutrient from their meager rations of food. I have seen dogs half the sizes of malamutes eat twice the amount of food as them—malamutes are just great keepers. These guys also had to develop hefty paws that would endure traveling on dry snow and sharp ice. Basically, it can be said the Alaskan malamute is the perfect breed for a brutal and imperfect environment.