Dogs have always been used as companions as well as for transportation especially in the Arctic regions. Years ago, when there were no snowmobiles and airplanes, sled dogs figured as one of the pre-dominant means of transportation in the snow-filled regions of the world. These dogs could pull goods as well as people across the snow-covered lands. The contribution of the sled dogs in making life easier is so profound that even the researchers agree that without the sled dogs, humans could never survive in the Arctic regions.
Dog sledding gradually turned into a recreational activity when sled races began. The history of dog sled races can be traced back to late 1800s. The sport was introduced in the 1886 Winter Carnival, Minnesota and it is still in continuity. Interestingly, the winter carnival race held in 1917 was an inspiration for the Walt Disney movie, Iron Will.
Sled dog racing acquired global attention during the gold rush period in the Yukon and Alaska. The first race was held in Nome, Alaska and was called All-Alaska Sweepstakes.
This sport was brought to New England by the gold miners in 1920s. As the game gained huge popularity, it appeared as a demonstration sport in Winter Olympics in 1932. However, it graduated to becoming a pulka race in the 1952 Oslo Olympics. Finally, in 1992, the International Federation of Sleddog Sports was formed to work with the aim of gaining Olympic recognition for the dog sled races.
Sled Dogs Used For Racing
The dogs that are used for sled racing are marked by strength, intelligence, stamina, fidelity, and endurance. They can be of medium to large size with great ability to tolerate immensely low temperatures. Sled dogs have double-layered coats in which the undercoat insulates their bodies against the snow.
Traditionally, 8-10 types of dog breeds are used for dog sled races. For instance, the Siberian Husky, the Greenland dog, the Tamaskan Husky, the Sakhalin Husky, The Eurohound, the Chinook, the Seppala Siberian, and the Mackenzie River Husky.
Some breeds that are regularly used as sled racing dogs are given below:
It is a large-sized dog with shoulders measuring 23-25 inches. It weighs around 75 to 85 pounds. The colors may vary from light grey, shades of sable and red, to black. It has big feet that are shaped like snowshoes. It has an affectionate and playful temperament. It is very devoted and loyal towards its master.
It is a medium-sized breed with shoulders measuring between 19 and 23.5 inches. It weighs around 45-65 pounds. It is found in pure white or biscuit color or in combination of white and biscuit. It has big and flat feet.
Samoyeds are intelligent, committed, action-oriented, gentle dogs.
This medium-sized breed weighs between 35 and 60 pounds. These dogs are remarkable for their color, which may vary from pure white to black along with sporadic markings. The shoulders measure around 20-23.5 inches. Their feet are oval shaped.
This breed is noticeable for its gentleness, alertness, intelligent, and friendly nature. It knows the art of being a good companion.
This breed is slightly larger than the Siberian Huskies. Alaskan Huskyhasmostly brown eyes. They show higher endurance level in dog sled races than their Siberian counterparts. They are wonderful companions and very intelligent. They love roaming around and getting plenty of exercise.
Chinook (pronounced shin-OOK)
This sled dog is very hard working and shows great stamina. As it is very dedicated to the given task, Chinook can be a great rescue dog apart from being a marvelous race dog. Despite being so focused on its work, this breed is known for its friendliness and non-aggressive nature.
It weighs around 55-70 pounds depending upon the gender. The height varies between 23 and 27 inches. They love living close to humans and may suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for a long time.
Very independent by nature, Greenland dog will bond only with the owner whom he likes and respects. They require vigorous work schedule to stay happy. The breed can be as high as 25 inches and may weigh around 66 to 70 pounds. It requires a lot of patience, determination, and perseverance to train these dogs for dog sled races, as they do not obey the commands easily. The owner has to prove his pack leadership to this breed in order to make it follow his rules.
One cautionary tale, these dogs are great for sledding as you see in races like the Yellow Knife Derby; but, they do not always make the greatest pets. They need to work, they need an outlet for their energy. Please study the breed and how it would fit in your family before buying a puppy or adopting.