Whether they’re providing transportation, transporting goods, or participating in a thrilling race across the arctic tundra, sled dogs are truly marvels of the canine world. In honor of winter and, of course, in honor of dogs, the team at Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital has chosen to spotlight the remarkable achievements of these hard-working heroes of the snow and ice!
Sled Dogs 101
A sled dog is defined as any canine used to pull a sled across snow and ice in arctic climates. A sled dog needs to be large, powerful, and have a thick fur coat. They must also have high endurance and possess a high tolerance for cold. Typical breeds include:
- Siberian husky
- Alaskan malamute
- Eskimo dog
A Little History
Ancestors of the modern sled dog first appeared on the scene around 35,000 years ago when Eskimo dogs mated with local wolves, producing offspring that were well-adapted to the harsh climate of the region. Although the exact time period when these dogs were first used to pull sleds isn’t known, it probably happened prior to 1000 B.C.
Dog sledding appears to have been invented by the native and Inuit peoples of what is now northern Canada. Dog sledding quickly spread throughout the continent and was critical in shaping arctic society by allowing for the transportation of goods and people across the harsh and difficult terrain.
Sled dogs continued to play an important role in Northern life well into the 1800s, where they went on expeditions, were employed to maintain order near Canadian mines, and were used to deliver important goods during the Seven Years War. Sled dogs also played an important role in both World Wars by hauling goods across harsh terrain and serving as search and rescue dogs.
Although racing has always been a fun and informal part of dog sledding, the first official race was held in 1850. The first race in Nome, Alaska occurred in 1908, a route that would be made famous a decade later by a sled dog named Balto and his sled-driver, Leonhard Seppala, who heroically delivered life-saving medicine to the struggling residents of Nome.
The Iditarod is the most famous dog sled race in the United States. Although interest in the Iditarod has waned somewhat since its inception in 1967, the sport has grown in popularity in Norway. The longest sled dog race in Europe, known as the Finnmarkslopet, is held there each year and draws participants from countries around the world.
Here at Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital, we love all breeds of dogs, and we look forward to seeing your amazing canine at their next wellness visit. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact our staff with any questions or concerns.