The Alaskan Malamute may be the oldest dog breed on the North American continent. These dogs may also have the world's oldest and longest association with humans. According to the history told by an early 20th century American Malamute breeder, Paul Voelker, there are bone artifacts dating back 20,000 years that feature the Malamute. The dog's name comes from an Inuit tribe of fishers and hunters called the Malamutes, a people who had dogs that are believed to be the forebears of today's Alaskan Malamute dogs. This nomadic tribe lived in weather so extreme that death was often always nearby, and they had a symbiotic relationship with the dogs.
It was not until the late 19th century that the Western world became aware of the dogs. The Klondike Gold Rush may not have happened had it not been for these and other sled dogs. It did not take long for the dogs to be crossed with other breeds in attempts to improve the dogs as well as to lessen their ferocity toward humans. In 1935, the American Kennel Club (AKC) formally recognized the breed. There were not many of the dogs, and most of those registered did not have the provenance of ancestry. The registry remained open for only a few years.
The breed's popularity exploded in 1925. That year, they were one of the many sled dogs that delivered serum via the Iditarod Trail to Nome, Alaska during a diphtheria outbreak. A few years later, in 1928, Alaskan Malamute history was further enriched when Commander Richard E. Byrd took some with his during his first Antarctic expedition. When the dogs' service in WWII nearly wiped out the breed, the AKC re-opened the stud book. That was in 1947, and there were said to be approximately 30 Malamutes known to be alive.
In 2010, Alaska declared the Alaskan Malamute the official state dog.