by Doris Donnerman
(last updated April 3, 2009)
At the top of the world, in the area bounded by the Arctic Circle, live the Eskimos. They are a people unlike any other, and no man knows from whence they came, nor when.
In the lands to the south, the weather is less severe. Trees grow. There is better hunting. The summers are not so short. Still the Eskimos cling to the land along the Arctic Ocean. It is so now, and it was so when the first white men visited the Arctic.
These people are not split into tribes, as we know them. They speak roughly the same language, and their habits are much the same. So it is with their dogs. The dogs are quite obviously closely related, regardless of the part of the Arctic in which they are found.
Conforming roughly to a classification sometimes called the "wolf-spitz," they are heavily furred, have short, prick ears, and carry their tails over their backs. To this family belong the Alaskan Malamute, the Eskimo, the Siberian Huskie, the Samoyed, the Norwegian Elkhound, Chow Chow, Finnish Spitz, Pomeranian, and Keeshond.
It is probably not correct to call any group of Eskimos a tribe, but living along the Pacific slope of Alaska is a group known as the Mahlemuts, or Malamutes. Many of them live along the shores of Kotzebue Sound, facing Siberia. These people have developed a fairly distinct type of Arctic dog which is now called the Alaskan Malamute, in honor of the people and land from which it comes.
Both Russian and American writers of the early exploratory days referred to the Malamute people as high type primitives who bred unusually good sled dogs. Some of these writers referred to the dogs as the native Alaskan breed.
There are many stories written that cast a glamorous aura about the dogs. This was heightened by the first dogs which came down to the United States, and by the prowess of the dogs in sled races both in Canada and in Alaska.
Then during the period from 1890 to 1918, the white men who went north took southern breeds, which were crossed with the Arctic dogs, including the Malamutes. So-called sportsmen, interested merely in winning the money prizes at sled racing meets, began crossing swift southern breeds with the sled dogs.
The inevitable result was a decay in the breeding. The northern lands became populated with mongrels of poor type, intractable dispositions, and no great endurance, either for distance or for weather.
Still, those Eskimos remote from the white man's influence kept to their ages-old breeding lines. The American sportsmen, interested in developing the breed in the United States, selected stock from these remote outposts, thus, the dogs most often seen in the United States are of finest stock.
The Alaskan Malamute is a native sled-dog of Alaska, and is the oldest native dog known to that country. It was originally named "Mahlemut" after a native Innuit (Mahlemut) tribe.
The Alaskan Malamute is a large-size dog with a strong, compact body. He has thick dense, coarse coat but not too long. He stands well over pads and has appearance of much activity. He has a broad head, with erect wedge shaped ears. His muzzle is not too pointed and long, but not too stubby (other extreme). He has a deep chest, proud carriage, head erect and eyes alert. Face markings are a distinguishing feature and the eyes are well set off by these markings. His tail is plumed and carried over the back when not working, but not too tightly curled, more like a plume waving.
Malamutes are of various colors, but usually wolfish grey or black and white. Their feet are of the "snow shoe" type with well-cushioned pads giving firm and compact appearance. His front legs straight and with big bone, hind legs well bent at stifles. He has a straight back gently sloping from shoulders to hips. Endurance and intelligence are shown in body and eyes. The eyes have a "wolf-like" appearance by position of eyes, but the expression is soft. He is quick in action and has an affectionate disposition.
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