Although the origin of the Alaskan Malamute is not clearly known, it is generally considered to be a descendant of the Mahlemut dog. An ancient Inuit tribe, the Mahlemut were the native people of Norton Sound, an inlet on the northwest coast of Alaska.
Mahlemut is derived from the word Mahle, which is the name of an Inuit tribe, and mut, which means village. Just like many dogs belonging to the spitz family, this breed developed in the Arctic region and was shaped by difficult climatic conditions.
Originally, the dogs functioned as partners when hunting for polar bears, seals, and other big game. Because the Alaskan Malamute was strong, large and fast, it could easily perform the task that would require many small dogs, such as carrying the large carcases back to the master's home. The Malamute became so intertwined with people's lives, that it soon was regarded as a member of the family, no longer treated as a mere pet.
In the 1700s, foreign explorers of Alaska -- many who came during the gold rush of the late 19th century -- were genuinely impressed with the large dogs and the owners' affection for them. They entertained themselves by staging races and weight-pulling contests among the dogs. The native Alaskan Malamutes were eventually crossbred with each other and with the dogs brought by settlers, in order to create good racers or to provide the large number of dogs required for gold searching activities. This posed a threat to the purity of Malamute breed.
A dog-racing enthusiast in New England, however, obtained viable specimens of the breed in the 1920s, and began to develop the native Malamute.
As the breed garnered fame, it was used in various means. In 1933, for example, some Malamutes were selected to aid Adm. Richard Byrd with his Antarctic expedition. The Malamute was again used in the Second World War, to act as a pack animal, freight hauler, and search-and-rescue dog.
In 1935 the Alaskan Malamute breed became a registered breed with the American Kennel club. In terms of registered breeds, it is relatively young, but as far as the actual history of the breed, it is much older.
The breed was started with a very limited gene pool, and still today, is relatively limited.
In the 1950's The American kennel club reopened the registry to allow for new genes (bloodlines) to be brought in, as the breed was becoming saturated with existing bloodlines. It began with a limited amount of bloodlines to begin with.
During that same time, in the 1950’s, there was a pioneer in the breed named Marlene Ross. Her ways were not popular and even today, in some circles, are still very much unpopular. Marlene risked her reputation and lost her stature in the club because she brought in new lines that she believed would keep the gene pool from becoming small and inbred. She brought in the bloodlines that are now what is referred to as "The Giants ". This was not popular with the “standard” and still isn’t today. This is ultimately where the controversy of the existence of the “Giants” stems from, and not M’loot, as they are often referred to.
The term “M’loot” comes from Paul Voelker's kennel name, and no longer exists in pure form. Voelker was a standard breeder, and bred to the Alaskan Malamute standards. Paul Voelker and a handful of others are where the breed actually began. The Mloot were slightly larger than the Kotzebue line, and were mixed to add temperament and a slightly larger bone frame, but are not the reason for the existence of the large 130-160 pound Alaskan Malamutes of today. These larger dog sizes are due to the breeds that were brought in in the 50's by Marlene Ross, not because of Mloot, like everyone reads in these gimmicks to market these larger Alaskan Malamutes.
The Alaskan Malamutes of today are very different than they were in the early days of Mloot and Seeley- Chinook Kennels, who were the pioneers of the AKC standard.
In all I have learned so far in my quest for knowledge, and some firsthand knowledge, there are Giants to the breed, but they are not Mloot lines, they are actually Wakon. These large dogs are still part of the breed as the breed stands today. Some would like to see a split in the breed, like they have done with the Schnauzer, making both a Standard and a Giant, but no one has taken the real initiative to really pursue the venture.
No, there are no "Giants" in terms of registration at this time, but yes, there are in fact Alaskan Malamutes that are not standard.
This is not to ruffle feathers but to simply state that M'loot is not where the larger “Giant” Alaskan Malamutes came from. If you research the pedigree of a Large "Giant" you will find Wakon in that pedigree. That is where the "Giants" came from, and not until the 50's.
Although I realize that there are those who look down on what Marlene Ross did, or was trying to accomplish, here is some “Food for Thought”…
In the 50’s, the breed was experiencing a loss of the gene pool to the point where the breed, without new blood, would have been compromised to the point of disappearing. Even Marleen’s own brother was against the idea, but AKC made an allowance for it. She was a pioneer of the breed, and like all other breeders, had her own vision for the bloodline. Some may not like what she did, but her kennels are still producing dogs that are highly sought after for their size and gentle nature, even today, 70 years later.
The people who are in love with the larger dogs do not show them, and most do not mush. They are family pets and are loved just as much as a show dog or by a passionate musher. Due to the amount of controversy over the “Giants” (as Marlene also lovingly and proudly refers to them, as her hard work and vision of the breed) maybe there should be a division of the Standard and the Giant?
It’s been done for other breeds, such as the poodle and several others, and even newer breeds coming in now.
Marlene Ross has been in the Alaskan Malamute breed for over half a century, closer to 3/4 of a century, and she, like it or not, was one of the pioneers of the breed as it’s known today. Her bloodlines are even behind some of the show winners and working lines of the breed still to this day. I know there are a lot of people that say that the Malamute was never designed (in the beginning) to be as large as some of the Malamutes today, but the fact is, “they are here” and they are considered by their own creator to be “Giants”.
I know that there are some breeders at this time looking for more size and bone, larger dogs, who have good health and are gentle in nature - breeders who show and use them for what the breed was intended for, because they have contacted me looking for a puppy to breed. I realize that some do not like the big dogs, but that is a personal choice and does not change the fact that they are here.
With so very many people loving the bigger dogs, maybe everyone should try to unite and understand that these dogs have been around since the 50’s, that’s 70 years, and like any other breed, will have “likes and dislikes”. The stigma over “Giants” should just be understood. Standard is standard, as the breed is “written”. Anything above “standard”, by a certain degree, could just be classified as “Giant”. I think there should be a breed standard for “Giant”, allowing them to be shown and exhibited by their owners as Giants. That is the definition for other breeds that have standard and above standard.
If AKC allows these dogs to be registered Alaskan Malamutes, and does not provide for a separation between the two terms, then they are all listed as Alaskan Malamutes as the breed is registered today.
However, if others want to truly make a term change, it can be done. Someone just has to have a passion to do it. Might even settle a lot of feathers if it were done? I love this breed with a newcomer’s passion. I want to know the TRUE history of the breed, and what this breed was bred to do, much more than its mere classification as standard or giant.
I have both sizes, and all colors and coat types… which is another story too… long coats "blah". I see firsthand what the folks who love the standards talk about and what the giant lovers talk about. "Both" sides can have health problems, and trust me, it is not just the big dogs that have health issues and testing does not stop everything. It is a fact that the larger dogs don't normally live as long, but that is a fact with any larger dog, not just with larger Malamutes. For all of us who love this amazing breed, getting along and trying to work together for a better future of the breed should be our priority – not what we have as stated in the standard as of today. I hope no one takes offense, but I have seen everything they talk about in books with this breed, and much much more. Every breeder out there has room for improvement and should be working harder to learn more about all of the pioneers of the breed, whether popular or unpopular, and why they did what they did to help keep this breed going. The origins of yesterday are very important, but so is the future and where the breed is headed.