A Historical Perspective of
Why do Malamutes DO that?
Interesting information about Alaskan Malamutes in history and how the Alaskan Malamute came to be what it is today...
Historically, Malamutes were used for hauling heavy loads over great distances, such as a draft horse is used today, or as an "alert dog" - warning the village of nearby polar bears, wolves or other predators. The Malamute is a courageous dog. If a bear or wolf dared venture into the village it may have been attacked by several Malamutes, while others barked warning. This ensured the safety of the village's children and inhabitants. This is probably the historical basis for the animal and dog aggression seen in the Malamute today. Survival of the village depended upon the Malamute early warning system and aggression to all animals not a part of the village "pack" and may be the basis for the highly developed protective instincts Malamutes have for "their" children.
Stories have been told about how the Inuit owners would strand the dogs on islands in the summer when food was plentiful. Dogs that became feral and hunted for their food during the summer months survived. Those that could not hunt, did not survive. Those that managed to steal a fish or seal from the hearth or cache in the winter were probably healthier and better fed that those that did not. Perhaps this type of natural selection brought about the thieving, problem solving intelligence that hunts and kills small creatures we know today.
Some of the physical characteristics that make the Malamute the beautiful animal it is were not conciously chosen to suit man, but are traits that helped it survive arctic winters. Small ears are more energy efficient, losing less body heat. A thick, heavy, but not short muzzle warmed the arctic air. Tight lips, little stop (the slope between muzzle and forehead), and a wedge-shaped head prevented the face from icing up. The heavy double coat protected from wet snow (guard hairs), and the wooly and oily undercoat protected from cold. Compact feet kept ice from forming between the toes. A slow metabolism allowed the Malamute to live on less food. Dark eyes were protection from the bright sunlight reflected off ice and snow. Dewlap (the loose skin beneath the neck) warmed the forelegs and provided protection from predators that may bite the throat (all they'd get would be some skin and fur - not muscle or artery). A tail of good length and well furred protected the Malamute's nose and face when it curled into a ball to sleep outdoors.
Other traits were probably selected for by man, if not intentionally, by natural selection as the inuit mushers chose the best dogs for their teams. A strong compact build, with good muscle and bone, allowed the Malamute to pull great weights for it's size. A deep chest allowed room for lung expansion and endurance. A communal people, they did not select for dogs that would protect property, but instead for dogs that were friendly to all people since any visitor in the desolate arctic would be very welcome. "Heart" that hard to define quality that makes a sled dog want to pull and pull and pull when other dogs would have stopped and say, "I can't" has enabled the Malamute to be persistent and untiring. In a harsh environment like the arctic, children that survived would be cherished, so a dog with a love of children would be valued.