The Alaskan Malamute is a noble animal that is loyal and utterly devoted to its pack (human and animal). There is no denying the strength and stamina of this breed, and many owners believe, that their Malamute (Mal for short) can take on any comers.
Can an Alaskan Malamute kill a wolf? It depends. If the battle was one on one, a Malamute could take on a lone wolf to protect her pack. But wolves are pack animals. If you see one wolf, the odds are good that there are others nearby. Unfortunately, a single Alaskan Malamute is usually no match for a pack of wolves.
This article explores the similarities and differences between Malamutes and wolves.
We give some personal insights to help owners understand how Mals think and how owners can relate better to their Malamutes. And, as a result, improve communication and understanding.
Similarities between Wolves and Alaskan Malamutes
Wolves and Malamutes are quite similar in appearance.
In fact, one of the most common questions Alaskan Malamute owners are asked while out walking their dogs happens to be, “Is that a wolf?”
The one difference some will say is that the Malamute, built for both brawn and stamina, are often a little bulkier than the leaner wolf.
They have similar facial markings.
Both animals have perky ears and highly intelligent eyes.
Height and Weight
When it comes to Alaskan Malamute vs. wolf size, they are still very similar without a clearly defined winner on the other side.
The Alaskan Malamute stands between 23 and 25 inches tall.
The gray wolf stands between 31 and 33 inches in height.
As far as weight goes, the gray wolf weighs between 82 and 88 pounds, and the Alaskan Malamute weighs between 75 and 85 pounds.
The wolf grows much taller, but weighs almost the same, making them appear much leaner when standing side by side.
There are many different colors within the wolf family, depending on the pack location and specific breed. There is also variation among the Alaskan Malamute’s coats and colors.
For instance, our Mal Kari had a beautiful light and dark grey coat with a few hints of brown. She weighed in at approximately 85 pounds in the prime of her life – a little heavy for the average female, but she was all muscle.
That’s another similarity between the breeds. Even though wolves are leaner, what bulk they do have is all muscle.
Wolves don’t have humans to feed them. They work hard for their food – and they work together with other pack members to secure the food and make sure that all pack members are fed.
Malamutes are bulky animals, built to pull heavy loads across the frozen tundra. Mals have incredible strength and stamina that makes this possible.
This stamina will make the most difference in a fight with wolves because they are matched when it comes to strength and cunning.
The other difference maker rests on why they are fighting. Wolves protect the pack, especially the young.
The same holds true for Malamutes.
If wolves are hunting for food and the Malamute is protecting its pack (even human children), the wolf may not be as committed to the fight.
But, if the wolf is protecting its pack, it will fight to the death, creating a much more difficult battle for the Alaskan Malamute.
Another similarity between the Alaskan Malamute and the wolf is in the vocalizations.
Mals aren’t big barkers. In fact, I don’t remember Kari barking a single time. She would, however, “talk” to us and did on a couple of occasions (very rarely, though), howl. It was a mournful sound, similar to that of a wolf. And if ever left outside in the rain, she would stand by the door and yip to come inside.
As much as she loved playing in the snow, she hated the rain.
Other similarities between the two animals are identified by behavior.
Both animals are pack animals that are fiercely devoted to their packs.
The difference for the well-domesticated Alaskan Malamute is that it gladly welcomes humans into the pack.
Yet, humans must establish themselves as top dogs in this pack by earning the Malamute’s respect.
Malamutes also have a prey drive similar to that of wolves by nature.
Kari was always bringing me “prizes,” such as squirrels and possums she stalked on her nightly romps.
Wolves are quite playful creatures within their packs and familiar surroundings. Just as Mals are when at home with their families.
How Do Wolves Fight?
Believe it or not, many animals hunt in packs (though they go by other names such as pods, colonies, congregations, and troops).
These pack hunters can be fierce forces to reckon with for man or beast. They include:
- Spotted hyenas
- Some mongoose breeds.
Few packs are fiercer or more feared, though, than the wolf pack.
Most people think of wolf packs as small groups of wolves, usually about five or six wolves.
But pack sizes vary widely with most packs, including two to thirty wolves though some have had as many as fifty wolves in a single pack.
The need for survival
Wolves mostly hunt for food.
With each member of the pack requiring between five and 10 pounds of meat daily, the need for food is greater among larger packs.
Unfortunately, your Malamute itself may present tempting prey for a small wolf pack or even a larger one that is running shy of its meat quota for the day.
Ranks in the pack
One thing people don’t know about the wolf pack is that there is a strict hierarchy.
There may be contention in the ranks as one of the lower pack members vies for the role of “top dog”. Once that is established, the pack resumes the same fighting intensity they use to take down much larger animals.
Why hunt in packs?
Traditionally, wolves stalk their prey before going after it. Especially when it comes to larger prey that pose a more significant challenge and risk to the pack.
This is the primary reason they are so effective at taking down elk, moose, and similar large animals.
Wolves are cunning and patient hunters who will determine if the odds are in their favor and choose to wait things out if they do not appear to be.
The females of the pack are usually more agile and faster than much stronger males.
They take on vastly different roles when hunting prey. The females harass the target and prevent escape while the males attack the prey quickly and aggressively.
