Difference Between Huskies and Malamutes

The Difference Between Huskies and Malamutes

Sled dogs are a fascinating breed of dog that has been utilised for centuries by humans for transportation, hunting, and companionship. Among these sled dogs, the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute are two of the most popular and beloved breeds. While these breeds may seem similar, they have distinct genetic and behavioural differences.


Importance of Understanding Breed Differences

Understanding the differences between these breeds is crucial, as this knowledge can help improve how we care for and interact with them. For example, knowing the traits and needs of each breed can help potential owners decide which breed is best suited to their lifestyle and home environment. Additionally, understanding these differences can aid in training and behaviour modification, preventing unwanted or problematic behaviours.

Definition of Huskies and Malamutes

The Siberian Husky is a medium-sized working dog breed that originated in Northeast Asia. The Chukchi people initially bred them to help with transportation and hunt reindeer. They have a thick coat of fur that allows them to withstand harsh weather conditions, and they are known for their high energy and a strong desire to run.

On the other hand, the Alaskan Malamute is a larger breed of dog bred for heavy freight work and has a history of being used for transportation and hunting. They have a similar thick coat to the Husky, but their coat is generally coarser and requires more grooming. Malamutes are known for their loyalty and intelligence but can sometimes be stubborn and independent.

In this article, we will explore the differences between these breeds in more detail and highlight the unique characteristics that make them such beloved members of the sled dog family.

Genetic sequencing and Origins of Sled Dogs

Sled dogs are an ancient breed with genetic sequences that can be traced back to Siberian wolves from 27,000 years ago. According to a recent study, these wolves were domesticated around 23,000 years ago. While sled dogs share 99.6% of their DNA profile with wolves, they are very different regarding their behaviour and characteristics.

Differences in Breeding History and Purpose between Huskies and Malamutes

Malamutes were bred 2,000-3,000 years ago as multipurpose dogs, used to hunt game, babysit children in the Mahlemut tribes, and of course, used for freighting. They were bred to be smarter than other dogs, and this is a trait that remains today. Malamutes are often labelled as ‘stubborn,’ ‘independent,’ or that they have their ears painted on. This isn’t the case, but their intelligence is the clue to their behaviour.

Huskies, on the other hand, have a different breeding history. The modern Siberian Husky originates from earlier breeds, whereas the Malamute has remained unchanged for thousands of years. The ancestry of the Siberian Husky is in hunting and killing reindeer. The Chukchi tribe in Siberia were the masterminds behind the breed and bred the husky to run down reindeer. They later bred the killing instinct out of the species and trained the dogs to herd the reindeer instead. This hunting ancestry is also why huskies have been known to kill livestock and small animals.

Impact of Ancestry on Behaviour

The differences in breeding history and purpose between huskies and malamutes have significantly impacted their behaviour. For example, the hunting ancestry of huskies is part of why they have a strong desire to run, which can make them problematic with recall. On the other hand, Malamutes were bred to be intelligent and independent, which means they can be stubborn sometimes. Therefore, understanding these sled

dogs’ ancestry and breeding history is crucial to understanding their behaviour and needs.

Physical Differences

Appearance and Size Comparison

Huskies and Malamutes are both northern breeds with some physical similarities but distinct differences in appearance. Huskies are medium-sized dogs, typically weighing 35-60 pounds and standing at 20-23 inches at the shoulder. In contrast, Malamutes are larger, weighing 75-100 pounds and standing at 22-26 inches at the shoulder. In addition, Malamutes have a more robust and sturdy build than leaner and more agile huskies.

Differences in Coat and Grooming Needs

Huskies and Malamutes have distinct coat types with different grooming needs. Huskies have a double-layered coat that requires regular brushing to manage to shed. They also tend to “blow their coat” twice a year, meaning they shed their undercoat in large amounts. In contrast, Malamutes have a thick, dense coat that keeps them warm in freezing temperatures. Their coat also requires regular grooming, but they typically shed less than huskies.

Health Concerns Unique to Each Breed

Both Huskies and Malamutes are generally healthy breeds, but they are susceptible to some health conditions unique to each species. For example, huskies are prone to hip dysplasia, a genetic disorder that affects the hip joint and can lead to arthritis or lameness. They are also susceptible to eye problems, such as cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy. In contrast, Malamutes are prone to certain genetic diseases, such as chondrodysplasia and polyneuropathy. They are also at a higher risk for gastric torsion, a potentially life-threatening condition where the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself.

