Everything You Need to Know About Sled Dog Rallies
It’s officially sled dog rally season! From the end of December to the end of March, more than 60 dog sled racing events take place around the world - and it’s truly a sight to behold!
Now, we know what you might be thinking: ‘sled dog rallies only take place where there’s lots of snow, right?’. Actually, no.
Sled dog rallies take place across the UK and there’s a growing fan base of everyday dog owners who love to watch and take part, including some of our dog-mad staff here at Tug-E-Nuff Dog Gear.
Here’s everything you need to know about this fast-paced, super exciting sport...
So, what exactly is dog sled racing?
Dog sled racing is a thrilling winter sport most popular in the Arctic regions of the United States, Canada, Russia and some European countries - including the UK.
It involves the timed competition of teams of dogs pulling a sled with a dog driver or musher standing on the sled’s runners.
The races themselves are usually over relatively short distances though some of the most famous (and gruelling!) traditional races are over 1,000 miles long and take many days to complete.
Each dog in the team wears an individually-fitted harness of lightweight nylon webbing, padded around the neck and shoulders.
The team is hitched to a rig or sled by means of a central rope known as the ‘gangline’, other equipment includes the snub line and snow hook used to secure the teams. Whips are not used.
Where and when did it begin?
For the people of the North, dogs have been an integral part of their lives for thousands of years. Communities in these extreme climates were dependent on dogs for protection, companionship, hunting and trapping, and most of all transportation.
Racing dogs can be traced back to the early 20th century when an epidemic of diphtheria threatened a small Alaskan city. A relay of twenty-two dog sled teams forged their way through the rough interior of Alaska and across the Bering Sea ice to bring medical supplies from Anchorage to the grateful townspeople of Nome.
The most famous dog sled event, the Iditarod Trail Race, is held each March to commemorate the ‘Nome Serum Run’. The course traverses some of the roughest and most beautiful terrain in the world. The race consists of fierce mountains, frozen rivers, thick forests, and desolate tundras.
OK, but surely you need snow to sled?
Not necessarily! Sled dog racing is a growing sport here in the UK (although mushers here tend to use three-wheeled rigs that suit the terrain better).
The biggest sled dog rally in the UK takes place every year on the forest tracks of the Cairngorms, in Scotland, where crowds gather to witness the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain’s Aviemore Sled Dog Rally.
Held every January, the event sees over 1,000 sled dogs and up to 200 mushers competing.
But, there are a growing number of opportunities to train for and take part in sled dog rallies across the UK.
Do the dogs enjoy it?
Some dogs simply love to run (especially if they know there’s the reward of their favourite Tug-E-Nuff training toy to look forward to!) and are perfectly suited to sled dog racing in the UK.
Letting them run at full pelt or over long distances is a great way for dogs to have fun and get the necessary exercise they need. At Tug-E-Nuff Dog Gear, we know that dogs that are well-exercised and well-stimulated are calmer, happier and healthier.
To make sure sled racing dogs in the UK are well looked after, the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain upholds a code of ethics in which the welfare of sled dogs is a primary concern..
How can I get involved?
Bikejoring or skijoring is a great place to start (read our blog about bikejor first!), but if you’re up for a fresh challenge, there are various clubs throughout the UK with a packed schedule of events you can take part in, including NATB Dog Sports, Hampshire Sled Dog Rally and the British Sleddog Sports Federation. Find out more on their Facebook pages.