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Sled dogs, known also as sleightman dogs, sledge dogs, or sleddogs are types of dogs that are used to pull a wheel-less vehicle on runners (a sled or sleigh) over snow or ice, by means of harnesses and lines. The origins of this arrangement are unknown.


Several distinct dog breeds are in common use as sled dogs, although any medium-sized breed may be used to pull a sled. Purebred sled dog breeds range from the well-known Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute to rarer breeds such as the Mackenzie River Husky or the Canadian Eskimo Dog (Canadian Inuit Dog). Dog drivers, however, have a long history of using other breeds or crossbreds as sled dogs. In the days of the Gold Rush in The Yukonmarker, mongrel teams were the rule, but there were also teams of Foxhounds and Staghound. Today the unregistered hybridized Alaskan husky is preferred for dogsled racing, along with a variety of crossbreds, the German Shorthaired Pointer often being chosen as the basis for crossbreeding. From 1988 through 1991, a team of Standard Poodles competed in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Sled dogs are expected to demonstrate two major qualities in their work (apart from basic physical capability to pull the sled). Endurance is needed to travel the distances demanded in dogsled travel, which may be anything from five to eighty miles (8 to 130 km) or more a day. Speed is needed to travel the distance in a reasonable length of time. Racing sled dogs will travel up to an average twenty miles per hour (32 km/h) over distances up to 25 miles (40 km). Over longer distances, average traveling speed declines to 10 to 14 miles per hour (16 to 22 km/h). In poor trail conditions, sleddogs can still usually average 6 or 7 miles per hour (10 or 11 km/h). Sled dogs have been known to travel over 90 miles in a 24 hour period while pulling 85 pounds each.Sleddogs pull various sorts of sleds, from the small 25 pound (11 kg) sprint-racing sleds, through the larger plastic-bottomed distance racing toboggan sleds, to traditional ash freighting sleds and the trapper's high-fronted narrow toboggan. Sled dogs are also used to pull skiers and to draw wheeled rigs when there is no snow. A team of sled dogs may consist of anywhere from three to two dozen dogs. Modern teams are usually hitched in tandem, with harnessed pairs of sled dogs pulling on tug lines attached to a central gangline. Trappers in deep snow conditions using the toboggan will hitch their dogs in single file with traces on either side of the line of dogs. Dog teams of some Arctic natives are run in "fan hitch", each dog having its own tow line tied directly to the sled.

Driving sled dogs has become a popular winter recreation and sport in North America and Europe; sled dogs are now found even in such unlikely places as Germany and Japan.

Sled dog breeds

According to Dogs In Britain, A Description of All Native Breeds and Most Foreign Breeds in Britain by Clifford LB Hubbard (1948) there were ten distinct husky breeds differentiated by region, height/weight and colour: Husky proper (Eskimo/Esquimaux Dog), the Alaskan Malamute, the Toganee, the Mackenzie River Dog, the Timber-Wolf Dog, the West Greenland Husky, the East Greenland Husky, the Baffinland Husky, the Chuchi (recognised by the American Kennel Club as the Siberian Husky), and the Ostiak. Clifford wrote that Hudson Bay traders, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, lumber-jacks, doctors, priests and others generally used what the Indians called white dogs (crossbred dogs) that were half Husky and half Hound, Great Dane or Newfoundland.

The Toganee and Mackenzie River Dogs were closely related to the true Husky and sometimes interbred. The Toganee had longer legs while the Mackenzie River Dog had a longer coat. The Timber-Wolf Dog of the Yukon basin was a first-cross between the true Husky and the timber-wolf and used as a leader or "king" dog. The Baffinland Husky differed from the true Husky in having a black coat with white markings. The West Greenland Husky and the slightly smaller East Greenland Husky both had timber-wolf blood and were sometimes crossed with the Baffinland Husky. The East Greenland Husky (also called the Angmagssalik Husky) was considered the oldest and least diluted type. The comparatively small Ostiak or West Siberian Husky was used not only for sled hauling but also in hunting elk, bear and wolf. The tenth recognised type was the Chuchi (Siberian Husky) first imported into Alaska in 1909.

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