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Mush Rush!

Discover the great sport of dog sled racing. Navigate your team through the obstacles to complete a race!

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Malamute, Samoyed and HuskyDog sleds have been used for transportation in northern regions for thousands of years. Inuit dogs, or Qimmiq, have been around for at least 4000 years. However, it is possible for many different types of dogs to be used as sled dogs. The only requirement is for them to be strong and fast. The most common breeds used for dog sledding are: Alaskan Malamutes, Samoyeds, Siberian Huskies, and Canadian Inuit Dogs (not shown.)

DOg sledThere are two common types of sleds; the toboggan sled, which is used for work; and the basket sled, which is fast and lightweight and best for racing. The komatik, or Qamutik, is a traditional Inuit sled that hunters or racers sit or lie down facing forward in a low-slung sled.

A musherA Musher is the driver of a dog sled team and must make sure all of the equipment is in place. A good Musher will check to make sure the sled, dog harnesses, gangline (to connect the dogs to the sled), tuglines, and sled bags (to hold gear) are all working properly. Sometimes mushers allow the dogs to spread out in a fan formation in treeless areas to travel over rough ice, while the gangline pairs the dogs in a parallel line in front of the sled and is more useful in forested areas and narrow trails. The gangline is used in almost all dog sled races such as the Iditarod.

Mushers must be strong leaders. To a sled dog, the musher is the “leader of the pack”. If the musher is tired, hesitant, or uncertain, the dogs will sense that and become confused and unresponsive. On long distance journeys into the wild, this can be especially dangerous.

Mushers use commands to speak to the dogs and to tell them where to go. For example, some commands are:

  • “Hike or Mush” – Get moving
  • “Gee” – Turn right
  • “Haw” – Turn left
  • “Easy” – Slow down
  • “Whoa” – To stop the team of dogs (like putting on the breaks)
  • Kissing sound – Speed up

DOg team mushingTraditionally, people in Northern Canada used dog sledding as their main method of transportation. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) used dog sleds to patrol the north until 1969. But, in the last 50 years new technology and the creation of snowmobiles have replaced much of the dog sled use. While dog sleds can reach speeds of 40km/hour, snowmobiles can travel as fast as 193km/hr.

The first dog sled race took place over one hundred years ago. Today the biggest and most famous dog sled race in the world is The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which first took place in 1973. In this race, mushers race over 1851 kilometres of snow, ice and in harsh arctic conditions for many days. Dog sled racing is not an official sport of the Winter Olympics, but was included in the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placed USA as a demonstration sport.

Dog sled race finish line
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Photo Credits:
Sled, Go go go, by Re-ality; sledding by BlueLotus; Patty Saying Hi by Eclectic Blogs; It's Still Wintertime by Radio Tonreg; and Husky by PartnerHund on Flickr licensed Creative Commons by Atribution 2.0

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