Dogs have been best friends and loyal companions to humans for many years. And they have also been a part of sports and other activities. Furthermore, they are trained to help disabled people and mentally challenged individuals. However, dogs and humans have developed a strong bond over the years as the dogs have been accompanying humans for thousand-mile journeys. So today, we will talk about dog sled teams and get to know about what are the best sled dogs.
1. Dog Sled and Its History
A sled pulled by dogs on snow is known as a dog sled or dog sleigh. These dogs are trained to pull a sled tied to them in a way similar to the horse pulling a carriage. According to researchers, in ancient times, dogs have been used for hunting and traveling purposes. They are specially trained to run through the deep snow and ice. Countries like Canada, Siberia, Greenland, Chukotka, Sweden, Alaska, Finland, Sapmi, and Norway use sled dogs for various purposes. (See How many Animals are there in the World?)
- It has been a mode of transportation for people living in Arctic regions. One or more dogs pull the sleigh while their shape and size vary according to their usage and function. To pull sleds with speed, sprint dogs are beneficial. For pulling massive weights, freight dogs breed is used.
- Dog sled racing involves the use of the sled. The person riding and controlling the sled is known as a musher, and the process is known as mushing. Sled Laikas or Russian bred dogs are used for pulling sleds and hunting games. (See Why Are Pink Dolphins Pink?)
2. Types of Dog Sled
Two basic types of dog sleds used are Basket sleds and Toboggan sleds.
- Basket sleds have a seat known as a basket fixed above the runners, approximately 8 to 12 inches above.
- White ash wood is used in making this sled and is also known as a stanchion sled.
- This wood is beneficial as it keeps the musher and passenger dry.
- These sleds run very fast on glare ice and hard pack trails.
- Due to their durable and light wood material, they are very reliable in high wind conditions.
- Toboggan sleds are much bigger than basket sleds.
- These sleds are capable of carrying more loads and people at a time.
- Made from a heavy plastic material, they are considered more rigid, durable, and stable.
- They can handle soft snow efficiently.
3. Characteristics of Sled Dogs
Fur protects animals from bone-chilling cold wind and snow. Therefore, these dogs have developed coats according to their functioning. The fur of most breeds of sled dogs is double layered. The inner coat is waterproof and keeps the insulation intact. And the outer coat keeps the snow away. In dog sled teams, freight dogs’ fur must be dense and warm to keep the heat in. Sprint dogs must have thin fur for the easy escape of heat.
These dog breeds have a special arrangement of blood vessels that keeps them protected from frostbite. Their diet is an essential factor that helps them maintain a healthy weight and the required fat in their body. Exercise is a necessity for these dogs to keep them active and healthy. (See When are the Dog Days of Summer?)
4. Formation of Dog Sled Teams
Dog sled teams are formed to participate in competitions where a team can have 4 to 10 dogs for pulling the sled. But in some races, 18 or more dogs can make up a team also. In these races, the dog sled has to run along the trails from one point to another.
According to an estimate, a dog sled pulled by 6 to 8 dogs can gain a speed up to 30 km per hour (20 miles per hour). All the dogs are tied with one line of rope, known as a gangline. The teams participate in mushing competitions worldwide, but North Europe, the Alps, and Northern America are prominent regions for this sport. (See Bloodhound – Dog with Best Sense of Smell)
5. Famous Dog Sled Races
Though this sport is not very much famous in all parts of the world, there are a few famous races worldwide. They are
- The race of Finmarkslopet was held in Norway.
- La Grande Odyssee was held in Switzerland and France.
- Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race held in Alaska.
- Yukon Quest organized for dog sled teams in Yukon and Alaska.
International Federation of Sleddog Sports (IIFSS) and International Sled Dog Racing Association (ISDRA) are working hard to popularize the sport. They are even trying to get mushing enrolled into the Olympics. (See World Record For Hiccups)
6. What are the Best Sled Dogs Breed?
The Alaskan Husky is bred specifically for its performance in dog sled racing, and some of the best types of breeds are listed below.
- Alaskan Malamute dogs are large and strong. They are used as freight dogs and can weigh between 36 kg and 54 kg with broad chests, thick coats, and tough feet. These dogs are known for their strength and are preferred for hauling trips, transporting heavy loads, etc.
- Canadian Eskimo dog breeds are considered best for hunting teams, and they are capable of pulling weight from 45 kg to 80 kg for a distance of 24 km to 113 km. A Canadian Eskimo is also known as Esquimaux dog or Esquimaux husky.
- Chinook dog breed is known as the best driver and adventure dog. At the same time, Greenland Dogs have more endurance than speed.
- Other breeds like Labrador Huskies, MacKenzie River Husky, Samoyed, Sakhalin Husky, Siberian Husky, and Yakutian Laika are involved in these teams for different purposes. (See Why are zoos bad for animals?)
7. Positioning of Dogs in Dog Sled Teams
It is necessary to maintain the correct positioning of dogs in a dog sled for proper and better functioning and handling of the sleigh. There are four categories as per which dogs are organized, namely lead dogs, swing dogs, point dogs, and wheel dogs. Each category serves a different purpose. Therefore, a specialized dog is selected for each category.
- As the name suggests, a lead is in the front, so they need special care and training.
- Point dogs will be behind the lead dogs, and swing dogs will be placed between wheel dogs and point dogs.
- Wheel dogs must be strong so that they can easily pull out the sled if stuck in the snow.
- Other dogs between the wheel and swing dogs are known as team dogs, and they are selected as a team member based on their endurance, speed, and strength. So, every dog in dog sled teams has a different position. (See Why Ice floats on Water?)
We believe that you now know what are the best sled dogs and dog sled teams with their characteristics. Adding more fun to the facts, National Sled Dog Day is celebrated on February 2 in the northern parts of the world. (See What are the personality differences between dog and cat owners?)