Overview

Did you know that Malamutes are one of the twelve ancient breeds, the oldest breeds of dogs known to mankind?

They were named after the native Mahlemut tribe, known today as the Inuits, who settled along the shores of Kotzebue Sound in the upper western part of Alaska, within the Arctic Circle. They’ve been in Alaska for over 5000 years; some people claim for up to 10,000-15,000 years, and even up to 20,000 years, as evidenced by bone and ivory carvings found by archeologists. They show ancient Malamutes almost identical to today's breed. The Mahlemut People bred them to be useful in our harsh climate. They helped in the hunt by hauling seals and polar bears back to the village.

During the Gold Rush, Malamutes were expensive and valuable because they were good pulling dogs and helped with hauling supplies and gold for the miners. During World War I., the Alaskan Malamute was called into service by the French army where troops in far-reaching mountain outposts were surrounded and cut off from supplies. The Nome Kennel Club shipped 450 Alaska Malamutes to France where the dogs easily tackled the harsh conditions and moved needed supplies to save the day.

Alaskan Malamutes went on to helped with the exploration of the South Pole with Admiral Byrd. They hauled food and supplies and they were enjoyable company for the men. They helped in the historical Serum Run to Nome, a fact that most people do not know. During World War II, Alaskan Malamutes pulled ammunition across No-Mans-Land. They also helped in many other ways throughout Alaska's history. With their powerful strength, they could haul supplies when there was no other way into an area. They played a big part in opening up Alaska to settlement.

Clearly, this wonderful dog should be honored for its hard work and loyalty. We feel strongly that the Alaskan Malamute should be our state dog because it originated right here in Alaska, has the longest history of any dog, and has made so many positive contributions to our state and the world.



Telephone Introduction to the Polaris K-12 School’s Malamute Project
To the House State Affairs Committee in support of
HB 14: "An Act designating the Alaskan Malamute as the official state dog."


February 26, 2009

Good Morning, Mr. Chair. I’m in the second grade at Polaris K-12 School in Anchorage.

When I was in kindergarten, my grandma Shirley came to Alaska to spend Easter with my family. Since I was a kindergartner she came and spent the day with my class.

You see, my grandma Shirley teaches second grade in North Carolina and she wanted to teach us about things from where she came from. One of the first things she taught us about was her state's symbols. We learned that their state dog is a Plott Hound. That’s what made me ask, what’s our state dog? Nobody knew for sure what it was! Later, we found out we didn't even have a state dog and this is where it all began.

My teacher decided to help us do some investigating. We wanted to figure out how our state could get a state dog. We found out that two other symbols, the willow ptarmigan in 1955 and the four-spotted dragon fly in 1995 both became state symbols because of kids working hard, just like us.

After lots of discussion, we narrowed our choice down to two types of dogs, the husky and the Alaskan Malamute. We finally voted for the Alaskan malamute. One of the reasons we picked the Alaskan Malamute is because it's big like Alaska and because it's a hard working dog like the people of Alaska.

The next school year our class asked two older classes to join us and help research more about the Alaska Malamute's history. We learned that this great dog has been in Alaska for thousands of years. It’s one of the twelve ancient breeds and the only dog native to the United States. The Alaskan malamute is a working dog who worked right alongside people all through Alaska’s history and helped make Alaska what it is today.

We know that once people understand the Alaska Malamute’s long and loyal history, they will realize that this is the dog to be our official state dog.

Thank you for taking our bill seriously and for helping to have the Alaskan Malamute declared the official state dog.



Telephone Testimony by Polaris K-12 Students to the
Senate State Affairs Committee in support of
HB 14: "An Act designating the Alaskan Malamute as the official state dog."


April 15, 2009

I. Overview

We’re here today to testify in favor of House Bill 14, which will designate the Alaskan Malamute as Alaska’s official state dog. This bill is the result of a two and a half year long project at our school in which students from grades K-5 researched the histories of Alaska’s most popular dogs: the Alaska Husky, the Siberian Husky, and the Alaskan Malamute. Our findings resulted in this bill. We thank you for allowing us the opportunity to share our findings.

