Sled dog racing (sometimes termed dog sled racing) is a winter dog
sport most popular in the
Arctic regions of the United States, Canada,
Greenland and some European countries. It involves the
timed competition of teams of sled dogs that pull a sled with the dog
driver or musher standing on the runners. The team completing the
marked course in the least time is judged the winner.
A sled dog race was a demonstration sport at the 1932 Winter Olympics
Lake Placid, New York
Lake Placid, New York and again at the Olympics in Oslo, and once
more in the
1994 Winter Olympics
1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, but it did not
gain official event status.
Sled dogs, known also as sleighman dogs, sledge dogs, or sleddogs, are
a highly trained dog type that are used to pull a dog sled, a
wheel-less vehicle on runners, over snow or ice, by means of harnesses
4 The dog sled
5 See also
7 External links
Sled dog races include "sprint" races over relatively short distances
of 4 to 100 miles, mid-distance races from 100 to 300 miles, or
long-distance races of 300 to over 1,000 miles (Iditarod). Sprint
races frequently are two or three-day events with heats run on
successive days with the same dogs over the same course. Mid-distance
races are continuous events of 100 to 300 miles. (These categories are
informal and may overlap to a certain extent.) Long-distance races may
be continuous or stage races, in which participants run a different
course each day, usually from a central staging location.
Races are categorized not only by distance, but by the maximum number
of dogs allowed in each team. The most usual categories are four-dog,
six-dog, eight-dog, ten-dog, and unlimited (also called open),
although other team size categories can be found.
One example of a dog race is the American
Dog Derby, which was first
started in 1917. Competitors enter a 20, 40, 60 or 100-mile category.
The race starts in Ashton, Idaho.
Races are organized either as "timed starts," or "mass start." In a
timed start, teams start one after another in equal time intervals,
competing against the clock rather than directly against one another.
This simplifies some logistical considerations such as that of getting
many teams of excited sleddogs to the starting line simultaneously. In
mass starts, all of the dog teams start simultaneously. Mass starts
are popular in
Europe and many parts of Canada. Some mass start events
can have up to 30 teams (300 dogs) start all at once.
Although some races are unsanctioned, held under the sole guidance of
a local club, many races fall under one of three international
organizations. In the
United States and Canada, ISDRA (International
Racing Association) sanctions many races. In
Racing Association) provides sanctioning, and the
IFSS (International Federation of Sleddog Sports) sanctions World Cup
races all over the world, as well as a world championship race every
For the race to be sanctioned, a variety of rules must be followed.
For example, the ISDRA sanctioning rules specify that all hazards must
be avoided, distances must be reported correctly, and the trail must
be clearly described to the competitors. The racers have a duty to
treat their dogs humanely, and performance-enhancing substances are
Racing is a variant where competitors use a rig
(3–4-wheeled cart with a locking brake and handle/steering wheel) or
a scooter, a bicycle (Bikejoring), and on foot (Canicross) usually on
packed dirt trails instead of a sled on snow. Another mode of dogsled
racing is the freight race, in which a specified weight per dog is
carried in the sled. This type of race only has about 1 to 5 dogs
pulling the sled or scooter at one time.
Dog Derby is the oldest dogsled race in the United
States and was the first dogsled race that rose to international
prominence. Begun in 1917 and heavily promoted by Union Pacific
Railroad, it was on par with the Kentucky Derby and with the
Indianapolis 500 in terms of interest and press coverage in the early
part of the 20th century and was considered to be the world
championship dogsled race. American
Dog Derby mushers were
international celebrities to such degree that one photogenic female
musher named Lydia Hutchinson was tapped by a producer to star in his
movie. She may have been on her way to being a movie star when she
died of pneumonia in 1930. The American
Dog Derby popularized dogsled
racing in the 20's and other dogsled races were organized in towns and
cities across North America and Northern
Europe in its wake.
The most famous long-distance race is the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog
Race. Also known as the "Last Great Race on Earth", the Iditarod is
roughly 1000 miles of some of the roughest and most beautiful terrain
in the world. The race consists of fierce mountains, frozen rivers,
thick forests, and desolate tundras. Each team of 12–16 dogs must go
from Anchorage all the way to Nome.
Although each musher has different strategies, each team must have
certain pieces of equipment, such as an arctic parka, an ax,
snowshoes, and boots for each dog's feet to protect against cutting
ice and hard packed snow injuries.
The dog sled
Racing sleddogs wear individual harnesses to which "tuglines" are
snapped, pulling from a loop near the root of the tail. The dogs are
hooked in pairs, their tuglines being attached in turn to a central
"gangline". The lines usually include short "necklines" snapped to
each dog's collar, just to keep the dogs in proper position. It is
unusual ever to see more than 22 dogs hooked at once in a racing team,
and that number is usually seen only on the first day of the most
highly competitive sprint events. Dogs may be omitted from the teams
on subsequent days, but none may be added. Many other rules apply,
most of which have been in effect since the beginning of organized
dogsled racing in the city of Nome, Alaska, in 1908.
Pedigree Stage Stop Race, the second largest sled dog race in the
List of sled dog races
Dog Sled Races Around The World." Dogs. Terrificpets.com, Web. 9
February 2010. <index2.php?reqstyleid=0&start=#>.
^ Miller, Michael W (17 February 1994). "WINTER OLYMPICS 1994 -
Lillehammer, Norway - Is There a Place in Winter Games For Men Who Run
With Dogs?". Wall Street Journal. access-date= requires url=
^ "History." Mush for the Rush. 2003. Library Thinkquest, Web. 4
Dog Sled Races Around The World. 09 Jan. 2010.
Web. 9 Feb 2010.
^ "Safety." ISDRA Sled
Dog Racing. 1 January 2007. ISDRA, Web. 9
February 2010. <index2.php?reqstyleid=0&start=#>.
^ Famous Firsts, Natalie Rompella 2007, page 15, the All Alaska
Sweepstakes was held in Alaska which was only a territory in 1917 and
not part of the United States.
^ See, for example, February 1949 Article “King of the Mushers” p.
141 in Popular Mechanics where it describes the American
Dog Derby as
being what Wimbledon is to Tennis or what Madison Square Garden is to
^ "Learn about the Iditarod." The Official Site of the Iditarod. 25
January 2010. Web. 9 February 2010.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dogsled racing.
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