A brief history of the early Alaskan Malamutes in Australia

Reprinted with kind permission from Tonya Syme & Julie Stein-Reeves.
© Copy Right Article is not to be printed in part or whole without the express permission of Tonya Syme or Julie Stein-Reeves

The first Alaskan Malamute was introduced to Australia in early 1978, from the South Island of New Zealand, into South Australia. Mrs Irene Gates was the owner.  Although shown sparingly, this animal developed severe hip dysplasia, and was wisely euthanized.

Later in 1978, Tony and Merilyn Syme (Kennel prefix “Meryton”) of Victoria, imported an Alaskan Malamute Male.   “New Zealand & Australian Champion Hot’s Buran (Imp USA)" (pet name Buran). Tony & Merilyn Syme had first seen this dog “Buran”, being shown in England at the Windsor Championship show in 1975. Tony later had the pleasure judging Buran in New Zealand in 1977. 

Buran was one of only a couple of Malamutes in the Southern Hemisphere.  Tony & Merilyn were so taken with this particular specimen of the breed, that Merilyn arranged to lease Buran in co-ownership, with a good friend of the time - Mick Mooney, then of Victoria.  Mick Mooney & Tonya Syme were Buran’s main show handlers. Buran’s first dog show in Australia was Cranbourne Dog Club Championship Show and the judge was a respected American Mr Herman Felton. Buran was short listed for Best In Group.

Buran obtained his Australian Championship title within five (5) Championship shows, obtaining Best Exhibit In-Group 4 times in a row.   As a very new and rare breed in Australia, Buran was on his way to creating Australian Malamute history. 

In 1980 Buran won Best Opposite Sex In-Group (now known as Runner Up In-Group) at the prestigious Sydney Easter Royal Show.  And back then Non- Sporting was combination of the present Group 6 & 7  AUST & NZ CHAMPION HOT’S BURAN (IMP USA), went on to inspire the birth of a new breed in Australia. Buran passed away on 27th August  1984 aged 10 years. Tony & Merilyn Syme soon imported an Alaskan Malamute bitch in 1981 – “AUST & NZ CHAMPION CHIMO SILVER MOON (IMP UK)” who’s pedigree was all American lines. 

“Jane”, as she was affectionately became named, attained her New Zealand title while in New Zealand for her quarantine period.  Jane was mated to Buran, and they produced “the first Alaskan Malamute” litter whelped in Australia. The puppies were born on 18 May 1981, and registered under the Kennel prefix “Meryton” This litter consisted of six males and two females, four of which were shown, and all four gained their Australian Championships. 

The names of these 4 exhibited puppies were:

  • Aust Ch Meryton Atasuk Chimo (Owned by Tony & Merilyn Syme)
  • Aust Ch Meryton Atasuk Amarok (Owned by Eric & Olive Singer)
  • Aust Ch Meryton Atasuk Sedna
  • Aust Ch Meryton Atasuk Nanokaput (who made up his Australian Champion Title by being shown predominately only at Royal Melbourne shows )

Jane although shown only sparingly due to her litters, seasons; coat loss etc. also achieved her Australian Championship title with relative ease. Jane obtained several big wins on the way, including a Best Opposite Sex in Show. (Now known as Runner Up in Show) this win was at an All Breed Championship Show. 

As you can imagine, this was a huge win for such a rare breed, which made the win extra special. 

In March 1983, F M Wortman of the Gold Coast, Queensland, imported three Malamutes: a dog named MISKIMOS BLACK JACK (IMP USA) and two bitches named BAR-B-R’S SUGAR BABE (IMP USA) and ROGARDS SHADY LADY (IMP USA). ROGARDS SHADY LADY whelped a litter of (7) seven puppies while still in  Australian quarantine.  It was with these animals that formed the “Beverwijk” line.

The  “Meryton” & “Beverwijk” and lines can be found behind many Alaskan Malamutes Pedigrees in Australia today. The first litter bred from Buran to Jane produced the previously mentioned “AUST CHAMPION MERYTON ATASUK CHIMO”.  “Chimo” as she was affectionately known, was the first Malamute in the Southern Hemisphere to win the ever sought after prestigious " Best In Show at an All Breeds Championship Show".

Among many other In Show and In-Group wins, Chimo was also awarded "Best Puppy in Show at the Sydney Royal in 1982" and this occurred only two years after her sire’s (Buran) big win at the Sydney Royal.  Once again a rare breed was making its presence well known.

A photograph of a young Chimo was reproduced in the Alaskan Malamute Australian breed standard  “The Complete Australian Dog Book”, printed in the mid 1980’s by the then Kennel Control Council, Victoria.

