Dog sleds date back thousands of years. Arctic natives have long used dogs for hunting, companionship, and transportation. Nonnative settlers also adopted dog sleds as a way to get around. Beginning in the 1800s, dog-sled teams were delivering mail to rural settlements in the North American Arctic.
The first formal record of a dog-sled race was in 1908. Participants in the All-Alaska Sweepstakes raced 408 miles, from Nome, Alaska, to Candle and back.
In 1925 came a major event in dog-sledding history. Bad weather had kept planes from landing in far-northern Nome. A relay of 22 dog-sled teams rushed medicine 674 miles from Nenana in 27 hours.
The annual Iditarod race, started in 1973, commemorates this event. The race begins the first weekend in March. It takes from 10 days to three weeks for about 60 teams (each with from 12 to 18 dogs) to run the 1,049 miles from Anchorage to Nome. Most sled dogs are at least part Alaskan husky. Alaskan huskies are well suited to run fast over long distances in cold weather.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society