The Fascinating World of the Alaskan Malamute’s Colors

The Alaskan Malamute is a fixture in many Inuit families as a heavy freight dog as well as a family companion.

They are one of the oldest breeds in the world. Not surprising, there was a divergence which introduced new color into the pedigree.

Alaskan Malamute mother with her puppies
Image source

Today, you can find Mals in many colors, from red to blue and everything in between. Let’s break down the Alaskan Malamute’s coat and markings.

AKC breed standard for the Alaskan Malamute coat colors

Alaskan Malamute dog jumps down from concrete bench
Image source

The Alaskan Malamute has a dense undercoat and an outer coat. The undercoat is the primary color of the dog. This can be red, grey, brown, white, even black.

The outer coat is made up of guard hairs. It can exhibit patterns which give the Malamute their distinctive markings. This includes trimmings around the ears, legs, and the back of their skulls.

The different colors of an Alaskan Malamute

Malamutes are a colorful breed with many interesting markings.

White collars, stars, and blazes are considered attractive, like a beauty mark. Symmetry is preferred because of a superstition that symmetrically colored dogs run straighter.

Piebald and uneven splashes of colors are undesirable and will be rejected from the show ring.

Black and White color

Smiling portrait of black and white Alaskan Malamute dog
Meet Rocky, a Black and White Malamute – Image source

Black and White puppies are born with muddy white markings on their faces. They can be confused for a Dark Agouti, but true Blacks have no brownish tinges in its coat.

Their undercoats often mature into ashy grey or dark charcoal grey.

The black fur often extends down their legs. Full masks are not uncommon in Black and Whites.

Grey and White color

Grey and white Alaskan Malamute dog sitting on snow field
Meet Bokchoy, a Grey and White Alaskan Malamute – Image source

Puppies are born with very distinctive and crisp facial markings. These marks will fade as they age. Their coats will be grey with heavy black pigmentation.

Silver and White color

Silver and white Alaskan Malamute dog portrait
Meet Heather, a Silver and White Alaskan Malamute dog – Image source

The difference between Grey and Silver is the amount of black the dog has. Silvers have very minimal black fur. These puppies are usually born white and cream.

Red and White color

Red and white Alaskan Malamute dog lying on the floor
Meet Viking, a Red and White Malamute – Image source

You will not find any Brown and White Malamutes as brown falls under this category.

Red and White Malamutes have liver or brown pigmented noses. They are the only color that are allowed to have noses which aren’t black. Their eyes are often amber, lighter than the generic brown.

The red of their coats can range from light orange to a dark mahogany. They will not have any blacks in their coats.

Red sable Alaskan Malamute dog resting under the tree
Meet Hugo, a Red Sable Malamute – Image source

They can also be further categorized as Red Agouti or Red Sable. The defining factor for Sables is that they have black in their coat.

Watch as Cougar, the Red and White Malamute grow up:

Blue and White color

Blues are characterized by the lack of black in their coats or pigmented skin. Their eye rims, noses, and even lips will have a grey pigmentation instead.

Cute blue and white Alaskan Malamute puppy
Meet Jualan, Blue and White Alaskan Malamute puppy – Image source

White color

The only solid color that’s allowed. White Malamutes might have hints of cream around their ears and back. Their noses should be black and their eyes should be brown.

Solid white Alaskan Malamute dog chilling on the beach
Meet Salomii, a White Malamute – Image source

Sable color

Sables can come in any color available to the Malamute. They are defined with an orange or red undercoat with dark guard hairs. Their noses will always be black.

Sable Alaskan Malamute dog standing on snowy outdoor table
A Sable Alaskan Malamute dog – Image source

If a Grey and White Malamute exhibit an undercoat that isn’t white, it will be classified as a Sable and White.

However, most of the time, if a dog has a distinct reddish or cream undercoat, it will be registered as Sable.

You can also come across a Seal Sable, which is a dog that exhibits the Seal pattern but has an orangey undercoat instead of the usual white or grey.

Markings and Patterns

Malamutes not only come in all colors, but they also have various markings that make them stand out from one another. On top of that, they can also exhibit specific patterns.

Agouti (Pattern)

The original Mals were Agouti, a pattern that resembles a wolf’s coloring. It is also regarded as a wild pattern. This creates individual fur to have three colors – a dark tip, a cream middle, and a base color at the end.

Agouti Alaskan Malamute dog with snow flakes on its hair
A Malamute with an agouti pattern on his face – Image source

In Red Agoutis, the tip would be dark red and the base might be red as well. Black or Grey Agoutis often have black tips and grey bases, although it can be white.

Very dark puppies born without any clearly defined markings on their faces are often Agouti. 

Their muddy coloring is sometimes described as sooty, or grizzly.

They are usually born with salt and pepper masks, but these can fade to muddy goggles as they grow up and are easily mistaken for Dark Grey and White Malamutes.

What sets them apart is a light right of color around their eyes which is outlined by a darker shade.

Seal (Pattern)

Seals have two bands instead of the Agouti’s three. They are characterized by their light undercoats and black guard hair. They also have a clear white band on their chests. 

Seal Alaskan Malamute dog portrait
An Alaskan Malamute puppy with a seal pattern on his face – Image source

They are often born with large white eye spots. Seals sometimes develop white tips into their adulthood. This considerably lightens their entire look.

While they might have goggles or eyeshadow, they will not have the full masks that Agoutis or Black and Whites have. 

Inverted Seals also exist, whereby the top band of the fur is white and the base is dark. 

