The Alaskan Malamute is the heavy-freight hauler of the canine world, created to pull cargo on sledges through frozen wastelands. These powerhouses share their genetic ancestry with other Northern breeds, such as Siberian Huskies and Samoyeds that are thought to have descended from wolf-dogs hybrids established before the end of the Stone Age. The Malamute’s name comes from a tribe of Eskimos known as the Mahlemut, hardy souls who struggled to survive where there were few comforts and no excess. Their dogs reflected this life—powerful and efficient, with a metabolism that allowed them to haul sledges for hundreds of miles.
But none of this explains why they are revered today by millions of science fiction film buffs around the world, or how they contributed to a classic TV memory, or the role this breed played in bringing the dog-show world into the social-media era.
The Alaskan Malamute, which is the state dog of Alaska, may be an ancient breed, but these powerful working dogs have left indelible paw prints on our high-tech existence. Clearly, this breed is in for the long haul.
Consider just five ways Alaskan Malamutes have enhanced the modern world.
- A favorite Star Wars character
Sometime in the 1970s, a young filmmaker named George Lucas had a pet Malamute named Indiana, who had the habit of sitting in the passenger seat in the car as Lucas was driving. Lucas would recall later that the sight of this oversized fuzzy presence sparked the idea of a gentle, hairy, non-English-speaking co-pilot and that later became Chewbacca, the Wookiee. Lucas said, “A Malamute is a very large dog—like a 130 pounds and bigger than a human being and very long-haired. Having her with me all the time inspired me to give Han Solo a sidekick who was like a big, furry dog. Not quite like a dog, but intelligent.” The rest is cinema history.
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- One of the first social media dog-show blizzards
Costello (Ch. Nanuke’s Snoklassic No Boundaries) swept all the major awards—and more than $80,000 in prizes—at the 2006 AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. Judges marveled at his “beautiful breed type” as they named him Best in Show and Best Bred-By Exhibitor in Show. “This Malamute is a beautifully moving, sound showman,” noted judge Jane Forsyth. “He would certainly be capable of performing the job he was bred for.”
With the judges all in agreement, it was time to pose the question to the people. The AENC took its first step into the world of social media with the Iams Viewer’s Choice Award. Costello captured the lion’s share of more than 156,000 votes.
Mary Bloom ©AKC
- The coolest television series intro, ever
The opening credits, with its rousing classical music theme and scene of a dog-sled team dashing through snow, set the tone for adventure in the classic 1950s TV series—Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. Malamute Yukon King, was the “swiftest and strongest lead dog, breaking trail in the relentless pursuit of lawbreakers in the wild days of the Yukon.” The show also gave us one of TV's most charming closings, as lawman Sergeant Preston would hug his dog and say, “Well King, it looks like this case is closed.”
- Belief in what seems impossible
These dogs are massive, heavy-boned, and full-coated, not exactly what you think of as an deal agility dog. But all-around wonder Layla (Owyhee's Spirit in the Night, CGCA, CA, CD, BN, RN, MXJ, MJB, MX, MXB, XF, NTD, TT) proves that giant creatures can not only jump, they can fly.
Courtesy Amy Novak
- A reminder that great things can sprout from the smallest seeds
Courtesy Amy Novak