We know that some people, and possibly some of you listening to us today, feel that the Alaska husky should be recognized as the official state dog. Some of us felt that way, too, when we first started our research, but what we found about its long historical importance convinced all of us that the Alaskan Malamute is the right choice for Alaska’s official state dog.

The Alaskan Malamute is a fine example of a breed of dog developed for a particular purpose. They helped early Arctic settlers, from as far back as 5,000 years and more, hunt and pull heavy sledges loaded with supplies. They assisted Arctic explorers and were able to work for weeks on end without negative effects of the daily strain. They helped during the Gold Rush and later before statehood when Alaska was not as easily traveled as it is today. Throughout our state’s long history, people needed an animal who could help them and they got all that and more from the Alaskan Malamute. They also got a dog who was smart and loyal, and who worked well with people. They were treated as a part of the family and, unlike any other dogs, often helped to raise the children!!

The Alaskan Malamute, as you know, is still around today and its characteristics have been preserved so that, theoretically, today's Alaskan Malamutes are able to do the same job as that of their ancestors from over 5,000 years ago. In other words, they continue to be the same amazing dog that they were throughout Alaska’s long history.

The Alaskan Malamute also represents the Alaskan character: proud, independent, and sometimes even stubborn. The Alaskan Malamute is friendly and fun-loving, just like Alaskans. And the Alaskan Malamute is HUGE, just like Alaska!

II. The Alaskan Malamute Breed

The Alaskan Malamute, one of the oldest Arctic sled dogs, was named after the native Inuit tribe called Mahlemuts, who settled along the shores of Kotzebue Sound in the upper western part of Alaska, within the Arctic Circle over 5,000 years ago.

The Alaskan Malamutes have been in Alaska for over 5000 years; archeologists claim for up to 10,000-15,000 years, and even up to 20,000 years, as evidenced by bone and ivory carvings found by archeologists. They show ancient Alaskan Malamutes almost identical to today's breed. Recent DNA analysis confirms that the Alaskan Malamute is one of the oldest breeds of dog. The Alaskan Malamute is known to be one of the twelve ancient breeds. The Alaskan Malamute is the ONLY breed, out of over 150 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, that is native to the United States.

The Alaskan Malamute was a working dog; it was never destined to be a racing sled dog. It is not built for speed, it was built for heavy draft work. All through Alaska’s long history, from the very beginning, the Malamute was used for heavy freighting, pulling thousands of pounds of supplies to villages and camps all over Alaska . They were also used by the early Mahlemut People (now known as the Inuit of Northwestern Alaska) for hunting seals, they were set loose in packs to track polar bears, and they hauled heavy sledges and packed in supplies.

The Alaskan Malamutes’ ability was so amazing and widely respected, that Eskimos who lived inland traveled to the Kotzebue Sound to trade furs for these dogs. This is how the Alaskan Malamutes found their way into other regions of Alaska and even to parts of the Yukon in Canada during the Gold Rush, where the gold diggers and some of the dogs that came with them to the Yukon were bred with the Alaskan Malamutes some one hundred years ago. The miners wanted big, strong dogs to freight their supplies. No other dogs, no matter how big, could come close to the strength and ability to the Alaskan Malamute.

III. Inuit History (3000 BC to present), Early Explorers (1700-1800s), Russian Alaska (1731-1867), Gold Rush (1896-1906+/-)

Alaskan Malamutes baby-sat the Inuit children while parents were out on hunts which is one reason they make very good family pets, unlike many other northern breeds. They were so gentle that they allowed the human babies to crawl in and snuggle up with their puppies. The use of these amazing dogs was a partnership for survival.

