Alaskan Malamute Vs Irish Wolfhound: Complete Comparison

In this guide, we’ll compare the Alaskan Malamute vs Irish Wolfhound to see which breed is more suited for you.

Alaskan Malamutes and Irish Wolfhounds differ not only in appearance but in a lot of other areas as well, such as overall size, lifespan, grooming requirements and more.

Before we get into an overview of each breed, here’s a quick summary of the key differences and similarities between the two:

An infographic detailing the differences and similarities between the Alaskan Malamute vs Irish Wolfhound

Alaskan Malamute Overview

The Alaskan Malamute is one of the most ancient dog breeds and was originally brought across to Alaska via the Bering Strait thousands of years ago.

The name originates from the Mahlemut people who settled in Alaska and depended on Malamutes for survival.

Wooly Malamute Toews - Sent in by one of our readers.
Wooly Malamute Toews – Sent in by one of our readers.

Malamutes were used to pull sleds for hundreds of miles, as well as to hunt seals and other mammals. They almost went extinct during the Gold Rush in the 1800s as the demand for working dogs increased, but they luckily survived.

I highly recommend this article if you want to learn more about the fascinating history of this breed.

Fast forward to modern times and the Malamute has been a recognised breed by the AKC since 1935 and a popular family pet. They are large in size and retain the ability to exercise for long periods of time.

They can be very stubborn and difficult to train, but they make very loving and caring companions with an independent streak.

Irish Wolfhound Overview

Irish Wolfhounds have an extensive history, and it is thought that they were originally bred with large dogs native to Britain with Middle Eastern hounds.

It wasn’t until the 1400s that wolves began to overrun Ireland, so the Irish Wolfhounds were put to work hunting them. By the 1700s all of the wolves and other large game were extinct, which also led to a big decline in Irish Wolfhounds as their role was fulfilled.

A British Army Captain named George Augustus Graham would revive the breed in the 1800s by travelling to Ireland to find the remaining Irish Wolfhounds and starting a breeding program.

An Irish Wolfhound next to a small dog ona field
Irish Wolfhounds are HUGE!

In modern times the Irish Wolfhound is known for being the tallest dog breed of all dogs, even Great Danes, and having a distinctive double coat with a wiry top layer.

Irish Wolfhounds today are very gentle and easygoing, a stark contrast to a dog that could handle a wolf in combat a few hundred years ago.

Irish Wolfhounds are great family companions and are open to strangers, probably the opposite of what you might expect based on appearances and history.

Difference In Appearance

When you compare the Alaskan Malamute vs Irish Wolfhound the first thing that comes to mind is appearance, and this is completely fair.

These two dog breeds look VERY different.

An Alaskan Malamute vs Irish Wolfhound in a custom graphic

Irish Wolfhounds are incredibly tall and have a similar build to the Greyhound but are much taller and stockier. They have wiry fur and a long narrow head with a gentle expression.

Alaskan Malamutes are wolf-like and have thick, long coats that come in a lot of different colors.

They have a classic Spitz-type appearance with erect ears and a long snout.

More Differences Between The Alaskan Malamute Vs Irish Wolfhound

Let’s take a deep dive into some more differences between these two breeds, particularly those that you wouldn’t even think about at first.


Alaskan Malamutes and Irish Wolfhounds have very different origins.

Irish Wolfhounds originate from a cross between ancient Irish dogs and Middle Eastern Hounds and were originally used to hunt wolves. After the wolves were hunted to extinction, the Irish Wolfhound almost went extinct as well.

Alaskan Malamutes are one of the most ancient dog breeds it is thought that their ancestors crossed the Bering Strait thousands of years ago. Malamutes lived and worked with the Inuit and were used primarily for sledding, as well as hunting.


Don’t get me wrong, Alaskan Malamutes are pretty big dogs and can weigh a hefty amount.

They’ll typically reach 23 to 25 inches at the shoulder and weigh 75 to 85 lbs, with some

Malamutes easily reach over 100 lbs and more – particularly so-called giant Malamutes that are bred for size (these have more health issues though, so you should avoid breeders who label their Malamutes as such).

Irish Wolfhounds, on the other hand, are the tallest dog breed in the world.

