Archive for June, 2010

Togo: A Sled Dog for the Ages

Togo: A Sled Dog of the Ages

Lead Dog RevengeLast week on the Dog Sledding Examiner we profiled probably the most popular sled dog in history, Balto. There have been movies made about him and stories that every musher has heard countless times, but this week is the history of another great sled dog; Leonhard Seppala’s Togo.

The story of Togo begins twenty-five years earlier when a Norwegian man named Leonhard Seppala came to Nome in 1900 from a fishing village north of the Arctic Circle. In Nome Leonhard entered the old ways of dog mushers and used this old Eskimo art to deliver mail and freight in the remote Alaskan wilderness.

Leonhard began to specialize in Siberian Huskies. Smaller than the Alaskan dogs, they proved to be spirited pullers with the endurance to match and tough feet. In the years 1915 through 1917 Leonard and his teams of Siberian Huskies astonished the mushing world by winning the All Alaskan Sweepstakes race three years in a row.

It was about this time that a skinny, mischievous pup named Togo worked himself into Leonhard’s life. Seppala tried to sell Togo twice as he doubted the pup’s potential. Each time Togo proved to be quite the escape artist and returned to Seppala’s kennels. At eight months of age Togo freed himself to chase after Seppala’s dog sled team, chase them up a trail and caught up to them easily.

Seppala had to bring the young dog along if only to keep an eye on him. By the end of the day Togo had proven himself and had earned a place hooked next to the lead dog, a position he held for 75 miles. By the time of the diphtheria epidemic in 1925, Togo was twelve years old and had been Seppala’s lead dog for many years.

In January of 1925, a diphtheria epidemic broke out in the isolated town of Nome, Alaska. There was a minimal amount of serum available, and the diphtheria outbreak showed no signs of lessening it grip on the town. Dr. Curtis Welsh, Nome physician radioed for help.

In 1925 Alaska had no way to connect with the interior and the cold and weather would freeze airplane motors solid. The only way to get supplies from Anchorage to the town of Nome, (then about 1,700 population) was to ship the serum to Nenana, the last rail head in Alaska. The only way to get the precious, life saving serum to the interior was by an ancient mode of travel – dog power!

Leonhard Seppala and all the dog team drivers stepped forward. They had the experience, the dogs were fit and ready and they did it to save the town. Little did they know that their efforts would capture the hearts and minds of a nation and earn national prominence for themselves and their teams.

It was decided that the only fast way to make the six hundred and seventy-four mile run was by relay teams. Twenty top teams would be involved in the relay, including Eskimo and Athabascan Indian mushers as well as U.S. mail carriers. Leonhard Seppala and his team lead by Togo, would take the first sled out of Nenana.

Once the shipment of serum arrived in Nenana, a musher named Wild Bill Shannon, grabbed the package, wrapped it in furs and he and his team of Malamutes made their way down the Tanana River. The temperature was 50 degrees below zero.

Meanwhile, Nome’s best musher, Leonhard Seppala would travel eastward behind a string of his 20 Siberian Huskies, with Togo in the lead, to meet Wild Bill Shannon and the serum. Balto and a few other dogs were left behind at an outpost called Bluff to provide Seppala with fresh pullers on his return trip. Then Togo led the remaining dogs onto the treacherous ice of Norton Sound, driving for Unalakleet.

After Seppala had covered 150 miles, 43 of which were jagged ice, he met Wild Bill Shannon and the serum. Seppala picked it up then spun around. By this time, a blizzard had struck and was pushing water onto the Norton Sound ice, causing it to break up into floes. The fastest way to Nome was back the way he had come — over Norton Sound.

Sometimes Seppala could barely see Togo picking a path through the white mists, but he had to trust the dog’s judgment. In places, the route they had previously used had vanished. They glided within mere feet of frigid waves. Seppala gambled his life, the lives of his team and the fate of Nome, that Togo would lead them to safety. They made 43 miles after picking up the serum, rested and then, once more, moved on.

By the time they reached Bluff and the relief dogs, Seppala and Togo had covered an amazing two hundred and sixty miles. The second-longest stretch in the relay effort was the final 55 miles from Bluff to Nome by Kaasen and the borrowed Balto. Even this was not easy going.

There was an eighty-mile an hour blizzard with only Balto’s keen nose lowered to the ground to keep the scent of the trail and keep the precious cargo on track.

The serum was delivered to Dr. Curtis Welsh’s doorstep at 5:30 a.m. – just 5 days traveling time and only seven days after it had left Nenana. The race for life had been won. The town of Nome would survive.

