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Alaskan Malamute Heritage and Character
 

  ABrief look At the History and Persononality Of Alaskan Malamutes

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HERITAGE AND CHARACTER

A dog's character is a reflection of the demands and values of the culture where the breed evolved. The European Cultural values are generally those of the Western Hemisphere. We value obedience, loyalty and devotion, as well as the concept of private property which we guard from strangers and intruders. European breeds of dogs were selectively bred to function within these cultural values. For this reason, most people find more satisfaction in owning a European breed rather than an aloof, independent sight hound, or a more primitive and instinctive northern breed which evolved in a far different culture.

The Eskimo culture in which the Malamute evolved was primitive, almost stone age. The dogs lot was not pampered. There were extreme temperatures (sometimes 60 to 70 degrees below), and little food, with extreme competition for it among the dogs and the people. The Malamute today is a light eater for his size because of this. There was hard work from birth to death. The Eskimo did not have the concept of private property. The coming of visitors was generally a time of feasting. There was no need of guard dogs. Dogs were frequently borrowed and driven by different people. There was no place for loyalty to one master, but to the community and to himself.

So the Malamute evolved for thousands of years as a sled dog, a freight dog, a trap line dog (not a racer), and a hunter of seal, moose, bear and musk ox. He either survived the cold, hunger and hardships, or he died. Only those who were sound, good strong workers, able to take care of themselves and manageable by the drivers survived to reproduce their kind. They were used as pack animals in summer when there was no snow. Sometimes they had to fend for themselves, as food was often scarce. Nature and the Eskimo were ruthless cullers of the unfit.

Then, during the Gold Rush, “outside” dogs were introduced: bird dogs, hounds, collies, mastiff types, etc. Thus began the decline of the Eskimo breeds through crosses with other breeds. They began to lose their soundness, tight feet, offstanding coat etc. They picked up many problems so as to become genetic curses (poor pigment, Hip Dysplasia, dwarfism). Then, in the first part of the 20th century, groups of people went to the isolated Eskimo villages and brought back specimens of the original North American Eskimo dogs. Most of these dogs came from the Mahlemut Indians of the Kotzebue Sound areas in upper Western Alaska. These first dogs varied in size and type because of the different condition where they lived.

Some Malamutes, supplied by Eva B. Seeley, went with Admiral Byrd to the Antarctica, and were the foundation of the Kotzebue strain of dogs. In the mid 30's, the AKC recognized this strain and they were officially called Alaskan Malamutes. They remained rare in the lower States though, and hardly appeared in the show ring until the early 50's.

At the same time, others were trying to preserve these great northern dogs and two other strains were being produced known as the M'Loot and Hinman type. The AKC stud book had been closed at this time, so these two strains were not recognized before World War II. Around the end of World War II, there was another Antarctic expedition and Eva B. Seeley donated more dogs to this trip. Most of the dogs donated were AKC registered champion breeding stock of the Kotzebue strain. Due to some bureaucratic foul up, no provision was made to bring back the dogs after the trip, so they were chained to an ice floe and blown up. The breeding population was decimated, and so the AKC reopened the stud book to admit some of the M'Loot type dogs.

Most Mals today are a blend of these original Kotzebue and M'Loot types, and the types have, in some cases, gone to extremes where two specimens may look like separate breeds. Here are some of the extreme characteristics, good or bad, that will help you to recognize the two different strains:

Kotzebue: Short body, legs, ears, muzzle, upper arm and tail. Barrel chest, light bone, small feet, well to overangulated. Tight and smooth but not a fast mover. Little or no stop to face.

M'Loot: Long body, legs, ears and muzzle. Sable sided or ponderously built. Huge bone. May carry the gene for dwarfism. Sometimes lack front and rear angulations. Pronounced stop, and are slower to develop, with a longer life span.

At this point, no strain, line or kennel has cornered the market on good or bad qualities. All are susceptible to poor pigment, splash markings, hip dysplasia, dwarfism, unsoundness, and poor proportions, to say nothing of poor temperaments and lack of attitude. The above ideas are not hard and fast rules, just tendencies.

Good quality dogs of any breeding should have broad heads, muscular necks, dark pigmentation (around eyes, lips and nose), stand off coats, substantial bone, large tight thick padded feet, and broad deep chests. The shoulders and rear should be moderately angulated and balanced to provide easy, powerful robust movement, with plenty of reach and drive.

TEMPERAMENT

For every Malamute that is kenneled, fifty are kept as pets and under modern living conditions. Temperament is the most important feature of the dog – of any dog.

“The Alaskan Malamute is an affectionate, friendly dog, not a “one man” dog. He is loyal, a devoted companion, playful on invitation, but generally impressive by his dignity after maturity.” I quote from the standard.

As the Malamute comes from the group of dogs known as the Northern Forest Group, they have been servants of man for uncounted centuries. Most have not been guard dogs, but have recognized humans as their friends, and have been willing to work until death for man. This loyalty, affection and willingness to work are still part of the heritage of our modern Malamute.

The Alaskan Malamute makes a fine house dog. He adores the companionship of people of all ages, and is generally quiet when indoors. The Malamute is a particularly clean dog in all respects. They will often lick themselves clean in the same manner as a cat.

The legends of the hunting instinct and keen nose of the Malamute are many. With his strong inherent instinct to hunt, it is difficult sometimes for them to discern which animals belong to the family and those which they were once meant to pursue and bring down. Domestication has made stalking prey an exception rather than the rule, but the instinct to capture is still strong, particularly members of the cat family. It is up to the owner to set rules of behavior in this respect and to enforce them.

Alaskan Malamutes are also given more to howling than barking, and seldom make unnecessary noise. They have a unique range of tones in their vocabulary, and will often carry on conversations with their master. This “talking” is a sure sign of a happy dog at peace with his world.

So there you have it: a big dog, possessed of great endurance with a passionate desire to work for its owner, a happy song and the ability to let down and play when the work is done.

 

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