Alaskan Malamute, Siberian and Alaskan Husky Differences

November 13, 2013

By Linda Cole

To the untrained eye, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between some dog breeds. The Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky and Alaskan Husky may resemble each other, but there are differences between them.

The Alaskan Malamute is the state of Alaska’s official mascot, and one of the oldest of the northern sled dogs. Named after the Inuit tribe Mahlemuts, the nomadic people of Alaska used this powerful breed for centuries to hunt seals and pull heavy sleds to move supplies and people throughout the Arctic region. Today the breed looks much like it did 4,000 years ago. The Malamute is taller and heavier than the Siberian Husky. The dog stands 23 to 25” at the shoulder and weighs 75 to 85 pounds, though it’s not unusual for a muscular male to hit 100 pounds.

The Malamute has brown eyes and a broad head with the ears set wide apart. His bushy tail is carried over his back. Because the Malamute is heavier than a Husky, he is less likely to jump a fence, and will use his powerful paws to dig out instead. This breed should not be let off his leash; he has a high prey drive and loves to run. He can be gender aggressive with same sex dogs, but is affectionate with his human family. This is an intelligent, confident and stubborn breed.

The Siberian Husky has roots in Siberia where the breed was used by semi-nomadic tribes called the Chukchi people. When forced to expand their hunting grounds and hunt farther from home, they developed a dog with endurance to go great distances while pulling a light load at a moderate speed in harsh weather conditions. The breed was developed to preserve needed energy to stay warm. In 1909, the first Siberian Huskies arrived in Alaska as racing dogs. At 35 to 60 pounds and 20 to 23.5” at the shoulders, the Sibe is smaller boned than the Malamute. They can have brown eyes, one brown and one blue, both blue, green or parti-colored eyes. The head is smaller and not as broad as the Malamute, and their eyes and ears are set closer together.

When on alert, the bushy tail is carried in a sickle shape that drops lower when the dog is relaxed. Because they are pack animals, the Siberian Husky gets along well with other dogs. He is stubborn, intelligent, confident, independent and loving with those who have earned his respect and trust. An opportunistic escape artist, a Sibe can squeeze through the smallest hole or quickly dig underneath any fence. Once he’s out, this dog will run to his heart’s content. Do not let him off leash – his prey drive will kick in if he sees anything move, like the neighbor’s cat.

The Alaskan Husky is a true sled dog that’s a type of dog rather than a specific breed, and not recognized by any kennel club. The Malamute and Siberian Husky are purebreds and recognized by the American Kennel Club. The Alaskan Husky was bred solely for working ability, not appearance. Breeders of this dog didn’t care what he looked like as long as he could pull his weight, so Alaskan Huskies are varied in their appearance. For hundreds of years Inuit people and mushers bred dogs with other canines found in villages, and there is no specific breed standard that dictates breeding practices. They needed a dog that was smart and could run hard and fast with the strength to pull heavy loads.

The dog’s coat is mostly short to medium in length with an undercoat. Alaskan Huskies are long legged with a lean body, deep in the chest, pointy ears, a tail that curls over the back and usually brown eyes. They weigh around 35 to 50 pounds and are taller than the Siberian Husky, although their height can vary. Some resemble a cross between the Malamute and Sibe, and others look more wolf like. The Alaskan Husky is faster than the Malamute or Siberian Husky.

Despite their differences, these three dog breeds do have some things in common. They can be difficult to train because they are independent and willful. They’re intelligent working dogs who learn at their own speed, not necessarily at yours. All three have a thick double-coat. They have a high prey drive and are escape artists. They are sled dogs of the North, born to run, which they all love to do.

Top photo by Randi Hausken
Middle photo by Shannon Pearce
Bottom photo by Jeff Nelson

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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Comments

  1. kaden salsberry says:

    do u know what a cinnamon husky is

  2. John Pierce says:

    I have seen Huskies with short hair w/o the double layer hair. Is there a name for them and where can I find them?
    I lost my two Siberian Huskies after 17 years.

  3. Richard D says:

    Do anyone know where I can find Malamute breeders in California? Looking to purchase a companion dog for my Husky

  4. Robyn Zech says:

    TY for info. I have a breeding question; what % in the pups would U get by breeding a 100% Alas husky w/ q 50% sibe husky, 1/4 Mal,& 1/4 Alaskan husky?? My brain won’t do it for me! TY!!

