The history of the emergence of the Alaskan Malamute

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The history of the emergence of the Alaskan Malamute
The history of the emergence of the Alaskan Malamute

General data, ancient origin and use of the ancestors of the Malamute, development and popularization, decrease in numbers, restoration, current situation. Alaskan Malamute (Alaskan malamute) is a large domesticated breed of ancient origin, originating in the upper part of western Alaska. It was bred by the Malemut tribe of the Inuit, and used first for a utilitarian purpose, and then as a sled dog. Often these dogs are often mistaken for Siberian huskies, due to the similarity in color. But, in fact, their personality is more dominant. Outwardly, they are very similar to a wolf, only of a much larger size and strong bones. Today, malamutes are used for dog sled racing and recreational sledding trips together.

The ancient origins of the Alaskan Malamute breed

Alaskan Malamute lies in the grass
Alaskan Malamute lies in the grass

The breed resembles a "gray brother". She is considered the oldest dog on the North American continent and has long been linked by ties of friendship with humans. The theory is supported by archaeological finds dating from 12 to 20 thousand years in the form of bone carving, which shows alaskan malamute, which are similar to those that live today.

DNA analysis carried out in 2004 also supports the ancient origins and close genetic ties of the Alaskan Malamute to the wolf. These dogs were the first domesticated Eastern or Central Asian wolves brought to North America by nomadic hunter-gatherers. These ancient pets traveled with early man to the continent through the Bering Strait from eastern Siberia to Alaska during the late Ice Age, over 14,000 years ago.

According to DNA data, Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky have close genetic ties with each other. They are responsible for the obvious physical resemblance and wolfish features inherent in them. The main difference between the two breeds is size - the malamute is larger, stronger and more powerful. Thus, the description of the Paleolithic dog corresponded in parameters to them.

Application of the ancestors of the Alaskan Malamute

Alaskan Malamute in harness
Alaskan Malamute in harness

Like many of the early tribal groups of North America, the canines became an important part of survival, fulfilling many roles. They were used for hunting and tracking game, as companions, as guardians of the home and protection against rival tribes or predators. Anthropology indicates that Eskimo civilizations existed at Cape Kruzenshtern as early as 1850 BC. It is widely accepted that long before the use of sleds, the Eskimos kept dogs for hunting and guarding.

Due to the lack of food and the harsh climate of Alaska, these dogs had to be resilient as natural selection played an integral role in their development. Those individuals who could not survive in the harsh conditions died, while the prototypes passed on their genetics to future generations. It was through the process of natural selection that early northern dogs became quite strong types with unique characteristics and managed to survive through the centuries.

The then Eskimo life consisted of nomadic travel and extremely dangerous situations, as people hunted the beast in order to survive and better settle down. The exact date of the creation of the Alaskan Malamute cannot be determined. It is known that around 1000 A. D. Inuit (indigenous peoples of the Arctic regions of Canada, Siberia and Alaska) migrated from Alaska to Northern Canada with their pets. This suggests that unique species of dogs were bred to fulfill certain purposes in Eskimo society, such as transportation or carriage of goods currently in use.

How and where did the Alaskan Malamute develop?

Alaskan Malamute breed - appearance
Alaskan Malamute breed - appearance

Researchers believe that life in the northern conditions of Canada and Alaska would be impossible without a sled. However, versions of the early development and dating of this process of sled dogs are largely conjectural. In North America, archaeologists have discovered parts of a sled that are unique. They date back to 1150 AD. NS. and is credited to the Thule culture, the ancestors of today's Inuit, using the power of a dog to move a load from one place to another.

The Alaskan Malamute is believed to have evolved from a group of canine Inuit, indigenous to the Northwest Arctic and North Slope of Alaska and the Bering Strait region. They called themselves "Malemiters", which means "the inhabitants of Male" in the Eskimo dialect. Today these people are called Kuwangmiyut or Kobuk people. Having settled here after a great migration, they mainly occupied the upper part of the Anvik River and the banks of the Kotzebue Sound. It was here that alaskan malamute developed over the following centuries through natural selection and selective breeding of local peoples.