While wolves often do succeed in killing their prey, it is rarely a pretty battle.
They don’t kill them quickly.
In fact, it is usually a matter of “death by a thousand papercuts” with most prey dying of shock long before they would succumb to their injuries.
Wolves fight fiercely, whether fighting alone or in a pack. Once the prey is down, it becomes a free-for-all with much gnashing of teeth during pack hunting.
Once the prey is completely felled, the alpha wolves get the first right of feast, then the beta wolves, then the others.
One interesting fact about wolf packs and the way they hunt is that they begin bringing adolescent wolves on the hunt with them at young ages.
These wolves watch the experienced hunters and then mimic their actions.
They join in the hunt when they are ready and perfect their skills over time.
Can an Alaskan Malamute Kill a Wolf?
It is rare to find a lone wolf that doesn’t have a pack nearby that it is either protecting or communicating with.
If you see one wolf, the odds are good that there are others nearby waiting for its call to notify them of prey and potential dangers in their paths.
Unfortunately, a single Alaskan Malamute is usually no match for a pack of wolves.
The cooperative hunting nature of the pack makes the most difference when it comes to battles between wolves and Malamutes.
In a one-on-one fight, things could honestly go either way.
It isn’t a good idea to leave your Malamute outside alone if you suspect wolves are near.
Even if you are with your Malamute, you may wish to have a weapon for you that will subdue wolves long enough for you and your Malamute to escape or call for help.
The lone wolf does have one advantage over the Malamute.
Malamutes have been domesticated for centuries.
Some who live in wide-open spaces (or those like Kari with high prey drives) may have experienced hunting smaller prey.
But the fact is that wolves hunt for all their food and generally have more experience.
While Malamutes often have strong prey drives, they have been bred for the better part of the last century to alert their owners to danger. And not to take out danger on their own.
That doesn’t mean they are incapable, only that this is not what their breeding tells them to do.
Either way, they will defend themselves, their packs, and their humans, but they will be unlikely to attack a wolf without provocation. Ultimately, the answer is yes: an Alaskan Malamute can kill a wolf in a Malamute vs. wolf fight. It is definitely possible. But, it is also possible that a wolf can kill an Alaskan Malamute. Either way, a one-on-one battle between a Malamute and a wolf will be costly.
It is very unlikely, though, that a lone Alaskan Malamute will take on a pack of wolves and survive to tell the tale.
Are Malamutes Related to Wolves?
Malamutes are related to wolves in the sense that all dogs are.
There is no definitive genetic link that identifies that Malamutes are more of a wolf-like creature than many other dog breeds.
But, it is identified by many shared characteristics with wolves that have been intentionally bred out of many other dog breeds.
The same holds true for appearance traits.
Most Malamute breeders appreciate the wolf-like appearance and breed to keep those characteristics in their pups.
Because they have such a similar appearance to wolves, Malamutes are often used in films to play the role of wolves because they are more trainable than their wild wolf counterparts.
Are Alaskan Malamutes Part Wolf?
This is a common question about the breed due to so many similarities between them. However, the DNA tells a different story, indicating that the Malamute is no more or less related to the wolf than other breeds.
While some unscrupulous breeders breed Malamutes and other dog breeds with wolfs, this is considered taboo. It creates pups that belong to neither the domesticated world of the Alaskan Malamute nor the wolf’s wild world. It will forever feel and be out of place and may have a sadly brief life due to being unable to reconcile the two amazing animals within its gene pool.
How do Sizes Compare: Alaskan Malamute Vs. Wolf Size?
As was discussed earlier, the wolf is taller and leaner than the Alaskan Malamute even though their weights are nearly identical.
This makes them a reasonably even match in a fight.
The differences often come in relation to experience.
Since wolves must fight for all their food, they are more experienced fighters.
Then there is the pack.
Wolves fighting Malamutes alone, however, may not have the stamina that has been bred into the Alaskan Malamute.
This gives the Malamute an advantage in the fight that may ultimately lead to victory for the Malamute.
The only challenge for the Mal is to simply outlast the wolf.
Is There Such a Thing as a Giant Alaskan Malamute?
You may hear rumors about giant Alaskan Malamute puppies for sale or even see them advertised in various places.
Unfortunately, these are puppies that have been purposefully bred to be oversized at significant risk to them.
Breed standards exist to indicate the sizes necessary for optimal health and weight in most breeds of puppies.
The optimal size for Alaskan Malamutes is a maximum of 85 pounds.
Once your puppy exceeds the weight or height expectations by more than a few pounds or a couple of inches, it can have a negative impact on your pup’s quality of life.
The Marvelous Malamute
The Malamute makes such a great outdoor dog. That’s why at Outdoor Dog Fun, we’ve written other articles about this beautiful breed:
- Can this breed live outside?
- Should you worry if your Malamute won’t howl?
- Are Malamutes good dogs to take backpacking?
- How to keep your Mal cool in the heat of summer
- Malamute vs. wolf: who would win that battle?
- Going ice fishing? Here are the best boots for your Malamute.
- How can you recognize the difference between a Malamute and a Husky?
If you’d like to read about 13 breeds that can actually kill a wolf, visit this page on our Outdoor Dog Fun blog.