Of the twenty mushers who rushed the serum from Nenana to Nome, 674 miles away, the man who drove the furthest in perilous conditions was Alaska’s great sled dog racer Leonhard Seppala. And the dog that led Seppala’s team on a loop of two hundred and sixty miles, including a long stretch over the fracturing ice of Norton Sound was the same dog with an impressive record of race victories over the previous decade — a small, feisty Siberian Husky named Togo, the real hero of the serum run. It wore Togo out and he was unable to race much after that.

After the Great Race of Mercy:

Years later, after adding to his string of race victories from Alaska to New England, and building a firm lineage of Siberian Huskies in America, Seppala retired to Seattle.

Togo lived until December 5, 1929, four years after the Serum Run, his most athletic endeavor, behind him. Togo sired multiple litters before dying in honorable old age. (It is not known exactly if Togo was whelped in 1915 or 1916, as he was not registered.)

Leonard Seppala died in 1967, at the age of 90, and is buried in Nome, the original start of the Great Race of Mercy. In 1973 Nome became the starting point of the Iditarod Race.

Togo’s legacy continues to spread. Compared to Balto, his fame may be slight but his progeny are legion. Many modern trainers of Siberian Huskies trace the lineage of their dogs back to Togo. There are no progeny of Balto due to the fact that he was neutered as a puppy.

Today, the Iditarod Race is held in memory and honor of the Great Race of Mercy in January 1925. Together, without benefit of on-lookers or cameras, in dangerous weather and conditions, Seppala and Togo, earned their right to be called true heroes and raced their way into a history that has, until now, overlooked their part in it.

Citation: http://www.turtlezen.com/togosleddog.html

________________

Dr. Robert Forto is the dog sledding examiner, a musher training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner and the host of the Mush! You Huskies radio show.

Exploration, Hunting and Trapping

Exploration, Hunting, and Trapping

Lead Dog RevengeChange comes slowly to the frozen North.  Harnesses were unknown in Alaska until the advent of the white man.  Captain Cook and his expedition of 1778 found the Eskimo dogs pulling sleds by the same leather thong around the neck that their predecessors had used thousands of years before.

The early explorers of the arctic region were required to learn “sledging” quickly; after all, falling below the learning curve in the northern environment often resulted in death.  These early explorers, along with hunters and trappers, were the first European mushers.  These men quickly discovered that the best way to traverse the arctic regions was the way the natives had traveled for centuries, by dog sled.

There is little doubt that the first modern contact of white men with native dog teams occurred during the sixteenth century, when explorers from European Russia forged east into Siberia.  These men traded with the friendly Samoyed tribes throughout the latter sixteenth century.  The exploration in the next two centuries brought the Europeans into contact with the less friendly tribes of Chukchi, as the explorers attempted to determine if their continent was connected to North America.

In 1820, Ferdinand vonWrangell, a Russian naval explorer, began the series of trips utilizing dog teams which ultimately proved that Asia and North America were indeed separate continents.  Before leaving the arctic vonWrangell decided on a final sledging trip.  It was nearly his last.  His group was traveling on solid ice an astounding seventy miles from shore, when a gale ruptured the ice they were traveling on.  The ice began to separate from the mainland, creating ever-widening lanes of black, icy water.  A frantic race for the shore ensued.  vonWrangell’s team persevered and won the race of survival, a feat that he attributed to the speed of his dogs, as well as, their ability to swim across the frigid leads of water.

Other voyagers were not as fortunate as vonWrangell.  Ill-fated expeditions were often ignorant of the natives’ survival techniques, and thus paid the ultimate price.  The 1845 Franklin Expedition was to be one of the ill fated, and arguably one of the most famous arctic disasters of all.

Twenty years earlier, Sir John Franklin had mapped hundreds of miles of the American arctic coastline by sea.  The British Admiralty again called on Franklin’s services and appointed him to sail again to search for the elusive Northwest Passage.  In September of 1845, Franklin’s ships were caught in the ice, and there they stayed.  After three winters, twenty-four men had perished, including Commander Sir John Franklin.  The remaining men began what was to be a death march into oblivion.  According to Coppinger, Lady Jane Franklin organized, and paid for “voyage after voyage to the Arctic, first to rescue her husband, then, despairingly, to learn of his fate.”

