The longest dog sled race in the world is the Alaska-based “Iditarod”, with an official start in Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska and further launch a day later in Wasilla 30km away to the more than 1800 km distant Nome on the Bering Sea.
Through a diphtheria epidemic that broke out in 1925, the much-needed vaccine serum was first taken by rail to Nenana near Fairbanks, 680 km away, and then transported to Nome via dangerous dog lane sections in just five and a half days with 20 dogsled teams. On the first Saturday in March, the Iditarod race starts and the first mushers, as the dog sled drivers are called, are expected after 10-12 days in Nome. However, the current course of events is largely deviating from the historical course of 1925.
The most famous dog sled race is the “Yukon Quest”. In the story, the idea for the race arose in 1976 during a conversation in a bar between a historian and a musher that was to be held in memory of prospectors, adventurers, postmen, and trappers. Almost 10 years later, the project was revisited in 1983. This time around by other men, the idea matured again and the Yukon Quest dog sled race started in 1984 for the first time with a launch in Whitehorse in Canada to Fairbanks in Alaska. The race takes place every year since then, with changing start. In even years, the Yukon Quest leads from Fairbanks to Whitehorse, and in odd years the mushers start in Whitehorse to reach Fairbanks.
A musher is a sled dog team leader, who is usually not only at the back of the sled, but also runs if necessary and trains and guides his dogs. In larger teams, there are usually several lead dogs, so-called lead dogs, who help to jump in an emergency. It is interesting that only one lead dog listens to the commands. For guest-mushers dogs usually only listen to simple instructions like “go” or “stop”. In contrast, the dogs and especially the lead dog respond to all special commands (such as cornering and turning applications) mostly only on the instructions of masters or mistresses, the “human lead wolf, as there is a long-lasting relationship between guide dogs and mushers.
Through months or years of cooperation, a kind of sixth sense often develops. If the “chemistry” between musher and leader dog is not right, it can not work even after years of collaboration, while working well with another musher with the same animal. However, not every animal is born as a lead dog. Leithunde is strong-willed, smart and fast. Immediately behind the lead dog in the 2nd row then run the point dogs, further in the team run the Swingdogs, Team dogs, and the Wheeldon.
Traveling through the wilderness like the trappers
A paradise for mushers and popular tourist destination is in northwestern Canada’s Yukon and adjacent Alaska. Dog sledding through Canada or Alaska takes you back to the days of gold diggers and adventurers.
During a tour, tourists often come across frozen streams, silent forests and sparkling lakes, as well as majestic mountain ranges. After a briefing, you can lead your own experienced dog team on old paths, trapper paths or developed trails. In the evening you often expect a cozy Arctic tent with wooden floor and wood-burning stove during a multi-day guided tour. In the quiet winter night, you can discover the dreamy Canadian winter world under the majestic northern lights.