Malamute VS Wolf: Key Similarities, Differences & Pictures

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Alaskan malamutes are often mistaken for wolves and are often used to play the role of wolves in TV shows, but what are the similarities and differences between the two?

The main similarities are in appearance, exercise capability and pack mentality, whereas there are lots of differences including overall size, domestication and much more.

Keep reading to learn more about the malamute vs wolf and how they compare to each other.

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A Quick Note

Before we get into the details, we are going to be focusing on the gray wolf for this article.

Gray wolves, also known as timber wolves, are the most common type of wolf and are often found in places like Alaska where the malamute originates from.

These are usually the type of wolf that people refer to broadly as wolves, rather than other types of wolves that are less common such as the American Red Wolf.

Now that we’re on the same page let’s see how the malamute stacks up against the wolf.

Are Malamutes Related To Wolves?

All dogs are very closely related to wolves, as studies have shown that every dog that exists today can be traced back to a wolf population that is now extinct.

There have been studies done that show that Alaskan malamutes retain ancient Artic dog ancestry (link to study), which may indicate a closer relationship to the wolf, however, this has not been confirmed yet.

Alaskan Malamute vs Wolf Similarities

Let’s take a look at the similarities between wolves and malamutes.

You might be surprised at just how many similarities there are.


Okay, for us malamute owners there are clearly a lot of differences between the appearance of a malamute vs that of a wolf, especially when you look closer.

For people with less experience with the breed, the appearance of these two can be quite similar.

A gray wolf on some grass looking at the camera

In fact, part of the popularity of malamutes (and huskies as well) is that they share a similar appearance to wolves to people who aren’t familiar with the breed.

There’s a reason why malamutes are used in films to play the role of wolves…

A wet Alaskan Malamute standing in water

This does come with some benefits.

Malamutes can be very intimidating to people unfamiliar with the breed, especially since they don’t realise just how friendly and loving these dogs are.

Pack Mentality

Malamutes and wolves both share a pack mentality.

Malamutes were originally bred to pull sleds and work in teams with other malamutes.

Wolves hunt in packs and rely on communicating with other wolves to hunt their prey and secure their food.

Exercise Capabilities

Given the origin of malamutes, it’s no surprise that they are capable of some incredible feats of endurance. Malamutes can pull sleds for over 50km in one go.

Wolves have adapted to hunting prey over long distances, and as a result, are also capable of some incredible feats of endurance. Wolves are capable of traveling up to 30 miles per day.


Wolves and malamutes have double coats to help them survive in sub-zero conditions.

A double coat is a coat that has two layers; a short dense undercoat with a long layer made of guard hairs.

Double coats are effective at keeping malamutes and wolves warm when the temperature drops, but it also helps them to stay cool in warm environments as well.

Alaskan Malamute vs Wolf Differences

Here are some of the key differences between the malamute vs wolf.

Size & Physical Attributes

Alaskan malamutes are large dogs, weighing an average of 75 to 85 pounds with some individuals exceeding 100 pounds.

Giant malamutes bred specifically for size have been known to weigh as much as 100 to 150 pounds.

A large Alaskan malamute sat down

Wolves, on the other hand, can weigh as much as 175 pounds and are on average heavier than your standard malamute.

Wolves also stand taller at around 30 inches tall, compared to 22-25 inches for malamutes.


Alaskan malamutes have been domesticated animals for a long time. It is thought that they are direct descendants of domesticated wolf-dogs from over 4000 years ago.

Wolves are wild animals and do not interact with humans in the same way.


Some wolves in the wild can live for a long time, but on average they only live 6 to 8 years.

Malamutes, on the other hand, have an average lifespan of 10 to 14 years on average. Wolves can obviously live longer in captivity, but this only represents a tiny proportion.


Alaskan malamutes have adapted to eating commercial dog food which contains all of the nutrients that they need.

There are raw diets that can be used, and these are quite popular, but these include things such as rice and eggs and not just simply raw meat.

The majority of a wolf’s diet consists of meat from prey like deer and elk. Alongside this, they also eat some plants or vegetation but this is not as common.

Natural Habitat

Alaskan malamutes originate from Alaska (obviously) where they were bred as working dogs.

Wolves, on the other hand, are found all over the world and are native to Eurasia and North America.

A gray wolf looking at the camera

There are subspecies of the grey wolf, like the Eurasian wolf, found in nearly every continent in the world.

Who Would Win In A Fight?

If there was an altercation between a malamute and a wolf, the wolf would come out on top pretty much every time.

Wolves are (usually) much larger, stronger and more aggressive.

They are used to bringing down larger prey such as deer, elk and bison and are capable of higher speeds in short bursts.

Even in the case of a giant malamute against a smaller wolf, where they have the size advantage, it would be very unlikely for the malamute to win.

Malamutes are domesticated, and even when bred for working purposes they are not used for hunting but rather for pulling sleds.

Not to mention the fact that wolves typically hunt in packs, there is very little chance that a malamute would be able to take on a wolf.

Of course, a fight would probably not happen in the first place as there would be no reason for it.

Summing It Up

Wolves are usually larger than Alaskan malamutes and much more aggressive.

Wolves are expert hunters, whereas malamutes specialise in pulling sleds over long distances.

Malamutes are domesticated animals that thrive alongside humans, whereas wolves are wild animals that can be a threat to humans in the right circumstances.

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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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