“The sport of Sled Dog Racing is very popular, particularly in the Polar Regions of North America and Europe.”
Basically, it involves a competition of teams of sled dogs which pulls a carriage with sleds upon which stands a musher who controls the actions of the dogs. Although there are short and long forms of the sport, the team completing the marked course in the least time is judged to be the winner.
The best known sled dog race is the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race an annual 1,200 mile-long race from Anchorage to Nome, although the actual start is from Willow. It is normally raced through appalling winter conditions which test both dogs and mushers, and the best ever time was completed in eight days, 19 hours and 46 minutes.
Other prominent long distance races include the Beringia, which traverses 950 kms in Kamchatka, Russia. There is also the Finnmarkslopet, which is the most northerly sled dog race, which is a 1,000 kms competition starting in Alta, Norway.
La Grande Odyssee is a 900 kms race through the French and Swiss Alps through Savoie and Haute Savoie regions. This race passes through a number of ski resorts and attracts thousands of spectators.
There are many mid-distance races, held each year in Canada, Alaska and Mainland United States. One of the most important of these is the Nunavut Quest which is raced across Baffin Island in Canada.
The Nunavut Quest is unique. It focuses not only on the dog race itself but also on the traditions, heritage and culture of the Inuit. It celebrates a time when travelling by dog team was a way of life and reminds us of the courage, patience and determination of the people who survived and thrived in those early years. It is very demanding as it is run between totally isolated communities and the only breed of dog allowed is the Inuit Sled Dog.
“There are many types of races held: speed trials, sprint races, and, of course the very tough long distance races.”
Sled dog racing tests the endurance of both humans and dogs, and measures the way in which they are able to act as a team to negotiate difficult country in very trying climatic conditions.
Not all sled dog racing involves snow, ice and complete whiteouts.
In Western Australia, they never see snow and temperatures can soar over 40 degrees Centigrade, but that doesn’t stop the Western Australian Sleddog Sports Association from racing. Their sleds have wheels and they race over dirt tracks. Because huskies aren’t really comfortable in such high temperatures any breed of dog is allowed to participate, although I still can’t see the Dwellingup Dash engaging sled dog lovers with the same zeal as the wonderful Iditarod.