In summer, the Mahlemut people fished and hunted inland. In winter, they hunted sea mammals on the coast. Their dogs, the Alaskan Malamute, assisted in hauling their possessions and supplies between camps, tracking polar bears and other quarry, hunting seals, moving meat from the hunt back to their base, and with the hunt itself, as well as lookouts for bears and guarding caribou herds.

Early European and Russian explorers saw this amazing connection between the Mahlemut people and their dogs and their responses can be found in their journals.

In the 1700 and 1800s, European explorers to Alaska were impressed not only by the hardy dog, but also by their owners’ obvious attachment to them. Their early writings indicate that the dogs kept by the Mahlemut people were better cared for than was usual for Arctic sled dogs, and this seemingly accounts for the breed’s affectionate disposition.

Travel logs of the early Russian and English explorers often reported “a superior and better kept type of work dog” kept by the Mahlemut people. They wrote about them being less “wild”, more friendly and easy going, and capable of an enormous amount of work, both hunting and hauling. These dogs were truly amazing, impressing everyone they met!

Captain Cook came to Alaska in 1776 to find the fabled Northwest Passage, a trading route across the top of North America, from Europe to Asia. His journals and logs showed that he was VERY impressed by the big, strong, hardworking Alaskan Malamute who got along and worked so well with humans. By the time of the Gold Rush, Alaskan Malamutes, with their ability to haul equipment and people, were in high demand. They were so highly valued that a prospector would pay $500 dollars for one good dog and $1500 for a small team!

Many dogs were being transported to Alaska during the Gold Rush. In an effort to make them bigger and stronger and better suited to the climate, miners crossed their dogs with Alaskan Malamutes. The Alaskan Malamute breed was almost lost during the Gold Rush era, but a few dedicated Alaskan Malamute enthusiasts who recognized its amazing qualities, did their best to save the breed.

By 1908, racing dog teams was becoming popular. Dog sled races popped up all over Alaska. The Siberian Husky was first imported in 1908 in an effort to get a faster sled dog for racing. People continued to mix their dogs. This is the time when the concept of “Alaska husky,” the beginnings of today’s sled dogs, began to emerge and why it has so many different looks today. As you know, dog mushing, starring the “Alaska husky,” went on to become the official state sport in 1972. To the people who feel that the husky should be our official state dog, we respectfully point out that they are already recognized through our official state sport. Alaskan Dog Mushing would not be what it is today without the Alaskan husky. However, the Alaskan husky CANNOT match the extremely long and varied history, 5,000 plus years, of the Alaskan Malamute.

IV. Alaska’s Purchase & Statehood (1867-1959); 1925 Serum Run, Peary; Amundsen, & Byrd Expeditions; World War I. & II.

Long after the Gold Rush, Alaskan Malamutes continued to be valuable freight dogs. They were easy to care for and could pull very heavy loads to areas that were otherwise not accessible. The Alaskan Malamute helped haul the mail and freight supplies in Bush Alaska. After the Gold Rush, Alaskans, both native and white, continued to make good use of sled dogs, for travel, hunting and trap lines, and most important, for mail delivery. During the frozen months, when ships couldn't reach Alaska's harbors, dog team mail carriers, in relays of 300 miles each, transported mail over 1000 miles of Alaskan terrain. Alaskan Malamutes played a huge part in this. They were the Big Mac Trucks of their day! Often, they were carrying a thousand pounds of mail at one time, and it is said they would arrive in Nome, frisky and ready to run again.

During the 1925 Serum Run to Nome, about 150 sled dogs relayed diphtheria antitoxin 674 miles by dog sled in a record-breaking five and a half days, saving the small city of Nome and the surrounding communities from an terrible epidemic. The Alaskan Malamute played a role in this important event doing their part to carry the badly needed medicine to Nome.

Alaskan Malamutes contributed to the Polar expeditions of Leffingwell, Perry, Amundsen, and Byrd to the South Pole. They were employed to pull the heavy supply sleds. The successful exploration of this vast continent could not have been accomplished without the help of the Alaskan Malamute.

