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5 Fascinating Sled Dog Facts

There’s nothing that quite matches the unforgettable experience of dog sledding. Otherwise known as ‘mushing’, the truly enchanting tradition has been going strong for thousands of years. It’s still enjoyed today by locals and tourists alike.

It’s fun, it’s exhilarating and it’s something you will remember forever. But what about the hero of this tradition? The sled dogs.

Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies are generally the breeds used for sledding. How much do we all really know about these impressive animals? Read on to discover 5 fascinating facts about sled dogs…

1. Dog sledding has been around for 4,000 years

Dog sledding dates back as early as 2000 B.C, originating in Siberia as a way of travelling across the icy landscapes. American Indian tribes used dogs to pull loads across the otherwise untravellable land.

The practice became a form of human transport in Alaska during the Nome Gold Rush in the late 1800s. Nome’s beaches were found to be home to an abundance of gold and, due to the lack of a harbour, the easiest and quickest way of reaching it was by dog sled.

4 millennia later, visitors to the Scandinavia can still take part in the exciting tradition with a snowmobile safari and 10 km dog sled ride.

2. Sled dogs consume up to 10,000 calories a day

Depending on their size and exercise levels, domestic dogs need up to 1,700 calories a day. Not sled dogs. These incomparable beasts eat a specific diet during sledding season. The bulk of their intake comes from raw meat, with mushers sometimes adding lard or fat in the colder months.

During the off-season, sled dogs need just 800-1200 calories a day, generally living off kibble. However, during runs, mushers need to have an adequate supply of food and water, keeping the dogs well-fed and hydrated to help them to run quickly and smoothly.

Get up-close and personal with the beautiful animals, learning about their work and even get a chance to feed them yourself on Scandi Classics’ summer husky safari.

3. Balto, a sled dog, helped to save the people of Nome

In January 1925, an outbreak of diphtheria affected masses of people in Nome, Alaska. The highly contagious disease damages the throat and lungs and can be deadly. The only hope to save the villagers was a serum that was almost 700 miles away in Anchorage.

At the time, blizzards meant that no pilots could fly the antidote over to Nome. So, musher Gunnar Kaasen and his sled dog team, led by Balto, formed part of the sledding team that travelled the treacherous journey to deliver the serum.

Despite not being an experienced sled dog and not being viewed as a good leader, Balto pushed ahead through gale-force winds, almost zero visibility and the roaring blizzard. The serum was successfully delivered, saving the people of Nome.

4. There are 4 dog sledding positions in a team

Sled dog teams aren’t simply the strongest animals thrown together. The dogs are chosen dependent on their skills and agility. Each sled team has one or two lead dogs, who are fast, intelligent and set the pace for the rest of the team. Directly behind the leads are the swing dogs, who help to control the direction of the sled.

The largest and strongest dogs in the team tend to be wheel dogs. They stay right at the back of the team and their job is to pull the sled out if it gets stuck in the snow. Every other dog in the team are simply team dogs who form the bulk of the pulling power.

See the impressive pulling power for yourself on a husky excursion through magnificent Lapland.

5. Sled dogs respond to voice commands

Sled dogs and their mushers hold a very close bond. They put their faith and trust in one another each time they embark on a new journey. Dogs need to be highly intelligent, well trained and responsive for the safety and comfort of the whole team. Mushers have their own commands to tell the dogs where and when to go…

  • Gee – Turn right
  • Haw – Turn left
  • Line out – The lead dog must pull the team out straight from the sled
  • Trail – Warns oncoming teams or mushers to get out of the way
  • Whoa – Stop
  • A husky safari day, will give you the opportunity to learn how to ride dog sleds and get to know the huskies pulling you on your way.

    Make the most of your experience

    At Scandi Classics, we know how stressful planning and organising the holiday of a lifetime can be. You want everything to be perfect and so do we. Let us take control of your planning with a pre-booked tour to the most exciting parts of the world.

    Enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience riding along the stunning snowy landscapes on a husky sled with Scandi Classics.

    Any questions? Be sure to get in touch with us today to find out more or to start planning the trip of a lifetime.

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