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Where'd That Dog Come From?

In the last century, different types of dogs have been used for sled racing. The first sled dogs were the result of cross-breeding with wolves. They had lots of stamina, but their wild instincts remained strong, making them hard to control. Purebred dogs, such as Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies, have also been popular.  While mushers continue to use all sorts of dogs (a team of standard poodles has competed in four Iditarods), nowadays, the most popular sled dog is the Alaskan Huskies. Alaskan Huskies are “mutts,” created from cross-breeding, and bred specifically for performance. Weighing about fifty-five pounds, they’re smaller than other breeds and are known for their strength and love of pulling.

Do Mushers Mush?

Every wonder where the word “Mush!” came from? Or why someone who drives a sled dog team is called a “musher?” The origin of the word “musher” comes from the French word “marcher” (mar-SHAY), which means “to go forward.” Because drivers did this – they went forward, even using the word to urge their team on– they were called “mushers.” But nowadays few mushers use the command “Mush!” to get their dogs moving. They’re more likely to yell “hike!” or “let’s go!” … or any other command they feel like.

Super Freight Dogs

Sled dogs are known for their strength and endurance.In December, 1911, during the Alaskan Gold Rush, four dog teams hauled 2,600 pounds of gold out of the wilderness. And in December, 1916, a mere forty-six dogs hauled out 3,400 pounds of gold. But in the 1960s sled dogs hauled one of their largest loads ever. Yup’ik Eskimos on Nelson Island needed to move some houses that were threatened by rising waters. While they did use mechanical equipment, they also used a team of one hundred sled dogs to move the houses more than twenty miles!

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