People unfamiliar with the breeds might confuse the Alaskan malamute and the Siberian husky, but they're not identical in appearance. The husky's head is more refined and narrower than the malamute, and his gait more effortless. Although both breeds are sled dogs, the malamute was developed as a freight animal, reflected in his larger, stronger build.
These breeds have quite a bit in common, both temperamentally and behaviorally. Neither is much of a watch or protection dog and both require a great deal of exercise. They're canine Houdinis, so make sure your backyard is extremely secure, with extra high fencing and barriers to digging out. Although both breeds are smart, neither is particularly easy to train. On the plus side, both are usually friendly dogs with happy dispositions. The malamute is stronger physically and in will than the husky, so take that into consideration when deciding between the breeds.
The Alaskan malamute is larger than the Siberian husky. At maturity, male malamutes stand approximately 25 inches tall at the shoulder, while females reach 23 inches in height. Males weigh about 85 pounds, with females slightly smaller at 75 pounds. Mature male huskies stand between 21 to 23.5 inches tall, with females at 20 to 22 inches in height. Males weigh 45 to 60 pounds, with females tipping the scales at 35 to 50 pounds.
One easy way for the novice to tell the difference between the husky and the malamute is via eye color. If the dog has blue eyes, he's a husky. Only brown eyes are permitted in the malamute breed standard, while the husky standard allows brown or blue eyes, including one of each shade.
The malamute and the husky have few peers in the shedding department. If you share a household with them, invest in a good vacuum cleaner. Siberian huskies are famously clean dogs with little canine odor. That's not necessarily true of the malamute. Both breeds need a good brushing a few times a week to lessen the amount of dog hair shed in the house, but the malamute needs more bathing than his husky counterpart.
Other Pets and Kids
Malamutes and huskies don't mix with cats or other small pets. Both of these breeds are quite prey-driven, so any smaller animals are fair game. However, Siberian huskies usually get along well with other dogs, which is not true of the malamute. Both breeds do well with kids, making good playmates for active, older children. The husky especially loves everyone in the family equally -- he's not a one-person dog.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.