During the next thirty-four years there were an astounding forty-one excursions into the far north; all sponsored by Lady Jane in an attempt to wring the secret of her husband’s fate from the icy grip of the arctic.  Her due diligence was finally rewarded in

1859 when Leopold McClintock delivered precise information about the fate of her husband, and his crew. Coppinger writes the following about McClintock in The World of Sled Dogs:

“A careful observer of the Eskimo, McClintock is remembered as the master of arctic sledging, for he worked out detailed techniques which are still used by arctic explorers and scientists.  These tech-niques included the meticulous weighing of every single piece of equipment and calculating as closely as possible the amounts of supplies that would be needed.  In the autumn prior to the spring sledging trip he would cache food and equipment along the planned route so that in spring long distances could be covered with much lighter loads.”

The explorers of the icy regions of this planet began to depend more and more on the art of sledging to reach the North and South Poles.  When the brave men finally reached the poles, their courageous dog teams aided them.  These journeys to the very ends of the earth will be explored in more depth later in another article.

The explorers may have explored for purely scientific reasons, but their financiers were often more interested in potential profits than in any scientific discoveries.  The early explorers located and documented an abundant source of wildlife.  The hunters and trappers quickly followed the explorers’ footsteps, with the hope of striking it rich in the fur trade.

Traders that belonged to the Hudson Bay Company adopted native systems of travel.  These traders became very adept at using dog sleds in the winter, and canoes in the summer.  By the 1840’s most traders were traveling by long birch-bark toboggans that were better suited for the soft, deep snows of the forests.  These sledges were often pulled by four dogs, and were in those days referred to as “dog trains”.  More than one “dog train” traveling together was referred to as a “dog brigade”.

A “ dog brigade” in the 1880’s was, by all accounts, a “sight to see”.  The dog driver was often clothed in beaded moccasins, leggings and mittens, a colored sash about his waist, and his head was adorned with a brightly colored, knitted cap. His colorful arrival was heralded in advance by the singing of brass bells that were attached to the harnesses of the dogs.

_________________

Dr. Robert Forto is the dog sledding examiner, a musher training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner and the host of the Mush! You Huskies radio show.

Arthur Walden on Mush! You Huskies

Arthur Walden
By Robert Forto, PhD

The summer season of the Dog Works Radio Show: Mush! You Huskies with stories of the Dog Sledding Legends of yesterday and today continues. On today’s show we talk about dog sledding legend, Arthur Walden.

Listen to the show now: Arthur Walden on Mush! You Huskies

When sled dog racing started to catch on as a winter sport in New England and Canada, the speedy little Siberian dogs with the great endurance had not yet been introduced outside of Alaska. These crossbred dogs still held the inside track. Arthur Walden and Emile St. Godard won many races in New England and Canada during the 1920’s; Walden’s dogs were the big golden Chinooks, a freighting dog, and St. Godard’s were hound-husky crosses, bred for speed.

For his part in the promotion of the sport in New England, Arthur Walden held the inevitable title, “Father of New England Sled Dog Racing.” For nearly twenty years he traveled all over the Northeast, including Canada, driving his teams in races and exhibitions, at schools and fairs. For much of that time his famous dog, Chinook, was on lead, and was a welcome companion at ball games, lectures, and promotional visits. With a breeding program that included not selling any dog that could not reproduce to Walden’s standards, he developed his unique dogs and sold them as sled dogs and pets.

In 1928, Walden, age fifty-six, and with his special breed of sled dog, ventured from New Hampshire and his New England Sled Dog Club, from the races and the farm where he taught dog driving, and joined Admiral Byrd’s Antarctic Expedition. His position was that of dog handler, his chief assistant was his faithful lead dog, Chinook. Chinook did not make it back to New England from his trip to Antarctica and the Manchester (New Hampshire) Union Leader newspaper carried a tribute story to this fine sled dog on January 24, 1929.

Walden returned to New Hampshire and remained a popular speaker on sled dogs. His life touched all the aspects, from dog punching to racing, from kennel manager to explorer. He brought the spirit of the gold rush dog team from Alaska and he instigated sport races a continent away from their original home.

Walden lived to be ninety-one years old, straddling the animated decades from the 1870’s into the 1960’s. Without Arthur Walden, the lore and the lure of the sled dog would be much less than it is.

__________________

Dr. Robert Forto is the Dog Sledding Examiner and the co-host of Mush! You Huskies radio show. Dr. Forto is training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner.

Odd and Interesting Facts about Dogs!

Odd and Interesting Facts About Dogs!