The breeding standard was to create an efficient cargo pulling animal, watchman and hunter able to survive in an unforgiving climate. The result of a long process was the Alaskan Malamute, traditionally used to guard houses and villages, catch seals and polar bears, pull out large prey (caribou and huge parts of a whale) and deliver them to the village for butchering.

Researchers believe the breed developed in coastal areas further south. It is possible that in the more southern coastal areas of Alaska, it could also be, since at this time people often migrated with their dogs to places of food. For the early Eskimo, hunting and fishing were dictated by the weather, and it is likely that coastal areas in certain seasons or years had more to offer. This also explains the distribution of the Alaskan Malamute population north and south from the original settlements around Kotzebue Bay.

Malemiut Eskimos worked and also developed their highly durable, intelligent and reliable dogs. Their survival depended on it. For them, life was a constant movement from one place to another in search of valuable game. They are said to have treated Alaskan Malamutes as valuables and fed them frequently. This helps explain the special disposition of the species towards humans compared to other Arctic sled breeds.

Life in inhuman, inferior conditions was the norm for many other northern species. For the tribe, Alaskan Malamutes were as much a member of the family and community as anyone. Children and puppies crawled together on the floor of the huts, and the boys were fed next to the puppies. Lack of food prevented large-scale breeding of these dogs, there were few of them.

Popularization of the Alaskan Malamute

Little Alaskan Malamute puppy
Little Alaskan Malamute puppy

The first Europeans reached Alaska from Russia. Semyon Dezhnev sailed from the mouth of the Kolyma River across the Arctic Ocean, around eastern Asia to the Anadyr River in 1648. The researcher's discovery did not receive public attention and left open the question of whether Siberia is connected with North America. In 1725, Tsar Peter I organized the 2nd Kamchatka expedition. The ships St. Paul and St. Peter went there, under the command of the captains of the Russian Alexei Chirikov and the Dane Vitus Bering. They sailed in June 1741 from the Russian port of Petropavlovsk.

Having reached the mainland of Alaska, Bering, after a short landing, turned west to Russia to announce the news of the discovery, while Captain Chirikov remained there. This decision meant that he had to try to cross the Bering Sea at the beginning of winter, which is shallow, variable weather, cold temperatures and strong waves, which was akin to suicide.

The ship was wrecked on Bering Island and the navigator and his crew landed on land. They did not yet know what the Alaskan Malamute would be open to people. It was here that Bering fell ill and died while trying to survive the winter with his team. When winter receded, the remaining crew members built a small boat and sailed home in August 1742. When they reached the coast of Kamchatka, they brought with them the skins of sea otters - the best fur in the world, which would have aroused the interest of Russian settlements in Alaska. By the end of the 1790s, permanent settlements were established there. For the Russians, French and English explorers, fishermen, whalers and hunters came to this territory, who also wanted to use the valuable natural resources of the whale, sea otter, walrus and seal. Of great interest to the capitalists were the Malemiut Eskimos and their kind, hardy dogs. The Alaskan Malamute worked in deadly conditions, harsh cold weather, required little food, and was capable of transporting extremely heavy loads over long distances.

These "attributes" made the animal highly desirable in the fur trade. Foreigners began to get to know the locals, as they had these dogs and the knowledge of their proper maintenance and use. But it was difficult for white people to buy Alaskan Malamutes due to their small numbers and high value. This helps explain the relatively small number of foundational species today.

However, by the late 1800s, with the discovery of an oil field, the market for fur, whale oil and mustache collapsed. Foreigners left Alaska, leaving natural resources in a state of extinction. The survival of the Eskimos depended on hunting and with the decrease in the number of local animals, many died of hunger. They had no immunity to foreign diseases. The local population of Malemiut decreased by 50%.

And then on August 16, 1896, the Klondai Gold Rush began as a result of Jim Mason's Skocoom discovery of rich gold deposits in the city of Bonanse, along the Yukon River. This sparked renewed interest in Alaska, and foreigners flooded the area again. The ensuing frenzied immigration sparked a strong demand for strong and resilient dogs, such as the Alaskan Malamute, who could survive in the harsh northern conditions while transporting heavy loads.