Another early major winner of our breed was AUST & NZ CHAMPION ESKIMO JANE OF THE NORTH (IMP NZ) (who was another Buran daughter), Eskimo Jane,  was owned by Eric and Olive Singer, then of Warrandyte, Victoria.  Shown regularly, Eskimo Jane was also a very consistent All Breeds In Show and In-Group winner. Probably her most outstanding win was "Best Opposite Sex in the Utility Group at the 1985 Melbourne Royal Show". 

Displaying part of the true versatility of the Alaskan Malamute, were a brother and sister from the (2nd) second litter to be whelped on 20 Oct 1982 in Australia. These two malamutes gained their dual Show & Obedience  titles.  AUST CHAMPION MERYTON MAKLUK TENAKEE CDX, owned and trained by Neil Linton, then of Cranbourne, Victoria, was the first to gain an obedience title, doing so at the young age of eleven (11) months of age.  Tenakee, was also the first dual Show & Obedience titled Alaskan Malamute in this country. He had gained two passes towards his UD title before being taken by cancer.   

AUST CHAMPION MERYTON MAKLUK PANDA CDX (living in Tasmania) quickly followed in her brother’s footsteps and was dual titled. Early in the 1980’s two Malamutes were soon to be seen giving the breed National advertising coverage early in the breed’s history.  A head study of Hot’s Buran was used in the promotion of Tucker Box dog food. Then, in 1987, a grandson of Hot’s Buran, “AUST CHAMPION INUK NUTARA KADLUK”  (Tsar) owned by the Stein family of Gladstone Park, Victoria, starred in a television commercial for the National Mutual Insurance Company. In this, commercial he portrayed a Wolf, which meant he was required to have his tail tied between his legs for authenticity. Apparently many phone calls were placed to the TV stations inquiring what a beautiful dog he was, but what breed is he?

During 1987, MERYTON WSEWOLOD, better known as “Jock” a son of “Tsar” -AUST CHAMPION INUK NUTARA KADLUK, became famous as the first purebred Malamute to be taken to work in the Antarctic for Australia.  Channel 10 News, Melbourne, featured a story of Jock’s journey south and the arrival. In conjunction with his sledding duties, Jock, was used to introduce new lines to the Mawson Huskies and so improve the breeding program.  He sired numerous litters. However, his life was cut short when he was unfortunately lost during a blizzard.

As many of you are aware, among the various colours and shadings allowable in the Alaskan Malamute breed is the RED . This colour is recessive, however from a repeat mating between AUST CHAMPION NANOOK OF THE NORTH (IMP NZ) and AUST & NZ CHAMPION CHIMO SILVER MOON (IMP UK), two red and white bitches were produced in a litter of five puppies.  “AUST CHAMPION MERYTON PINASUK PEPPER” was the first ever Australian Championship Titled Red colour in this country.  Both her sire and dam carried the red gene, but neither produced this colour again – (their first litter together consisting only of black and whites and grey and whites). The first Red dog to gain his Australian Championship was AUST CHAMPION MERYTON RED INDIAN.

Apart from the imported Malamutes I have already mentioned, other notable early imports included:  

  • Numerous WAKONS Malamutes (Imp USA) Owned by Mrs Wendy Newton, of  “Chukchii” Kennels in Victoria  
  • SEACOURT FIRE FINCH (IMP UK) Owned by R & Mrs D Wells, Southern River, WA  
  • NOATAKS RAJAH (IMP USA) Owned by Mr & Mrs T Syme  
  • BERCHTENBRIETER KODIAK (IMP CAN) Owned by Mr & Mrs L Bennett, Victoria  
  • TIGARA SEA VOYAGEUR (IMP UK) Owned by Mrs I Gates, Croydon, South Australia  
  • AM & CAN CHAMPION STORM KLOUD QQUANEE SONG (IMP CAN) Owned by Mrs D Sullivan, Victoria

The Alaskan Malamute Club of Victoria Inc, is the first club for the breed in Australia.  The Alaskan Malamute Club was formed in July, 1986, originally as a social club, and was affiliated with the Victorian Canine Association (then the Kennel Control Council) in January, 1989, and is an incorporated body. By March, 1991, Club members numbered over 200 people from all over Australia, and by 1992 the numbers had grown to over 400. Their inaugural Championship Show was held in 1991.

And there was no looking back for the Alaskan Malamute breed in Australia!

Thanks to Tonya and Julie for sharing this article with the Alaskan Malamute Club, Victoria Inc.