  5. Jennifer says:

    I absolutely love huskies

  6. Deb says:

    My Alaskan malamute weighed 135 of pure muscle also. He was a great dog. Lived with a cat and they were best friends, but he did like to herd the cat. He would butt his head gently on the side of the cat to get the cat to go his way. The cat would only go if he wanted, then he would put the dog in his place. He was smart and loyal and would howl if we left the house. He did love the snow and would pull my son on a sled. But he was truly a house dog. He wanted to be wherever we were. The shedding is crazy. You have to be prepared for the white undercoat to shed all the time. They shed enough in a day to make a sweater. Great dogs.

    1. Jillian says:

      They are very talkative dogs… They tend to howl when they hear another dog bark or howl.

  7. Susie says:

    Loving, Loyal to a fault & so Awesome to have as a companion. Love my Bleu & Pynk❤️

  8. Ellen says:

    Thanks for the information. I’ve been wondering the similarities; now I see the differences.

  9. Great, very helpfully and perfectly depicted, thank you !

  10. creative hormone rush says:

    We used to have a dog that appeared to be a cross between malamute, husky, and golden retriever. His underside from chest to tail had beautiful, very long blond feathering, no tail curl-over, downward ears that would only perk up to half mast, the little blonde spots above his eyes (his entire topside, sides, top of head and top of the snout were black) and a pink tongue that had ridging in it. I’d read that Huskies have ridged tongues; do malamutes as well?

    1. Tess says:

      Sounds just like mine!

  11. Taylor Rainwater says:

    One other thing about the husky I just rescued, I found that she is extremely possessive over toys, bones, and food. I am not sure how to train her to not be possessive because when I try to grab the object that she is possessing, she snaps at me but she never actually bites me, she just wraps her mouth around my hand or arm but she never bites down. I am very confident and willful myself, but I find myself struggling with her. Now that she has warmed up to me, she doesn’t seem to mind leaving her possessions unattended when it is just me in the room, but when other people come into the room she guards it with her life. I am not sure what I can do to break her of that mindset. Any advice will help!
    Thank you again!!

    1. Jake says:

      If yourescued your husky, you’re probably not sure about her past.She might have grown up in hostile enviroment and that might be the reason why she is so possesive.I got my husky when she was 3 months old and it really takes a long time to teach them, it took a long time for her to get used to a new home.They have their own head and personality.Question is why would you take her food or toys away.You should leave her alone everytime she eats.Huskies need patience

    2. lucas says:

      I just got an Alaskan Husky as a rescue. He was very possessive of his toys, especially his favorite ones. He would growl. and one time bit me good. It only took a couple days to train this out of him. If you think your dog is going to bite you be safe and don’t do this!

      What I did, I would have a handful of treats (treats he really loves), starting with a toy that he didn’t LOVE, but just liked.
      I would ask him to give me the toy and once I had taken the toy give him some treats and say good boy. I then would give him the toy back immediately. Repeat this a few times, I did like 10, don’t do it until he is sick of it or frustrated with losing his toy! At the end give him his toy and leave him alone to play. Repeat this over and over, and work your way up to toys that he is more defensive over.
      Never leave his toys on the ground when he isn’t using them, they are really your toys, pick them up. Only give him one when he asks for it and don’t hand it to him and let him take it from your hand. Instead put it on the ground, and teach him a phrase that means it is fine to take it now, like “get it” or “go ahead”. Make sure you have another word that is negative when he takes it before being told like “no” and try to say it before he takes it, reposition your body so you are over it and he will hopefully back off of it as you are showing that it is still yours.
      The goal of all of this is to teach him two things,
      1. The toys are yours not his, you are nice and let him use them when you want to!
      2. If you do take his toy, it isn’t bad, he gets treats, and can even get his toy back! Double reward! 😉

      Remember that huskies need a lot of exercise!! if you cant take him running a lot, please get him a weighted backpack so he can get tired out. Read about safely using the backpack, and again don’t try any of this if you feel a risk of being injured!

  12. Taylor Rainwater says:

    This article helped me a lot! Thank you very much. I actually just rescued a husky pup that ran in front of my car. She has been abused so when we took her to an animal shelter she didn’t pass any of the tests except the one when they bring another dog in to see how she reacts to other dogs. I know she deserves a good home, so I took her under my wing until I can rehabilitate her. I am very knowledgeable when it comes to working with and rehabilitating abused dogs, but I knew nothing about huskies and what their behaviors are until I read your article. Everything you said has turned out to be true, and you helped me figure out what type of husky she is! (Siberian)
    Anyway, thank you very much for your reading it made it very easy for me!

  13. Daniel says:

    I got a husky from my sister when my sister’s Siberian husky had a litter with another S.husky but one looks like a sheep dog & the other looks red

    1. Daniel says:

      What’s going on here?? If you know please let me tell me Thx

  14. Jacob says:

    I have a dog I suspect to be an Alaskan Malamute. One day the Gate was left open and in wandered this huge dog who shed two pillows worth of hair. I am 85% sure she is a malamute and great with dogs her own size (but she views small dogs as fast food) So how can I train her to not wander into the neighbors yard for a little treat?

