Monday, December 31, 2007

Sled Dog Racing- A North American Tradition

Mushers at Au Gres Fun Run
Mushers at Au Gres Fun Run
photo from M.U.S.H.
Sled dog racing is one of North America's oldest winter sports and can be traced back to the Eskimos and Northern Indians. They depend on teams of sled dogs for faithful companionship, assistance in hunting and as a sole means of transportation during the long winter months. In 1908, the first formal racing event the "All Alaskan Sweepstakes" was run from Nome to Candle and back, a distance of 408 miles, with a winning time of 119 hours, 15 minutes, 12 seconds.

In January 1925, Nome once again became the site of another historic race. Diphtheria was discovered and the supply of antitoxin was inadequate to avoid an epidemic. A reply of 22 native and mail teams forged through the rough interior of Alaska and across the frozen Bering Sea to deliver the serum on time. Sled dog teams have also aided exploration of northern frontiers by Byrd, Peary and Amundsen.

Artic breeds such as Alaskan Malamutes, Samoyeds and Siberian Huskies are frequently used in sled dog racing but other breeds have also been used and crossbreeds are common. Belgian Tervurens, Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers and other breeds may be seen in many races together with their crossbred cousins. Often referred to as the Alaskan Husky – the Alaskan Husky is the hybrid sled dog.

The dogs of today's racing teams have strong, slightly arched backs, well-angled shoulders and a deep chest, denoting good lung capacity. Compact tough feet and a protective coat of hair aid the dogs. Size is also a very important factor with most racing dogs averaging 23 inches at the shoulders and weighing less than 55 pounds. An overweight dog, like an overweight person cannot run marathon distances at a competitive pace. Drivers favor dogs that are even-tempered, gentle and able to stand the pressures of a rigorous training and schedule. A sled dog may put in 2,000 miles in a training season and be transported in vehicles many thousands of miles over the coarse of a 3-month season.

Sled dogs are among the best cared for animals in the world. Because the sport is based on athletic performance, the Musher must be constantly alert to anything that might endanger the health of his or her dog team members. Many mushers use a balanced and fortified meat-based diet to provide the compact, highly digestible high quality protein and energy that the dogs need.

Mid Union Sled Haulers (M.U.S.H.) holds races throughout the state during the winter months. Western Michigan venues include Jan. 12-13 Fort Custer St. Pk., Jan. 19-20 Lost Lake Boy Scout Reservation, Farwell, MI, and Feb. 16-17 Wooden Nickel Memorial, Baldwin MI.

from Mid Union Sled Haulers, M.U.S.H.- see FAIR USE notice.
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