Areas around the North and South Poles have rough terrain plagued by constant cold, and they are not easily accessible by humans. Airplanes have eased cold weather travel woes some, but it is the resilience of sled dogs that has provided dependable travel options in frigid conditions. Today’s sled dogs are famously used in races such as the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest, but they are also utilized by native arctic and antarctic dwellers for hauling, transport, and rescue.
Sled dogs have been bred to withstand the harshest of conditions, and they survive outside in temperatures well below zero. They must have healthy digestive systems, tough feet, and a survivor instinct. The most common sled dog breed is the Alaskan Husky, which is a mixed breed with the demeanor to handle pulling a sled.
Sled dogs are known for their energy, as they can run at amazing speeds for hours on end. A musher commands the dogs, but the dogs carry out his or her commands as a team, some focusing more on pulling while others focus on direction. The dogs are considered work dogs, and when they are finished pulling, they are often segregated, fed, and left out in the cold where they happily survive until their next excursion.
Because they are considered work dogs, the retirement of sled dogs has ethical implications. Many mushers believe the breeds are not able to be socialized into a domestic setting. Countless sled dogs have been euthanized when they were determined to be unable to perform. The culling of these innocent animals has inspired the advent of sled dog adoption organizations and groups calling for the humane treatment of these loyal animals.
Rescue efforts and the media spotlight have provided some respite from the sled dogs’ demise, but more has to be done before these amazing animals will be safe from the deadly fate of the working animal.
This site is dedicated to sharing the history of sled dogs across the globe and increasing awareness of these amazing animals. The history will include harrowing stories of races like the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest, but it will also include stories about survival in the most extremely cold conditions in existence. The stories aren’t only about the dogs, but they are also about the dog owners, many who have entire racing sled dog teams sleeping in their home on any given night.
The lifestyle of the sled dog and its owner is a life unlike anyone else’s. It is tough and cold, but it is active and fulfilling.
Please see our contact page if you have questions or comments about sled dogs.