  15. Omar G says:

    I got my boy Zeus from a family friend, the dad was a pure Siberian huskie, and the mom was a German Shepard. Would that bring any difficulties? Some have said he’s malamute others Siberian from his looks. I would defiantly love to know exactly what he would be.

  16. Amy says:

    I rescued FROST, pure breed Alaskan HUSKY. Solid white, slanted brown eyes, white all over & “MY GIRL”. Her ONLY con would be SHE’S A LICKER 🙂 I Just rescued COTTON @ 1st of this year, apparently his mother was a Husky & father unknown. Sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart, as COTTON is solid white too. The differences are: COTTON’s eyes are Not slanted, He weighs 10lbs more (65lbs), He can’t JUMP, as FROST can(FROST can clear a 4.5′ fence Flat-footed, deer-like) & he’s A BARKER(that would be his only con) COTTON prefers my fiance & is sometimes deaf to MY ” KENNEL” command 😉 THEY ARE A WONDERFUL BREED, But they are pack animals & happier w/a companion….. They MUST have a Fenced yard (wooden privacy fence) as they live to run & JUMP. As I said, WONDERFUL BREED, but you MUST BE prepared for their needs. MY QUESTION IS, SINCE “ALASKAN HUSKY” ISN’T RECOGNIZED AS A”BREED “, HOW SHOULD I CLASSIFY FROSTY? On this particular site, I’m on right now, MALAMUTE & SIBERIAN are my only choices. I listed COTTON as Siberian (my fiance thinks he’s Shepherd, but original owner says mother was HUSKY), but FROST is 100% Alaskan & I’m NOT SURE HOW TO CLASSIFY HER (as it is for certain FOOD that’s best for her). Thanks for your help, Mike & AMY.

  17. I LOVE THIS DOGS,,THEY’RE INTELIGENT,,LOVEABLE,,WILL SEEP WITH ME,HAVE A KING SIZE BED ,,,THE BABY OF HOUSE….THE REASON I’M LOOKING FOR ONE IS BECAUSE I’M LOOSING MY EYE VISION,,,NEED COMPANION, ,LIVE WITH MY SON HIS ,40 YRS. .DOG LOVER,,,,,IM,REMISSION FOR CANCER ,MY SON TOO..HOPING THAT SOMEONE WILL HELP US GET ONE…GOD BLESS.

    1. lynn says:

      Dear To the Deaf, Blind, Disabled, and all Cancer PT’s
      Thank you for sharing your challenging experiences you face and underwent. A true blessing in life you are for us to have the opprtunity to understand it and learn this life and time are a terrible thing to waist and take for granted.
      My name is Lynn. My parents passed from this awful disease that i would not wish on my worst enemy. It had given me in more ways than one how important it is to appreciate all that you have. The time we have and how much advantages there really are that we often oversee.
      I am responding to you however, in your search for a canine husky companion. Just last nite a ful grown male full breed black and white alaskan with blue eyes and eqipped came strolling in as stray.
      My husband and i would love to keep him but just dont have enough room in our rv to keep him content as his demands are to high for us. We live in our rv and this gorgeous find needs space that we cant provide. If you are still looking or interested in taking this beautiful luxury for a friend well mannered and seems very home oriented perhaps we can work something out. We are in Los Angeles California. Thanks lynn. By the way we named him Oreo. His first likes we had as a welcome snack we shared.

  18. Jenny says:

    I have a white mulmut she is smart friendly and like to talk a lot .

  19. Harlow says:

    We own a malamute she is beautiful dog and great with grandkids loves the cold weather and the snow she loves to mush the grand kids on there sleds I can’t get over how powerful she is 80 pounds of pure muscle Gentle With people hates small animals and would lick and robbers who broke in the house

  20. henry p says:

    Can you breed alaskan huskie and a siberian huskie

  21. Rob says:

    I have to laugh at this sentence ” though it’s not unusual for a muscular male to hit 100 pounds”.
    This is from the malamute section.
    My Alaskan Malamute weighs 138 pounds and all muscle.
    Think it would be a good time to update page with new information relating to weight!

  22. liz says:

    I loved this article shows the difference between Siberian Husky Alaskan Husky and Malamute. I have a Siberian Husky mix love to breed thanks for sharing this article

  23. ShibaLuv123 says:

    Great article, all 3 breeds are beautiful dogs. I love Spitz type dogs, I have a Shiba Inu and he is such a character! 🙂

  24. I confuse the Malamute and Siberian, so found this of interest!