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The State sport of dog mushing was adopted in 1972. Northern people have used dogs to pull sleds for centuries; once a primary form of transportation in many parts of Alaska. From this tradition came sled dog racing. Today it is a worldwide sport for both professional competition and family recreation. The most notable of Dog mushing events is the annual run of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race from Anchorage to Nome. People come from around the world to participate in Alaska's yearly Iditarod - "The last great race." To find out more information on this and other dog sled races, check out the Iditarod Trail.
Dog Mushing is dog-powered transportation. Mushing is the general term that is used when one or more dogs pull a rig. The word Mush comes from the French verb Marcher which means to march. A Musher is the person who controls the dogs. The term Dog Sledding can replace Dog Mushing when the rig that is being pulled is a snow sled.
Sled Dogs are positioned in a Dog Team in order to pull a sled or a rig. A team can be as few as one dog to as many as 20, 30 or even 50 dogs. At SP Kennel, dog team size is often between 8 and 12 dogs. The more dogs, the more power and strength a team will have. Often the dogs are positioned in front of the sled in pairs. Each dog is fitted with a Harness. Attached to this harness is a leash called a Tug Line because they are tugging the sled with it. All tug lines attach to a Main Line that attaches directly to the sled. The Musher is at the rear of the team and rides the cart or sled.
There are no reins to steer a dog team. In order to steer, there is one or more Lead Dog at the front of the team that understands vocal direction commands given by the musher. The dogs behind the Lead Dog are called Team Dogs. The dogs one position in front of the sled are called Wheel Dogs.
Dog mushing can be;a Hobby, a Job or a Sport.
Dog mushing is a Hobby for many people around the world. In the United States, there are dog teams all across North American from Boston to Los Angeles. Mushing can be a fun and educational experience for parents, children and the family pet. People who love dogs and exploring the outdoors will find great enjoyment in dog mushing.
Dog mushing can also be a form of Work. Dog teams and mushers work to haul cargo, sleds full of fuel, firewood and supplies. Dog teams are used as a serious mode of transportation in some parts of the arctic.
Prior to the formation of sled dog racing as a formal sport, sled dogs were bred and used by native peoples of the polar regions of the world in their everyday lives for survival in harsh climates. Two dogs commonly employed in sledding are Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies. These two breeds had quite different origins and uses. Alaskan Malamutes originated with a group of Eskimo people known as the Mahlemiut. The dogs of that time were very large freighting dogs, capable of pulling heavy weight. The Mahlemiut people inhabited the region in the upper part of the Anvik River in Alaska, and were spread out over a large area. The Mahlemiut people used these dogs for hauling food back to the villages. The gold rush in 1896 created a high demand for these dogs. On the other hand, Siberian Huskies originated with the Chuckchi people of northeastern Siberia. These people had a Stone Age culture and used their dogs for a variety of things, like herding reindeer and pulling loads. These dogs were smaller and faster than their Mahlemiut counterparts. These dogs were exported to Alaska at around the time of the gold rush. Thus the gold rush played a very important role in the development of our modern day sled dog breeds.
The law designating the Dog mushing as the official Alaska state sport is found in the 2015 Alaska Statutes, specifically Title 44 (State Government), Chapter 09 (State Seal, Flag, and Emblems), Section 085
TITLE 44. STATE GOVERNMENT
Chapter 44.09 STATE SEAL, FLAG, AND EMBLEMS
Sec. 44.09.085. State sport.
Dog mushing is the official sport of Alaska.
HISTORY: (Sec. 1 ch 38 SLA 1972)