Dog History: Sled Dogs

Sled dogging may be one of the coldest (and oldest) activities in the world of the human-canine partnership. It involves lots of barking and running about, but most “mushing teams” seem to love it! Dog sledding dates back to at least 2000 BC, possibly even earlier, but it wasn't for sport or fun back then. In the days before gas powered vehicles, it's very likely that dog sledding was a huge part of transportation in the areas of the world with a lot of snow and ice. Many dog sled teams are made up of a large number of dogs, and can be used to carry a heavy load over a long length.

Dog sledding began as an ancient form of transportation.
Sled dogs can be many different breeds of dogs, but there are a few breeds that are used most often. The Siberian Husky is one of the most well known sled dog breeds. These dogs love to pull and have an obsessive need for a "job". They are strong and enjoy being in packs. The Alaskan Malamute was actually bred to be a sled dog and is used very often for dog sledding. The Alaskan Husky is a great choice for sledding, since they love to keep busy and are very affectionate with other dogs, as well as people.

Teams of sled dogs need a lot of training and hard work to be able to complete sled races. Although sledding was used for transport and moving things in the past, it is now mostly used for sport. I mean, what dog wouldn't want to pull a huge sled across a freezing stretch of snow, right? Seriously though, once sled dogs are trained, they seem to really enjoy all that "mushing"!

Dog sled racing was never made an Olympic sport, although it was a demonstration at two different Olympics in the past. Instead, there are many large races, and serious competitions across the US and Canada. Teams of sled dogs can be as small as four dogs, or in some races it can be unlimited. Most sled dog races are in the United States and go up to 1,000 miles.

Yes, you read that right! The Iditarod is held in Alaska every year and is a 1,000 mile race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska making it the largest recorded dog sled race. Sled dog teams have harnesses and are hooked up to the large sled to help them accomplish this incredible feat.

In history, dog sledding has been a helpful form of transportation. It has been said that Canadian police used sled dog teams as their form of patrol. In Alaska in 1925, there was an outbreak of diphtheria. With the hard work of a team of sled dogs and their musher, an entire town of people were able to be saved from the sickness! The dogs and team owners had to brave the frozen Bering sea and rough snow to get there, over 100 miles of mushing through freezing weather. The sled dog, Balto, who was memorialized in a statue in New York that same year, and in an animated movie in 1995, was the lead dog in one of the teams that brought the healing serum to the town. The story is also immortalized in the popular and stirring book, "The Cruelest Miles".

Sled dogs and sledding is a fun and exciting way for dogs to get their exercise. It is popular in many countries and will likely continue to be for years to come!

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