Sled Dogs & Dog Sleds
Even before the Polar explorers used snow dogs to accomplish their dreams of traveling Greenland or going to the South Pole, snow dogs were used by the Native Americans in their every day lives to help survive very cold climates. They were used to guard the tribe's reindeer herds, haul food and other supplies, and to pull heavy loads. In 1896, during the Alaskan gold rush, dog sleds were needed more than ever. Explorers used dog sleds to travel through Alaska's snow.
One of the most famous sled dogs was named Balto. In 1925, the town of Nome, Alaska was faced with a possible outbreak of diphtheria, a life threatening disease of young people. The only medicine to cure this terrible disease was located in Anchorage, Alaska, nearly 1,000 miles away. More than 20 dog sled “mushers” raced their dog sleds in the 40-below zero weather to Anchorage. In only six days, with Balto as the lead dog, Gunner Kassen arrived before everyone. Balto soon became a hero and a celebrity known around the world. The path that Mr. Kassen and Balto took from Nome to Anchorage has become the path in a current-day dog sled race, the Iditarod.
There are different kinds of dogs used to pull sleds. The most popular breeds are the Alaskan husky, Alaskan Malamute, Siberian husky, and the German Shorthaired Pointer. Other dogs that are used include foxhounds and staghounds. Sled dogs (also called sleigh dogs, sledge dogs or sleddogs) are chosen based on two qualities. These qualities are endurance and speed. In a race, sled dogs average about twenty miles per hour (30 km/h) over distances up to 25 miles (40 km). A team of sled dogs usually contains three to two dozen animals. Today teams are usually hitched in tandem (two-by-two) rows.
Today, dog sleds are still used in very cold climates to help man survive. Click on the images below to learn more about the sled's basic design.
Alaska Icefield Expeditions. “Sled Dogs: A Short History.” 30 November 2004 <www.akdogtour.com/dogs.html>.
The American Kennel Club. “Snow Dog History.” Snow Dogs: The Cold Hard Facts. 30 November 2004 <www.akc.org/love/snowdogs_3.cfm>.
Newell, Gregory and Denise. “The Basic Dog Sled.” Expedition Samoyeds. 06 December 2004 <www.expeditionsamoyeds.org/index.shtml>.
Public Broadcasting Company. “Sled Dogs: An Alaskan Epic.” Nature. 08 January 2005 <www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/sleddogs/balto.html>.
Permission to use photographs of sled dog team and statue of Balto is granted under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page>.
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copyrighted photographs of sleds from <www.expeditionsamoyeds.org/sledbasics.html#anchor10457188>
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copyrighted photograph of sled dog from <www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/sleddogs/balto.html>
Copyrighted clip art of the sled dog team in upper left corner of page from "Microsoft Office Online" <http://office.microsoft.com/clipart/default.aspx?lc=en-us&cag=1> (October-March, 2004-2005). Clip art available only to licensed users for non-commercial purposes.