Dog-Sled Racing

 

Back In January 1975, just 25 teams competed in the first dog-sled races at Todtmoos in Germany’s Black Forest region. The popularity of the sport grew quickly and the World Championships held here in 2003 drew 321 mushers with about 2500 dogs from 21 nations. Todtmoos has now become something of a dog-sled Mecca and you can even enrol for a musher course. 
These photographs from the 2005 International Dog-Sled Races show just how much fun can be had at the “tail end” of a team of very determined dogs.
The power of dogs to pull sleds for hunting and travel has been employed for over a thousand years throughout the parts of the world often under a layer of snow and ice. Even though transportation has been largely replaced by the snowmobile, many cultures still keep dogs for travel and as a link to this celebrated part of the northern wilderness culture.

Although the breed of dog used throughout the centuries varied, and often mixes or mongrels would be used, the most common breeds were – and still are – Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes, because of their strength and willingness to work. For racing, though, which is a more recent development in dog sledding, Alaskan Huskies are more popular due to their speed and endurance.

The photographs here show a variety of different events, requiring different compositions of dog teams. There are even events where the musher is on skis. All the photos show a close bond between the human and the dogs, and it is easy to see why such a pastime is appealing.
The dogs at rest are a completely different animal to when they are harnessed up: they can switch from friendly playful puppy dog to lean, mean running machine in a matter of minutes. The training they’ve received from the age of 8 weeks means that as soon as they are harnessed up, they know what is expected of them.

Composing a team of sled dogs is an art and it takes years of experience to get it just right. At the head of the team, the crucial lead dog dictates what the rest of the team does – how fast they run, for example, often pushing the others to their limit – and keeps them in check. In between are swing dogs, wheel dogs and team dogs. And at the back, the human – the musher – must be experienced, too, otherwise the livelihood of the whole team is put at risk.

Being able to handle the dogs is essential. Sled dogs are incredibly intelligent, meaning they can be very stubborn and rebellious. Physical punishment is to be avoided at all costs in disciplining these animals; it will not win you their respect. Rather, reward for good behaviour – known as positive reinforcement – is a much more effective way to get them to look up to you as the alpha of the group.

If you are interested in becoming a musher it is highly recommended that you do your research so that you understand the full life-long commitment you’ll need to take on to enable you to be responsible for a team of these beautiful animals.

dog-sleigh-zfyo.jpg (137369 Byte) picture dog dogs-823e.jpg (123976 Byte) picture dog dogs-kl8j.jpg (135141 Byte) picture dog dogs-ir6w.jpg (112158 Byte) picture dog
dog-sled-8im7.jpg (127738 Byte) picture dog dog-sleigh-8iu7.jpg (151171 Byte) picture dog dog-sleighs-98iu.jpg (131325 Byte) picture dog dog-sledge-kl1q.jpg (117508 Byte) picture dog
dog-sled-j7zt.jpg (134584 Byte) picture dog dog-sledge-2p3a.jpg (117930 Byte) picture dog dog-sleigh-duj4.jpg (113341 Byte) picture dog dog-sledge-j7zh.jpg (135308 Byte) picture dog
dog-snow-9olq.jpg (153900 Byte) picture dog dog-man-jhu2.jpg (135297 Byte) picture dog dog-race-l10f.jpg (112880 Byte) picture dog dog-man-49ig.jpg (112250 Byte) picture dog
dog-sleigh-z8ik.jpg (132173 Byte) picture dog dogs-hzt5.jpg (113523 Byte) picture dog dog-sledge-i2pa.jpg (117397 Byte) picture dog dog-sleigh-6r0p.jpg (116281 Byte) picture dog
dog-2g6t.jpg (129081 Byte) picture dog dog-j8i1.jpg (128855 Byte) picture dog dog-5zt7.jpg (119166 Byte) picture dog dog-8rs4.jpg (138766 Byte) picture dog
dog-10od.jpg (137612 Byte) picture dog dog-gu3m.jpg (114936 Byte) picture dog dog-g4d8.jpg (119196 Byte) picture dog dog-snow-r0ol.jpg (127071 Byte) picture dog
dog-sgzr.jpg (117775 Byte) picture dog dog-s29l.jpg (108521 Byte) picture dog dog-hj7a.jpg (127812 Byte) picture dog dog-ldu2.jpg (110346 Byte) picture dog
dog-ju8x.jpg (118356 Byte) picture dog dogs-h8ik.jpg (123974 Byte) picture dog dogs-4l8d.jpg (110194 Byte) cameras-snow-d92q.jpg (140253 Byte) picture