Huskies often sport a stripe on their foreheads while stockier malamutes have curlier tails.

Against a snowy backdrop, it's sometimes a challenge to compare the Alaskan malamute vs. the Siberian husky. But you can do it: Malamutes are bigger and sport curlier tails while huskies show off their trademark striped forehead and pointy, upright ears.

Appearance aside, both working breeds are incredibly active, though huskies have a bit more stamina. They also usually live longer than malamutes, but malamutes are, generally, a bit more focused on their people.

Of course, both Arctic breeds get into mischievous antics and share some ancestry, so it's no easy task to tell them apart. So let's mush on with a trio of experts:

How To Tell the Difference Between an Alaskan Malamute vs. Siberian Husky

Visual breed identification is oftentimes a crapshoot, but spotting the husky vs. malamute differences gets easier depending where you look. Start with the overall size before moving to the ears, forehead, and tail. That should give you a pretty good idea.

alaskan malamute versus siberian husky breed trait infographic
Credit: Alaskan Malamute / Liliya Kulianionak / dien /Shutterstock / Siberian Husky / undefined / patrisyu / Getty


Let's start with the size, which might be the tell-tale clue for which pup you see before you.

  • Malamutes are sturdy and strong, weighing 70–85 pounds and standing more than 2 feet tall at the shoulder. 
  • Huskies, despite what their name implies, are lithe, standing just under 2 feet tall and weighing approximately 35–60 pounds.

Build: If you ever see a husky and malamute side-by-side, it's easier to see the longer legs on a husky and the broader chest on a malamute. A husky's face is narrow, too, with ears perched more atop his head, compared to a malamute's ears that angle slightly more alongside her head, especially when she's feeling mellow.

Facial markings: Both look like they have perpetually raised eyebrows, but most Siberian huskies have a stripe—maybe an extension of muzzle color, usually bright white—that goes up the middle of their foreheads. Alaskan malamutes, meanwhile, have forehead color, frequently black, that moves down toward their white snouts, forming a kind of arrow.

Tails: Both breeds' tails are fluffy, but malamutes' are curled while huskies' are shaped like a brush.

Eyes: Siberian huskies are more likely to have various shades of eye color, including amber, blue, and brown, while malamutes tend to have brown eyes. Huskies might also sport one brown eye and one blue or even half-blue and half-brown eyes.

Fur coloring: Both the Alaskan malamute and Siberian husky are drop-dead gorgeous, sashaying about in their thick double fur coats that "blow" twice a year—but look closely to spot the differences:

  • Malamutes have a full white underbelly from chest to tail tip and a topcoat in a wide range of tones, including black, blue, brown, gray, red, sable, seal, and silver.
  • Huskies have varying full coat patterns that can feature red, gray, black, as well as snow white and variations of red and white, black and white, and gray and white.


There's only a slight difference in the lifespan of an Alaskan malamute vs. Siberian husky. They enjoy themselves for 10–14 and 12–15 years, respectively, and stay rather healthy as long as pet parents only offer treats for special training accomplishments and good dog deeds.

Pam O'Connor, president of the Delaware County Siberian Husky Rescue, says Siberian huskies can have hereditary defects of the eye, such as cataracts. "These can present 6–12 months of age and may require surgery," she says. "They might also be at risk for corneal dystrophy and progressive retinal atrophy." 

Alaskan malamutes can be at risk for polyneuropathy (PN) and epilepsy. Testing, which above-board breeders are required to do, can identify PN, but epileptic seizures are harder to trace and are usually inherited. That's according to Julia Berquist, the public education chair for the Alaskan Malamute Club of America, and Alexis Smith, an office with the Minnesota Malamute Club.

Both working breeds are frequently at risk for hip dysplasia, a developmental condition.

"Young puppies should only walk on natural surfaces for shorter distances," Berquist and Smith say. "They can begin harness work at an early age but should not pull substantial weights until their joints have matured around 2 years old."

They advise consulting a reputable breeder who's completed Orthopedic Foundation for Animals hip testing to ensure the best likelihood of healthy hips and joints in a mature dog.

Temperament and Personality

This is where you'll find more similarities between malamutes and huskies. O'Connor ays both Alaskan malamutes and Siberian huskies are independent thinkers. Proper socialization and consistent positive reinforcement training are musts. 

"Pet parents need be patient, have a sense of humor, and be able the think outside the box when training their husky or malamute," O'Connor says.

They've also inherited unique endurance abilities, so prospective pet parents must be able keep up with all the running, carting, skijoring, hiking, snowshoeing, and biking. Fortunately, they can often carry their own water bottles and other excursion necessities.

However, Berquist and Smith say malamutes do have an off-switch not as easily flipped on a husky. "A person who is looking to enjoy the scenery, rather than a continuous adrenaline rush, is going to be a better match for a malamute," they say.

Both these pups expect plenty of personal attention, especially from active people who want to explore the outdoors as much as they do. Because of this, neither dog should be left home alone for long periods of time. If bored, they can become destructive.

Huskies might initially appear to be a tad more aloof, but O'Connor says they're wonderful companions and usually accept dogs of both sexes into the family equally. Malamutes, Berquist and Smith say, are typically more people-oriented and ready to flop on their back for never-ending belly rubs. So they might take issue with dogs of the same sex competing for lap time.

When it comes to noises, both breeds have no issue telling you exactly how they feel all the time. Berquist and Smith say Alaskan malamutes are known for their distinctive "woo woo" (like Waya performs here). Huskies, meanwhile, are more prone to screams, howls, and chuffs.

Huskies and malamutes, however, do share several behaviors:

With a history of chasing food and digging for shelter, these Houdini hounds can dig or jump their ways out of your yard. Make sure you have secure fencing and an updated microchip, and always keep them on a leash in public.

Both dogs can also get a little excited in the moment and could have a tendency to jump on people

alaskan malamute vs siberian husky two dogs together in front of illustration background
Credit: Alaskan Malamute / Liliya Kulianionak / dien /Shutterstock / Siberian Husky / undefined / patrisyu / Getty

History of the Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky Dog Breeds

Their calls of the wild harken back to their spitz ancestors traveling the far-reaching tundra of North America, Russia, and Scandinavia. Alaskan malamutes and Siberian huskies share a paleolithic wolf ancestor, but their histories deviate from there. 

The ancient Mahlemiut Inuit tribe bred malamutes to carry heavy loads on their nomadic quests across the Kotzebue Sound, an area now part of northwest Alaska. Across the Bering Straight, the Chukchi—indigenous people of Russia who inhabit far northeastern Siberia—developed a cold-resistant dog that could haul sleds and be good family companions.

O'Connor says huskies were bred to pull lighter loads over longer distances, while malamutes carry heavier loads over shorter distances. Their speed differs, too.

"Huskies are fast. They're considered the sports cars of the mushing world," Berquist and Smith say. "Malamutes are the freighting trucks. When running malamutes, one will notice that instinctive preference for the 'malamute plod'—that slow, steady speed—over sprinting."

Husky or Malamute: Which Dog Breed Is Best for You?

Regardless of which breed you prefer, you'll need to be an active, outdoor-centric person who doesn't mind shedding, Berquist and Smith say, adding that a sense of humor will go a long way with these sometimes-mischievous pups, too. These are not couch-potato dogs.

"Before welcoming a dog into your home, research the breed and talk with those who own the breed," O'Connor says. "Many dogs end up in rescue or shelters because their owners were not prepared to deal with the characteristics of the breed."

If you really have no preference, contact your nearby breeder or rescue and meet the dogs in person. Falling in love with your new dog or puppy might make the decision for you.