By Al Magaw

  • It is a myth that dogs are color blind. They can actually see in color, just not as vividly as humans. It is akin to our vision at dusk.
  • Dogs DO have better low-light vision than humans because of a special light-reflecting layer behind their retinas.
  • Like human babies, Chihuahuas are born with a soft spot in their skull which closes with age.
  • The breed Lundehune has 6 toes and can close its ears
  • Franklin Roosevelt spent $15,000 for a destroyer to pick up his Scottie in the Aleutian Islands
  • In Roman times, mastiffs donned light armor and were sent after mounted knights
  • The Russians trained dogs during WWII to run suicide missions with mines strapped to their backs
  • A one year old dog is as mature, physically, as a 15 year old human
  • In 2002 alone, more people in the U.S. were killed by dogs than by sharks in the past 100 years
  • Three dogs survived the sinking of the Titanic – a Newfoundland, a Pomeranian, and a Pekingese
    An estimated 1,000,000 dogs in the U.S. have been named as the primary beneficiaries in their owner’s will
  • Dog’s nose prints are as unique as a human’s finger prints and can be used to accurately identify them
  • Humans have kept dogs as pets for over 12,000 years
  • Only dogs and humans have prostates
  • Every dog on earth likely descended from a species knows as the Tomarctus – a creature that roamed the earth over 15 million years ago

Race Profile: Race to the Sky

Race to the Sky

One of the biggest races in the lower-48 for dog mushers is Montana’s Race to the Sky. The 350-mile race can be used for one of the three qualifying races for the Iditarod and many of the mushers living down here utilize it as such. The Race to the Sky race has been ran (and won) by some of the greatest mushers of our time and the race’s legacy continues to build. Below you will find some information on this great race or you can visit the website at Race to the Sky.

About Race to the Sky

Montana’s premier winter sporting event is the Race to the Sky. Celebrating our twenty-fifth year, we are recognized as one of the most challenging and beautiful sled dog races in the world. It is an unusual test of physical power, mental toughness, teamwork, and the special bond between man and animal. Working together, they negotiate the trail through Montana’s scenic Rocky Mountains.

Montana Sled Dog, Inc. (the nonprofit parent corporation of Race to the Sky) is a private, non-profit 501(c)3 corporation managed by a volunteer board of directors. Donations are tax deductible as charitable contributions. We are committed to preserving, commemorating, and documenting the historical and traditional use of sled dogs in Montana by offering a 350 mile dogsled race and educational opportunities.

Each year, we draw a growing audience of mushers, volunteers, journalists, photographers, filmmakers, and thousands of spectators.

Race Coverage

ESPN Sports, CNN, NBC Today Show, NBC Nightly News, TNN Country Today, New York Times, USA Today, Country Magazine, Men’s Journal, Horizon Magazine, Mobil Travel Guide, Friendly Exchange, FX Breakfast Time, High Plains News, Headline News, Montana Living Magazine, Montana Motorist AAA, Heartland, Winter Recreation & Travel, Great Sports Vacations, Calgary Sun, Aruba News, Montana Magazine, Outside Magazine, Snow Country, Rocky Mountain Sports, Country Sampler West, Sunset Magazine, CBS, NBC, and ABC Television Stations, all the major Montana newspapers and radio stations, and many Associated Press affiliates have covered Race to the Sky over the years. We are listed in the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, too.

What We Have to Offer

Our event brings a special image to mind to the people who hear about us:

* We commemorate the part that dogs played during World War II by starting our race at Camp Rimini War Dog Training and Reception Center each February. The dog mushing camp just outside Helena was used to train sled dogs for war and eventually became a search and rescue training camp. We celebrate the canines for their part in defending our country.

* Montana still possesses 350 miles of uninterrupted pristine multiple use trails and wide-open spaces. We have a healthy respect for these trails.

* Montana possesses unsurpassed natural beauty in its mountains, valleys, water, and wildlife which are easily accessible.

* Dog mushing is a clean and environmentally friendly sport. Dog mushing is quiet, and peaceful. A running dog is a happy dog. Sled dogs, for centuries, have been assisting man with basic transportation and doing what they love to do—run.

* The race provides an opportunity to witness the magical bond between humans and dogs, seeing them work together as a team to meet the special challenges that only this race brings.

* Our friendliness and get-the-job-done attitude allows Montanans to meet the special challenge of hosting a 350 mile continuous endurance dog race. Our efforts are made primarily by hard-working volunteers—no high administration costs.

* We have successfully conveyed our message “Race to the Sky: A Natural High” to Montana students. This motto is presented through school visits, an educational booklet and materials, traveling trunks, and musher symposiums. What better image to build into our children’s future?

