History of Sled Dogs and Dog Sledding
To those of us that grew up in warmer climates, it may seem otherworldly but dogs have been used to pull sleds for a long time to travel and hunt in northern areas where there is too much ice and snow to travel any other way. The history of sled dogs goes back as far as the 10th century. Dog sledding was invented by the native and Inuit people in the northern parts of Canada, or what is now considered Canada. Per usual, it didn’t take long for colonists to jump on this and start using sled dogs as well for expeditions, transportation, and hunting.
While there are one-dog sleds, most of the time it involves a team of sled dogs and “mushers” put together a dog sled team much like coaches put together a football team.
There are lead dogs, point dogs, swing dogs, and wheel dogs. The pride and joy is the lead dog and mushers usually take much better care of these dogs as they’re much harder to replace. Their role is pretty self-explanatory – they are at the front of the pack and take the lead.
Wheel dogs’ “job” is to pull the sled out from the snow – so they’re the powerhouses.
Point dogs are behind the lead dogs and then swing dogs before the wheel dogs.
Over the history of sled dogs, one can easily describe what they look like as they are primarily always Siberian Huskies or Alaskan Malamutes. Both exhibit incredible strength, speed, endurance, and they have the perfect double-coats for the cold.
Over time, the two have been bred together to create Alaskan Huskies which are also popular sled dogs due to their endurance, speed, and dedication to running even when tired.
Occasionally, short-haired hounds are used for dog sledding as they are faster. They are considered harder to train to pull a sled because it is not in their nature.