SLED DOG HISTORY
The Kearney Dog Sled Races is committed to pursuing truth and reconciliation for all first nation, inuit, and metis peoples across Turtle Island. Our committee has collaborated with local indigenous peoples and elders to create a land acknowledgement statement. This is something we read to honour our FNIM community at our race's opening ceremonies. We encourage everyone to do their part to learn and help with truth and reconciliation across Canada.
Dog sledding is not new!
Sled dogs have been a part of history for over 10,000 years.
Sled dogs have been used for many jobs in northern climates when there is no possible way for humans alone to navigate the winter elements.
As far as archaeologists can tell, dog sledding was invented by the native and Inuit people in the northern parts of modern Canada, and it then rapidly spread throughout the continent. Early settlers quickly recognized the value of dog power in the winter months and adopted the practice.
The first formal race occurred in 1850. In 1908, the first dog-sled race took place in Nome, Alaska. This route would become famous a little over a decade later, when Leonhard Seppala, a Norwegian native, delivered diphtheria medicine to the struggling town.
Sled dogs were used for:
- Trapping and hunting
- Hauling lumber from mills
- Transporting goods and medicines
- Travel to and from villages
- Military exercises
Today in many parts of the north, the relationship between humans and sled dogs is still alive and well.
Qamutik sleds were designed to carry loads over rough terrain. Farther south, people made the flat-bottomed toboggan to haul loads through deep snow. They utilized a fan formation where dogs ran where they felt comfortable amongst each other as equals. They could move amongst each other and around rugged terrain however it suited them. Europeans modified these designs and developed the basket sled with its load raised off the snow and supported by two narrow runners for hauling over packed trails. Modern dog-sled drivers have shortened and modified the basket sled for racing.
As told by Outdoor Dog World, Russian explorers are credited with bringing a new efficiency to dog sledding in the late 1700s. In the beginning of dog sledding, or mushing, just one to three dogs were used to pull small-sized handmade sleds.
The Russians began arranging the dogs in pairs or single file on their own explorations, and trained a lead dog to take specific commands and keep the rest of the team in line. Dogs were given specific places in line and trained to perform according to their place.
The Incredible Life of a Sled dog
This is the story of an icon, the Canadian Inuit Dog; from ancient roots in the Arctic as the working sled dog of the Inuit to its confrontation with modern technological society and sadly, its potential demise as a species.