Temperament and Personality

Sled dogs, including Huskies and Malamutes, are highly intelligent and independent breeds. They were bred to work hard, run fast, and make their own decisions, making them challenging for novice owners to train and manage. However, these breeds can make loyal and loving pets when appropriately trained.

Intelligence and Trainability

Huskies and Malamutes are both highly intelligent breeds, which means they are quick learners and excel at problem-solving. However, their intelligence can make them stubborn and resistant to obedience training. As a result, both species require firm and consistent training from an early age to ensure that they are well-behaved and obedient.

Socialisation and behaviour with other animals

Both Huskies and Malamutes are known for their friendly and affectionate personalities. However, they can be highly energetic and boisterous. Both breeds require early socialisation and training to learn how to behave appropriately around other animals. Finally, don’t forget about the prey drive, especially if you have cats or other small animals.

Tendencies towards vocalisation, running, and escape

Huskies and Malamutes are both highly energetic breeds that require regular exercise and mental stimulation. They tend to howl and bark, which can be a problem for owners living in apartments or in proximity to neighbours. Both breeds also have a strong instinct to run and explore, making them prone to escaping from their homes or yards. Owners must provide their Huskies and Malamutes with regular exercise, training, and mental stimulation to prevent boredom and destructive behaviour.

Lifestyle Considerations

Owning a Husky or Malamute requires a certain level of commitment and understanding of their unique lifestyle needs. Here are some key lifestyle considerations to keep in mind.

Exercise and Activity Needs

Huskies and Malamutes are highly active dogs that require plenty of exercises to maintain their physical and mental health. A daily exercise routine is necessary to keep them happy and healthy and prevent destructive behaviour.

Huskies are known for their love of running and are highly energetic dogs. They need a lot of exercise, such as running, hiking, and playing, to maintain their health and happiness. Malamutes also require a lot of exercise, but they are less high-strung and more laid-back than Huskies.

Ideal Living Arrangements

Huskies and Malamutes were bred for colder climates and had thick fur coats to keep them warm. As such, they are not well-suited for living in hot climates, as they can quickly overheat.

Huskies and Malamutes also need plenty of space to move around, so they are best suited for homes with large yards or open spaces. They also need plenty of mental stimulation, so a home with lots of toys, puzzles, and games is ideal.

Training and Behaviour Modification Techniques

Huskies and Malamutes are highly intelligent dogs that can be trained to perform various tasks, but they can also be stubborn and difficult to train. Positive reinforcement techniques are the most effective way to train these dogs, as they respond well to treats, praise, and attention.

Socialisation is also crucial for Huskies and Malamutes, as they can be wary of strangers and other animals. Early socialisation and exposure to a wide range of people and situations can help to minimise these issues.

Regarding behaviour modification techniques, it is crucial to address any destructive or problematic behaviour early on before it becomes a habit. Again, working with a professional dog trainer or behaviourist can help to identify the underlying causes of challenging behaviour and develop effective strategies for addressing it.


In summary, huskies and malamutes are two distinct breeds of sled dogs, each with unique characteristics, personalities, and care requirements. While both breeds share many similarities, there are significant differences in their size, appearance, temperament, and lifestyle needs. Understanding these differences is crucial for anyone considering adopting a sled dog as a pet.

When choosing the right breed, you must consider your lifestyle, living arrangements, and activity level. For example, huskies may be a better fit for families with active lifestyles with the time and resources to devote to training, grooming, and providing ample exercise. On the other hand, Malamutes are better suited to experienced dog owners who live in colder climates and have space for them to roam and play.

In conclusion, whether you choose a husky or a malamute, you will have a loyal and loving companion that will bring joy and adventure to your life. First, however, it’s crucial to do your research and make an informed decision that considers your needs and the needs of your future pet.

5 thoughts on “The Difference Between Huskies and Malamutes”

  1. Dallas Smith

    I have a rescue from Iqaluit in Northern Canada, she presents as a Malamute, but her head and ears are more Siberian. Having had a dozen Sibs in my younger years, I would say her “personality “ is Malamute. She is a great dog, tolerates other dogs, is interested in meeting them, but having once met the is subsequently indifferent. But loves meeting people and acts like we give her not affection at home. She is also really good with the grandkids. At 70 pounds and 22 inches, she is smaller than a pure breed Malamute. She is now 12 and slowing down except on -20 C mornings.

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