Dog Discoveries

What is the Difference Between a Siberian Husky and an Alaskan Malamute?

 

Sometimes dog breeds may closely resemble each other making them difficult to tell apart, and the Siberian husky and Alaskan malamute are often two dog breeds that are easily confused. Let’s first take a glance at their similarities: they are both Nordic breeds with a history of pulling sleds, they both have a wolfish appearance, and they are both categorized by American Kennel Club under the working dog group. To untrained eyes, these dogs dog breeds may therefore look quite similar, but once you take a look at them side-by-side, you are more likely to notice their differences. So today’s trivia question is:

What is one main difference between the Siberian husky and the Alaskan malamute?

A:  The Malamute is larger than the Siberian husky

B: The Malamute has a double coat while the Siberian husky has a single coat

C: The Malamute has blue eyes while the Siberian husky has brown

D: The Malamute has a tail that is always carried on the back while the husky always keeps it low

The correct answer is…. drum roll please!

drum

The correct answer is: A, the Malamute is larger than the Siberian husky.

Differences between the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute

On top of being of a different size, there are some other differences between the Siberian husky and the Alaskan malamute that are worthy of pointing out. While it may be difficult telling these two breeds apart when you see one specimen one day and then the other on another day, once you put these two breeds side-by-side the differences among them become much more evident. So first let’s take a look at the main differences and then let’s put them together so that we can have better picture of a Siberian husky vs. an Alaskan Malamute.

A Matter of Size

One of the most relevant differences between the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute is size. The Alaskan malamute, the largest of all the arctic sled dogs, is quite massive when we compare the two and there is a good reason for this. While the Siberian husky is built to be quick and light on his feet so to carry light loads at fast speeds, the Alaskan malamute is instead built to be powerful so he can carry large loads at slow speeds and over long distances.

Malamutes are therefore not designed for speed, but for endurance which is why there are heavy boned and have a well-muscled body; whereas the Siberian husky is lighter to the extent that any appearance of excessive bone is at risk for being penalized if we look at the Siberian husky breed standard.

When looking at numbers, just consider that male Siberian huskies are expected to be 21 to 23½ inches tall at the withers with a weight ranging from 45 to 60 pounds, while the desirable male Alaskan malamutes freighting specimens are expected to be ideally 25 inches at the shoulders with a weight of 85 pounds.

husky vs malamuteA Look at the Ears

Another difference between the Siberian husky and Alaskan malamute is ear carriage. In the Siberian husky, the ears are expected to be triangular in shape with slightly rounded tips and they should be placed close to each other and set high on the head.

In the Alaskan malamute the ears are also triangular in shape with slightly rounded tips, but instead of being close to each other, they are set wide apart on the exterior edges of the skull, just lined up with the upper corners of the eyes.

According to the American Kennel Club breed standard, when the ears of the Alaskan malamute are kept erect, they give the impression of standing off from the skull. Unlike the husky, high set ears are considered a fault in this breed.

A Look at the Eyeshusky versus malamute eyes

Even the eyes in these two dog breeds are quite different. The Siberian husky has almond-shaped eyes that can be brown or blue in color.

Sometimes huskies are seen with one brown eye and one blue one, a phenomenon known as complete heterochromia or they can have parti-colored eyes, a phenomenon known as sectoral heterochromia.

Both instances are acceptable according to the Siberian husky standard.

The Alaskan malamute, on the other hand, is required to have almond eyes as well, but they must be strictly brown, the darker, the better. Contrary to the Siberian husky, in the Alaskan malamute breed having blue eyes is considered a disqualifying fault!

husky vs malamute tailA Look at the Tail

Many people rely on the tail the distinguish a Siberian husky from an Alaskan malamute, but if you don’t know exactly what to look for, things can get a tad bit confusing.

Some people will say that the malamute’s tail is up over the back and the husky’s tail is down, but both can carry them both ways based on how they feel, so let’s go more into detail.

According to the Siberian husky’s standard, the tail should be well furred and of a fox-brush shape. When the husky is calm, it’s carried just below the level of the topline, but when the husky is attentive to something, it’s carried over the back in a graceful sickle curve.

In the Alaskan malamute, the tail follows the line of the spine. Unlike the husky, the tail is well furred and is not supposed to be short furred like a fox brush. When the malamute is not working, the tail is carried over the back (but  not curled tightly) and has the appearance of a waving plume.

A Look at the Coat

It’s true that both the Siberian husky and the Alaskan malamute may share some similar coat features, but they also have some differences. The Siberian husky has a double coat that is medium in length, never long, rough or shaggy.

All husky coat colors from black to pure white are allowed and there may be a variety of facial markings. Malamutes also have a double coat that should not be long, but they have areas where the coat increases in length such as around the shoulders and neck, down the back, over the rump, on the hindquarters  and the tail.

When it comes to colors, malamutes may have a coat ranging from light gray to black, sable, and shadings of sable to red. A white blaze  on the forehead or a cap over the head is desirable. Because the malamute is mantled, any uneven splashing or broken colors extending over the body is undesirable.

An Overall Look

husky versus malamute size

As seen, the husky and the malamute are quite similar, but yet so different, especially when you put them side-by-side as in the picture above. And it’s not only looks! Temperament wise, the husky is known for being friendly and outgoing. The fact these dogs aren’t overly suspicious of strangers make them poor candidates as a guard dog. They tend to get along with other dogs and are escape artists. The malamute is also friendly and affectionate, loyal and playful. As this breed matures, it tends to develop a certain dignity.

Siberian husky vs Alaskan Malamute Video

References:

  • American Kennel Club, Alaskan Malamute breed standard, retrieved from the web on April 26th, 2016
  • American Kennel Club, Siberian Husky breed standard, retrieved from the web on April 26th, 2016

Photo Credits:

  • Alaskan malamute portrait., by Giardeto teamOwn work, GFDL retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaskan_Malamute#/media/File:Alaskan_malamute_Togiak_Sausimayok.jpg 
  • Alaskan Malamute Ch.Windchaser’s The Seventh Son, by SCMWOwn work, CC BY 3.0 retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaskan_Malamute#/media/File:Alaskan_Malamute.jpg
  •  Siberian Husky – przykład umaszczenia (samica), by Kamil KorbikMy dog photos, CC BY-SA 3.0, retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Siberian_Husky?uselang=ja#/media/File:Siberian_Husky_-_fot._Kamil_Korbik_2007.jpg
  • Black and White Siberian Husky by Utopialandself-made, GFDL, retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siberian_Husky#/media/File:Siberian-husky.jpg

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