1898: A Malamute in Alaska.
I first created the ALASKAN MALAMUTE: THE MAHLEMUT DOG group, with the intention of celebrating our wonderful Alaskan Malamutes, these affectionate beasts of burden that aided and indeed, enabled the Mahlemut Inupiat Natives of Kotzebue Sound, to subsist. We all know the story of Mahlemut dogs, who came across the Bering Sea Bridge with their Mahlemut masters from Asia to the Kotzebue Sound of Alaska—where this dog remained a genetically pure strain of Arctic dog—or so I thought..
I was an innocent in these matters when I created this group, fully believing the romantic story of how the Alaskan Malamute stayed “pure” until the demand of the gold rush for great numbers of working dogs, sullied the purity of the breed, by the interbreeding with other breeds from the lower 48 states of America.
The Malamute in Alaska shown, who was photographed in 1898, by God—looked just like the Malamutes we have on our contemporary leashes! This photo constituted to me, proof that the early breeders of our Malamutes like Eva Seeley, rebuilt the lines directly from the bloodlines found in Kotzebue Sound.
Then a funny thing happened. More information filtered into our group, as wiser (but not older) heads than mine in the breed joined, and graced us with their wisdom and knowledge.
We found out that the foundation parents of our modern Malamute line—Yukon Jad and Bessie who Eva Seeley mated to start the replenishment process—may not have been directly linked to Mahlemut dog bloodlines in Kotzebue. Documents show that Bessie was on the roster of one of Robert Peary’s expeditions, and she was apparently shipped from Labrador, in eastern Canada. Yukon Jad’s origin is less well known, but some individuals have said that he originated from Dawson City in the Yukon.
Was the “romance” of the Mahlemut dog morphing into our contemporary Malamutes, beginnimg to crumble?
Not at all!
If we accept the likely premise that the Mahlemut dog was simply one member, one specialized type of a family of northern dogs spread throughout the Arctic, then like many things in life, the Malamute comes full circle.
I do accept the premise that the Mahlemut type dog—familiar to all of us because of his exceptional and distinctive looks—is merely one part of the greater whole of THE ARCTIC DOG. It doesn’t really matter whether Jad’s and Bessie’s hailed from Kotzebue, Alaska or not. They may or may not have.
Because Arctic dogs adapted to their regional environments, to develop into a physical “type,” then the Malamute “type” of our modern Malamutes is exactly like the “types” of Arctic dogs, that the Mahlemut Inupiat in Kotzebue bred and raised for the last 4,000 years. That is what matters. Type is everything, baby!
This one observation, from a definitely older and wiser head than anyone involved in the Malamute breed today, has given me comfort, and has restored that sense of wonder at the Mahlemut Type Dog I had, before my “loss of innocence.” This observation about the Malamute, comes from a long-departed Arctic explorer, Hudson Stuck. It is excerpted from his legendary 1914, “Ten Thousand Miles With a Dog Sled”:
“THE MALAMUTE, THE ALASKAN ESQUIMAUX DOG, IS PRECISELY THE SAME DOG AS THAT FOUND AMONGST THE NATIVES OF BAFFIN’S BAY AND GREENLAND. KNUD RASMUSSEN AND AMUNDSEN TOGETHER HAVE ESTABLISHED THE ONENESS OF THE ESQUIMAUX FROM THE EAST COASTS OF GREENLAND ALL AROUND TO ST. MICHAEL; THEY ARE ONE PEOPLE, VIRTUALLY SPEAKING ONE LANGUAGE. AND THE MALAMUTE IS ONE DOG. A PHOTOGRAPH THAT ADMIRAL PEARY PRINTS OF ONE OF THE SMITH SOUND DOGS THAT PULLED HIS SLED TO THE NORTH POLE WOULD PASS FOR A PHOTOGRAPH OF ONE OF THE PRESENT WRITER’S TEAM, BRED ON THE KOYUKUK RIVER, THE PARENTS COMING FROM KOTZEBUE SOUND.”
Here’s the thing: Our Malamutes, all descended from Jad and Bessie, look like that dog of Admiral Peary’s. Our Malamutes also look like that sled dog of Hudson Stuck’s from the early 1900s. Our present-day Malamute, is also of an Arctic dog “type” that causes it to look like the Malamute in Alaska, shown in this 1898 photo.
We may have lost our innocence, but we have regained the romance of our Malamutes, linked back to the past Mahlemut dogs, because everything comes full circle. Our Malamutes of are of a specific geographic “type” of Arctic dog—the Arctic dog found in Kotzebue Sound.