* The race builds community by drawing people from all ages and backgrounds to work toward a common goal. We have a positive influence on Montana’s economy while bringing teams, spectators, and volunteers from the U.S. and Canada to see the race.

* Winter can be a slower time of year causing people to become more isolated. We encourage volunteers to get involved and take pride in their event. Race to the Sky actively promotes a healthy, holistic lifestyle.

* We have a proven track record—24 years strong and growing. Race to the Sky is a premier winter event in Montana and with our popularity already in place, partnering with us is a great way to gain visibility. There is positive name recognition with our premier winter event. Children love dogs, parents love the family atmosphere, and sponsors maximize their advertising dollars at the same time gaining a sense of community.

Citation: http://www.racetothesky.org

Balto the Sled Dog

Balto the Sled Dog

We mushers all have had a lead dog (or two, or three) that was of exceptional status on our teams. Many stories can be told how these dogs “saved the day”. Many movies and books have been written and shown of these courageous dogs with tremendous will and might. Many dog sledding fans know more about a musher’s lead dog than they do the (human) driver him/herself. The lead dog is often portrayed as the quarterback of the team. The one that all the other dogs listen to.

There is one dog that is probably the most widely known lead dog in the world. His name is Balto. There an animated movie about him (pretty good I might add) and he even has a statute in New York’s Central Park.

Let’s learn a bit about this famous sled dog: Balto
Balto (c.1919-14 March 1933) was a Siberian Husky sled dog who led his team on the final leg of the 1925 serum run to Nome, in which diphtheria antitoxin was transported from Anchorage, Alaska to Nenana, Alaska by train and then to Nome by dog sled to combat an outbreak of the disease. The run is commemorated by the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Balto was named after the Sami explorer Samuel Balto.

1925 serum run

In January 1925, doctors realized that a potentially deadly diphtheria epidemic was poised to sweep through Nome’s young people. The only serum that could stop the outbreak was in Anchorage, nearly a thousand miles (1,600 km) away. The only aircraft that could quickly deliver the medicine was taken out of winter storage, but its engine was frozen and would not start. After considering all of the alternatives, officials decided to move the medicine by sled dog. The serum was transported by train from Anchorage to Nenana, where the first musher embarked as part of a relay aimed at delivering the needed serum to Nome. More than 20 mushers took part, facing a blizzard with −23 °F temperatures and strong winds. Katie Pryor interviewed the musher after he had finished. News coverage of the race was worldwide.
On February 2, 1925, the Norwegian Gunnar Kaasen drove his team, led by Balto, into Nome. The longest and most hazardous stretch of the run was actually covered by another Norwegian, Leonhard Seppala and his dog team, led by Togo. They came from Nome towards the end of the run and picked up the serum from musher Henry Ivanoff. The serum was later passed to Kaasen. Balto proved himself on the Iditarod trail, saving his team in the Topkok River. Balto was also able to stay on the trail in near whiteout conditions; Kaasen stated he could barely see his hand in front of his face. During a blizzard, Kaasen and his team missed the last sled dog team and had to take the medicine twice as far. At Nome, everybody wanted to thank Kaasen at first. He suggested giving fame to Balto as well.
Togo was the star dog for Leonhard Seppala even before the great 1925 Serum Run. Instead of celebrating the triumph together as one huge team, many became jealous of the publicity Balto received, especially from President Calvin Coolidge and the press. Seppala favored Togo, but the general public loved the story behind Balto, and so they would take a far different path after the celebrations were over. Balto was not welcomed at the ceremony in New York in which Seppala and Togo received awards from the explorer Roald Amundsen.

Citation: Wikipedia
__________________
Dr. Robert Forto is the dog sledding examiner, a musher training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner and the host of the Mush! You Huskies radio show.

Europeans Learn Mushing

Europeans Learn Mushing

Lead Dog Revenge“Mush” has been used for at least one hundred fifty years, but the phrase “dog musher” is quite recent.  Up until the first part of the twentieth century a dog musher was known as a “dog driver” or a “dog puncher.”  To him “mush” meant to move out, but the old sourdoughs often meant it to mean to travel by walking or snowshoeing.  Going from village to village on foot was referred to as “mushing.”  Travel by dog team was called “sledding”, “sledging” or “dog sledding”.  More recently it has been referred to as “dog mushing.”

