When Eskimo tribes migrated east from the cold, barren lands of Siberia at least four thousand years ago, dogs were both essential to their way of life, and their most prized possessions. Without them, hauling supplies would have proved all but impossible.
Origin of the Alaskan Malamute
There are twenty native Alaskan languages, four are Eskimo. However, none were written down until the eighteenth century when Russian fur traders entered the country. The name Malamute applies to the regional dialect of the Alaskan Inupiaq Eskimos. The Malamute speaking tribe or tribes eventually settled in the Northeastern area of the Seward Peninsula (alaskanmalamute.org).
It’s here where our Alaskan Malamutes of today are believed to have descended, powerful dogs able to both withstand frigid temperatures and haul heavy cargo. The Malamute Eskimos took great pride in their dog breeding, treating their valuable companions to only the best.
Paths of Descent
Some believe the Alaskan Malamute is a descendant of the early dog and domesticated wolf from centuries ago, whereas other Eskimo cultural experts dismiss this idea, pointing out the anatomical differences between dog and wolf.
But when exactly did this breeding of these largest and oldest arctic sled dogs first take place? When did these tribes come up with the idea ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be easier if the four legged animals following us, feeding off of our scraps, were to work for us’? For that matter, who was responsible for domesticating these animals?
This dog no doubt evolved from the ancient dogs that accompanied prehistoric man in his migrations from Asia, across the Arctic to Greenland and back. The “Mahlemut” tribes around the Norton Sound area of Alaska kept this superior work dog who was less “wild”, more tractable, and capable of an enormous amount of work. These animals were used in hunting seals, coursing polar bear, hauling heavy sledges, and packing in supplies (alaskanmalamuteinfo.com).
Unfortunately, early records are scarce; determining this exact point is all but impossible.
If you’re looking for speed, Siberian Huskies would be your dog; Malamutes are considered the ‘work horse’ of the dog world. Even still, Malamutes are widely known as wonderful pack dogs, enduring and powerful. Bigger than Huskies, these dogs can actually carry weight directly on their backs!
Whether it be weight pulling, sledding or packing, the Alaskan Malamute is a wonderful companion to have!