Cap (Marking)

All Malamutes except White Malamutes have a Cap. This refers to the crown of color on their heads which ends in a point in the middle of their faces. It kinda looks like a Widow’s Peak.

Portrait of Alaskan Malamute dog with cap marking
A portrait of a Malamute with a cap marking

Open Face (Marking)

Some Malamutes don’t have any markings on their face. This clean white face is called an Open Face.

Open-face Alaskan Malamute dog portrait
A Malamute with no marking on his face – Image source

Bar (Marking)

When there’s a dark line running down the middle of a Mal’s face, it’s referred to as a Bar.

Bar marked Alaskan Malamute dog portrait
Meet Satang, a Malamute with a bar mark on his face – Image source

Goggles (Marking)

Goggles are markings around the eyes that extend into the cap.

Goggle marked Alaskan Malamute dog portrait
A Mal dog with a goggle mark on his face – Image source

Eyeshadow (Marking)

Markings around the eyes that do not extend into the cap.

Eyeshadow marked Alaskan Malamute dog portrait
Meet Kenai, a Malamute with an eyeshadow mark on his face – Image source

Star (Marking)

A white marking inside the cap is described as a Star.

Star marked Alaskan Malamute dog portrait
A Malamute puppy with a star marking on his face – Image source

Blaze (Marking)

A vertical horizontal stripe that divides their cap into two distinct sections.

Portrait of Alaskan Malamute dog with blaze mark
Meet Keanu, an Alaskan Malamute with a blaze mark – Image source

Full Mask (Marking)

When a Malamute exhibits Bars and Goggles, it creates a Full Mask

Portrait of Alaskan Malamute dog with full mask mark
A Mal dog with a full mask marking – Image source

Closed Face

These faces are completely black and you cannot make out any distinct Cap, Bars, or Goggles.

Portrait of Alaskan Malamute dog with closed-face marking
An adult Malamute with a closed-faced marking – Image source

Eagle (Marking)

A Necklace that doesn’t meet in the middle and often resembles the wings of an eagle.

Portrait of Alaskan Malamute dog with eagle marking
Meet Mikarafa, an Alaskan Malamute with an eagle marking on his neck – Image source

Other Markings

  • NecklaceThis refers to a band of color across the chest. The size of this Necklace can change when it regrows every season.
  • Withers SpotA small symmetrical white marking at the nape of the neck.
  • Full CollarA white band that encircles the neck.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Adorable Alaskan Malamute puppy lying on the grass
Image source

Do Alaskan Malamute puppies change color?

Malamute puppies rarely keep the coat they were born with. Their colors will change as they mature. A puppy born with a mask may lose it. Red and White puppies might turn Sable as their guard hair grows in.

When puppies are registered with a kennel club, they are registered based on their puppy colors. Don’t be surprised when your White Mal grows up into a Cream, Piebald, or Silver.

Can Alaskan Malamutes be all white?

Portrait of solid white Alaskan Malamute dog
Image source

Yes, this is the only sold color that Malamutes can have. All Mals should have white markings on their legs, underbelly, feet, and face. This is why all colour classifications have the words “and white”.

What color are Malamute’s eyes?

Brown eyed Alaskan Malamute dog

A Mal’s eyes should always be brown. Any time a Malamute exhibits blue eyes, it’s a sign of crossbreeding.

Malamute mixes can exhibit interesting traits. An Alusky can have different colored eyes like a Husky. The Aussie Malamute will most likely have a Merle coloring.

Portrait of Aussie Malamute dog lying outside
An Aussie Malamute dog lying outside – Image source

Why is there a Long Coated or Wooly Alaskan Malamute?

According to the AKC, Malamutes should adhere to a certain size and should not have excessively long guard hairs.

Standard Alaskan Malamutes should have a clean outline without any obvious feathering. Their undercoat is described as wooly, but it should be covered by medium-length guard hairs.

Fluffy Alaskan Malamute dog at the top of rock
Image source

Woolies are Malamutes with extremely long and fluffy coats. This is due to a recessive gene that all Malamutes carry. Their guard hairs can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) long.

You’ll be able to tell from a litter which one is going to be a Wooly by the “halo” effect caused by longer guard hairs.

A Wooly Malamute will need extra care and grooming. A Malamute with the correct coat-type will repel snow naturally.

Incorrect coats will trap dead hair, snow, and ice. Since they are working snow dogs, this coat is impractical.

It is believed that Woolies are sweeter because only the particularly sweet ones were kept as pets.

Wooly Alaskan Malamute, like Giant Alaskan Malamutes, are bred and marketed for profit.

While a reputable breeder might produce a Wooly or Giant Alaskan Malamutes occasionally, they shouldn’t be breeding specifically for those traits

Some say that there’s a distinction between Long Coated and Wooly Malamutes but others argue that it’s one and the same.

Some say that Woolies tend to look like sheep, whereas Long Coated Malamutes have a Collie-like appearance.

Others insist that anytime a dog has feathering, it is considered a Wooly, even if their overall coat is standard-length.

Wooly Alaskan Malamute lying outside
Image source

Unlike standard Malamutes, the fur texture of a Wooly Mal’s feathering will be different from the rest of the body. It will be softer and wispier. 

You shouldn’t get a dog based on appearance

Many people get a dog for its color, but that shouldn’t be the defining factor. It’s important to take into consideration their temperament and needs. 

Portrait of Alaskan Malamute sitting and looking above

For instance, if you’re after an Agouti because it is wolf-like, you might want to check out dogs that look like wolves.

The Mal is not like your typical dog. These working dogs have various quirks and need lots of stimulation.

Further reading: Other popular breed colors


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