Thus, sled dogs became very expensive. It was common to pay between $ 1,500 and $ 40,000 for a small pack and $ 500 to $ 13,000 for a good dog. The high amount paid for capable canines, coupled with the fact that the Eskimos still suffered from "outsiders" who constantly encroached on their "native" food source, forced them to trade or sell their four-legged friends in order to survive. This situation has rapidly turned the Alaskan Malamute into the most expensive and respected heavy-duty hauling pet in the region.

Along with the prospectors trying to get rich, imported breeds appeared. The scarcity and value of true Alaskan Malamutes has led gold diggers to attempt to replicate its physical attributes and abilities by breeding captive wolves with the addition of St. Bernard and Newfoundland blood. Unfortunately, this did not create the ultimate animal as they hoped. Instead, these new hybrids were more interested in fighting among themselves than in the close-knit teamwork of sled dogs.

As more and more prospectors and settlers came to the area hoping to succeed, any large dog that could pull heavy loads was immediately added to the “selection mix”. Public services such as postal services had to be modernized to support population growth. This has further increased the demand for strong, durable mounts such as the Alaskan Malamute, capable of hauling up to 700 pounds of cross-country miles from one area to another.

Also during this time, dog sled racing became an extremely popular sport. 1908 laid the foundations for the Nome Kennel Club, organizing an annual 408-mile ride from Nome to Candles and back through Alaska. The competition was called "All Alaska Sweepstakes". Winning this event meant recognition, prize money and instant fame inside and outside the region. Such a competition was so popular that people from all over Alaska and surrounding areas gathered the fastest dogs they could find and harnessed them to their sleds and took part in the competition. This further contributed to an even greater increase in the purebred population of the Alaskan Malamute.

Alaskan Malamute decline and recovery history

Alaskan Malamute dog for a walk
Alaskan Malamute dog for a walk

While the dog's stamina and ability to survive in harsh climates made them highly desirable, they were slow by racing standards. Racers and breeders, hoping to maintain their won titles, wanted to improve the speed of the Malamutes and began to cross them with faster canines. This period of crossbreeding became known as the "breakup time of the Arctic sled dog." Although the breed may have been lost during this period, its natural genetic adaptation to survive in this harsh climate on scarce diets has proven to be lifesaving.

The Alaskan Malamute has been a product of natural selection in the harsh Arctic environment for centuries. Although man wanted to improve it by adding faster breeds from the continental United States, it would not be easy to undo centuries of survival through natural adaptation. With the end of the gold rush, the rampant crossbreeding of various species ended in an attempt to create the perfect sled dog. The remaining individuals soon began to return to the Spitz type, to which all northern varieties belong. Even the first generation of hybrids looked more like Alaskan Malamutes than the second half of their "mixed" offspring. After a short time, after three generations, all visible signs of "foreign brethren" disappeared from the remaining alaskan malamute.

It is assumed that these canines are a true arctic breed with specialized genes that are resistant to cold weather conditions; hybrids may not inherit these traits, which makes it impossible for them to survive. A good example is that the Alaskan Malamute needs much less food to survive in the Alaskan climate than other breeds of comparable size. The previous breeding period may also explain the slight variations in size and color found among the species today. However, these variations should not be considered indicative of the unclean breeding of modern dogs, and should not be considered a deviation from the true type.

The current position of dogs Alaskan Malamutes

Alaskan Malamute dog with owner
Alaskan Malamute dog with owner

Entering the 1920s, the future of the species was critical. Being naturally created, he managed to survive during the era of decay, but the number was small until important changes occurred. It was fortunate that information about the dogs was spread by a small group of amateurs. With their help, the restoration of the alaskan malamute began. Over the next 20 years, the breed will be split into three lines (Kotzebue, M'Lot and Hinman-Irwin), which will be merged later to create the modern representatives of these canines.

Today, the Alaskan Malamute is one of the most popular northern canines in the world. From humble beginnings, as the barely recognized sled and cargo dog of the Malemiut Eskimos, they became the official state dog of Alaska. Such pets are manifested in every state and are practically present in all civilized world countries. They perform in the obedience ring as service dogs, assistants to the disabled, and become excellent companions. Many of them are still used for their traditional role as cargo and sled animals.

More about the breed in the video below:

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