Exploration, Hunting, and Trapping

Change comes slowly to the frozen North.  Harnesses were unknown in Alaska until the advent of the white man.  Captain Cook and his expedition of 1778 found the Eskimo dogs pulling sleds by the same leather thong around the neck that their predecessors had used thousands of years before.

The early explorers of the arctic region were required to learn “sledging” quickly; after all, falling below the learning curve in the northern environment often resulted in death.  These early explorers, along with hunters and trappers, were the first European mushers.  These men quickly discovered that the best way to traverse the arctic regions was the way the natives had traveled for centuries, by dog sled.

There is little doubt that the first modern contact of white men with native dog teams occurred during the sixteenth century, when explorers from European Russia forged east into Siberia.  These men traded with the friendly Samoyed tribes throughout the latter sixteenth century.  The exploration in the next two centuries brought the Europeans into contact with the less friendly tribes of Chukchi, as the explorers attempted to determine if their continent was connected to North America.

In 1820, Ferdinand vonWrangell, a Russian naval explorer, began the series of trips utilizing dog teams which ultimately proved that Asia and North America were indeed separate continents.  Before leaving the arctic vonWrangell decided on a final sledging trip.  It was nearly his last.  His group was traveling on solid ice an astounding seventy miles from shore, when a gale ruptured the ice they were traveling on.  The ice began to separate from the mainland, creating ever-widening lanes of black, icy water.  A frantic race for the shore ensued.  vonWrangell’s team persevered and won the race of survival, a feat that he attributed to the speed of his dogs, as well as, their ability to swim across the frigid leads of water.

Other voyagers were not as fortunate as vonWrangell.  Ill-fated expeditions were often ignorant of the natives’ survival techniques, and thus paid the ultimate price.  The 1845 Franklin Expedition was to be one of the ill fated, and arguably one of the most famous arctic disasters of all.

Twenty years earlier, Sir John Franklin had mapped hundreds of miles of the American arctic coastline by sea.  The British Admiralty again called on Franklin’s services and appointed him to sail again to search for the elusive Northwest Passage.  In September of 1845, Franklin’s ships were caught in the ice, and there they stayed.  After three winters, twenty-four men had perished, including Commander Sir John Franklin.  The remaining men began what was to be a death march into oblivion.  According to Coppinger, Lady Jane Franklin organized, and paid for “voyage after voyage to the Arctic, first to rescue her husband, then, despairingly, to learn of his fate.”

During the next thirty-four years there were an astounding forty-one excursions into the far north; all sponsored by Lady Jane in an attempt to wring the secret of her husband’s fate from the icy grip of the arctic.  Her due diligence was finally rewarded in

1859 when Leopold McClintock delivered precise information about the fate of her husband, and his crew. Coppinger writes the following about McClintock in The World of Sled Dogs:

“A careful observer of the Eskimo, McClintock is remembered as the master of arctic sledging, for he worked out detailed techniques which are still used by arctic explorers and scientists.  These tech-niques included the meticulous weighing of every single piece of equipment and calculating as closely as possible the amounts of supplies that would be needed.  In the autumn prior to the spring sledging trip he would cache food and equipment along the planned route so that in spring long distances could be covered with much lighter loads.”

The explorers of the icy regions of this planet began to depend more and more on the art of sledging to reach the North and South Poles.  When the brave men finally reached the poles, their courageous dog teams aided them.  These journeys to the very ends of the earth will be explored in more depth later in a different article.

The explorers may have explored for purely scientific reasons, but their financiers were often more interested in potential profits than in any scientific discoveries.  The early explorers located and documented an abundant source of wildlife.  The hunters and trappers quickly followed the explorers’ footsteps, with the hope of striking it rich in the fur trade.

Traders that belonged to the Hudson Bay Company adopted native systems of travel.  These traders became very adept at using dog sleds in the winter, and canoes in the summer.  By the 1840’s most traders were traveling by long birch-bark toboggans that were better suited for the soft, deep snows of the forests.  These sledges were often pulled by four dogs, and were in those days referred to as “dog trains”.  More than one “dog train” traveling together was referred to as a “dog brigade”.

A “ dog brigade” in the 1880’s was, by all accounts, a “sight to see”.  The dog driver was often clothed in beaded moccasins, leggings and mittens, a colored sash about his waist, and his head was adorned with a brightly colored, knitted cap. His colorful arrival was heralded in advance by the singing of brass bells that were attached to the harnesses of the dogs.

_____________________

Dr. Robert Forto is the dog sledding examiner, a musher training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner and the host of the Mush! You Huskies Radio Show


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