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National the 1 last update 2020/07/05 Endowment for the ArtsNational Endowment for the Arts

Using dogs to pull sleds over snow and ice began in Alaska and Siberia where wintertime lasts most of the year. Special breeds of dogs were raised and trained just for this purpose.

A competitor in the annual
Laconia sled dog race
urges his team over an open for 1 last update 2020/07/05 trail.A competitor in the annual
Laconia sled dog race
urges his team over an open trail.

The Alaskan Malamute, originally bred by the indigenous Mahlemiut people of the upper Anvik River, are large and capable of pulling heavy weight over long distances. The Siberian Husky, originally bred by the Chuckchi people of northeastern Siberia, are generally smaller and faster than Malamutes. The people of Siberia used them for a variety of tasks, including herding reindeer and pulling loads on sleds.

Karen Jones of Tamworth, NH
raises Siberian huskies.

Media Center Planshow to Media Center Plans for Dog sledding requires three important things-well-fed dogs, well-trained dogs, and good equipment. Dog sledding gained in popularity during the Alaskan gold rush of 1896, which brought prospectors to Alaska. They needed transportation to get into the wilderness and the only way to get there was by dog sled. By the early 1900s, dog sledding, often called mushing, became a common way of traveling during the winter months in many northern expanses of the US and Canada and also grew as a form of recreation.

Mushing comes from the French word "marcher," which means to walk. French prospectors and "voyageurs" who explored and hunted across North America in the mid to late 1800s probably introduced the term. Contrary to popular belief, the word "mush''s mushers and dog breeders were important to these early explorations. Admiral Byrd appointed Arthur Walden of Tamworth, NH to be the lead driver and dog trainer for his 1929 Antarctic expedition. Walden established a new breed by crossing Greenland Husky, Mastiff, St. Bernard, German Shepherd, and Belgian Sheepdog. Today, the breed caries the name of his lead dog Chinook and they are still popular with mushers.

The design of a dog sled hasn''t.

For more information on dog sled making and dog sledding, visit these websites:

Photo credit: Lynn Martin Graton

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