During World War I., Malamutes were called into service when the French government, in desperate need of support for their military troops who had been cut off from their supplies due to poor weather conditions and were in serious trouble, asked the Nome Kennel Club for assistance. The Nome Kennel Club shipped four hundred fifty Alaskan Malamutes with their sleds and harnesses, along with two tons of dried salmon for dog food where shipped to France, where they easily tackled the very harsh conditions and successfully moved the needed freight to desperate troops cut off in mountain passes and far reaching outposts.

The Alaskan Malamute was important to America’s efforts during World War II. They pulled sleds in snowcovered areas that were not accessible to other, more mechanical means of transportation. Alaskan Malamutes were also used as pack animals to carry weaponry and ammunition across the frozen ground. They served as search-and-rescue dogs and they sniffed out mines. The military tried to make the Alaskan Malamute guard dogs, but they failed the test because they just liked people too much to attack a person.

V. Additional Notes for the Record

We ask you to set aside any biases about your favorite breeds of dog and consider the intent behind HB 14.

The Alaskan Malamute’s 5,000 plus years represents the entire history of Alaska. This dog has been here since the first people arrived in Alaska. It is the first dog that was developed by the first people of Alaska Together they lived and survived and thrived in one of the harshest environments on earth. The Alaskan Malamute lived as a part of their human family. They helped to hunt, to haul, and even helped to care for the children. When we were researching the history of Alaska and the Malamute, many of our readings told about Malamutes snuggling and sleeping with the children to keep them warm and of sometimes staying back to care for the children when the adults went to hunt. And that’ s just the beginning.

The Alaskan Malamute went on to meet and impress European and Russian explorers, Russian settlers, the miners of the Gold Rush, and American explorers following the Alaska Purchase. They participated in Arctic and Antarctic explorations, made a positive and heroic difference in World Wars I. and II., were a part of the team in the 1927 Serum Run, helped to haul massive amounts of freight and the U.S. Mail to remote parts of Alaska when nothing else could get through, and the list goes on and on and on.

The Alaskan Malamute has been involved in Alaska’s history every step of the way. It’s worked hard and has been a good team member for over 5,000 years! No other dog breed can make that claim.

Some people claim that the people who saved the Alaskan Malamute from extinction were “outsiders,” but from the earliest arrival of the Russian and European explorers and settlers, right up to modern times, everyone was an outsider! Even “huskies” and the “sled dogs,” bred for speed, were bred by “outsiders” and came mostly from “outside” stock! The “outsider” argument just doesn’t hold water! Thank goodness that a few good people were able to save the Alaskan Malamute breed, the only dog native to Alaska, before it became extinct!!!

Please understand, we are not comparing the Alaskan Malamute to any other breed or composition of breeds. We are merely stating the facts. The legacy of the Alaskan Malamute speaks for itself. The passing of HB 14 honors that legacy.

The Alaskan Malamute deserves to be recognized as our official state dog. Thank you for helping to make that possible.



Telephone Testimony by Polaris K-12 Students to the
Senate ___ Committee in support of
HB 14: "An Act designating the Alaskan Malamute as the official state dog."


April 19, 2009

Our unbiased research influenced the selection of the Alaska Malamute as the best candidate for state dog. We feel that this dog represents every era of Alaska’s history from prehistory to the present and includes ALL of the the people who helped to create this great state. Amending HB14 to name the husky, would throw out its whole intent and limit the value of our state dog to just racing, when there is so much more to our history.

In the Alaskan Malamute’s 5000 plus years, it's been involved in every important part of Alaska's history, from the earliest native people, European explorers, Russian Alaska, the Alaska purchase, the exploration and mapping of Alaska, polar expeditions, the Gold Rush, doing its patriotic part in World War I. & II., the Serum Run, working in the expeditions that first discovered Prudoe Bay, and hauling freight and mail to help open up Alaska for settlement and development. This hardworking dog helped to make Alaska what it is today and deserves to be recognized as our state dog.