They can reach up to 35 inches at the shoulder, with a minimum height of 30 inches for females and 32 inches for males as per the Irish Wolfhound Club of America (IWCA) standard.

In terms of weight, females usually weigh 105 lbs and males 120 lbs, but there are of course exceptions to this rule (read more about the IWCA standard here).


Lifespan is crucial to think about when considering getting a new dog, especially if the breed is new to you.

Alaskan Malamutes live longer than Irish Wolfhounds by quite a considerable amount:

  • Alaskan Malamutes live for 10 to 14 years on average, which is quite a long time considering the size of the breed.
  • Irish Wolfhounds unfortunately have a smaller lifespan, as is the case with most giant dog breeds. They’ll typically live for 5 to 9 years, according to mean lifespan estimates at the Nation Insitute of Health. Other estimates put it between 6 and 10 years.

Grooming Frequency

Although both dogs are double-coated, Irish Wolfhounds require much less grooming.

  • Irish Wolfhound grooming frequency – Weekly or bi-weekly grooming year round.
  • Alaskan Malamute grooming frequencyDaily grooming, and multiple times per day when they are blowing coat.

This is because they have a much shorter coat then the Malamute, which means they shed less often and also do not blow coat.

Blowing coat occurs in longer haired double coated breeds such as the Malamute and is where they transition to a summer coat.

Grooming can take up quite a lot of time, so it’s something that you need to be aware of with both of these breeds, especially the Malamute.

Exercise Requirements

Alaskan Malamutes are capable of some pretty extreme feats of endurance given their origins as sled dogs.

They can easily pull sleds for over 50km in one go, and this has translated into modern-day Mals needing a lot of exercise, ideally 2 hours or more each day.

Irish Wolfhounds are also very active, but they don’t need quite as much exercise and adapt better to your schedule. Two medium walks (20 to 30 minutes) each day is a great starting point, and you can add in running in a secure area or playing games as well.

Similarities Between The Irish Wolfhound And Alaskan Malamute

Although these two breeds vary drastically in appearance and overall size, there are a lot of similarities between these two breeds that you probably didn’t even realise.

Let’s take a look at them.

Personality Traits

Irish Wolfhounds and Alaskan Malamutes actually share a lot of similar personality traits, which is quite surprising given their different origins.

  • Lack Of Guarding Instinct – One look at either of these breeds and you would assume that they are great guard dogs, but this is not the case. Both are more likely to befriend a stranger than be wary of them, despite their intimidating appearance.
  • Friendliness To Strangers – Again, Irish Wolfhounds and Alaskan Malamutes are not wary of strangers at all, and they love to make friends with new people.
  • Independence – Although both of these breeds love to be around family and people, they have an independent streak. This means that they enjoy time to themselves every now and then, and are happy to take themselves away from the noise for an hour or two when they feel like it.

Hard To Train

With independence can come a streak of stubbornness, especially when it comes to training.

Malamutes and Irish Wolfhounds are not exactly driven to please their owners, even more so during training, which can make it difficult.

The key is to be consistent and use positive reinforcement. It’s crucial to start from a young age as these are large dogs that can become a big problem if they are not obedient.

Prey Drive

Irish Wolfhounds have a high prey drive due to their origins as hunting dogs. Although this is not as strong as it used to be, they are still prone to chasing small animals like cats or other small dogs.

Alaskan Malamutes also have a high prey drive, as although they were mainly used for pulling sleds they were also used for hunting as well.

Dogs like these with a high prey drive can live with other small dogs and cats, but it is better if they are raised together from a young age and should be judged on an individual basis.

In Summary

Hopefully this article clears up some of the differences and similarities between the Alaskan Malamute vs Irish Wolfhound.

Both of these dogs are big commitments and require experienced owners. Malamutes require more grooming and exercise, but Irish Wolfhounds are much larger in size which needs to be kept in mind.

With the right owners, they both make incredible family companions.

If you want to see more Alaskan Malamute comparison articles then check out a few below:

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About The Author

Caitlin is the owner and lead writer for The Malamute Mom. She has over 10 years of experience with Alaskan Malamutes and Huskies. She is currently working on getting her PhD in materials science but continues to write for The Malamute Mom in her spare time.

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