The first one or 2 dogs of a team are the leaders and guide the team. They are controlled by voice commands from the driver who either rides the rear of the sled or walks ahead or behind. Early French Canadian drivers called "Marche!" to spur their teams. This was misinterpreted by English explorers as "mush" - henceforth drivers were called "mushers."
Sleds vary with the people who make them and the snow conditions. In the Arctic the Inuit developed the heavy "komatik" designed to carry loads over rough terrain. Farther south, natives made the flat-bottomed TOBOGGAN to haul loads through deep snow. Europeans modified these designs and developed the basket sled with its load raised off the snow and supported by 2 narrow runners for hauling over packed trails.
Although the SNOWMOBILE ("mechanical dog" in Inuktitut) has replaced the dog team in many ways, dog sledding has become a popular winter sport enjoyed by sled dog enthusiasts. Races are held across Canada, usually in association with winter carnivals. The sport helps preserve many breeds of northern working dog.
Author DON H. MEREDITH
Links to Other Sites
The Origin of Dogsled Mail
Explore the fascinating history of dogsled mail in the Yukon. From the Canadian Museum of Civilization website.
Canadian Eskimo Dog Association of Canada
This website is dedicated to the history, care, and raising of the Canadian Eskimo Dog breed.
Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run
This site traces the route of the Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run and offers photos of sled dog teams.
The website for the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. Features musher profiles, a photo gallery, race news and interesting educational resources.