The Siberian tribes were among the first mushers, followed by explorers and hunters, who moved to arctic latitudes and found that the best way to travel was by means of a dog and sled. In summer the dogs were used to carry heavy packs – equal to their own body weight. Dogs ate wild game that the driver killed whilst on trail.The word Husky is slang for Eskimo, a Northern tribe.
Most dogs were large (45+ kg) and were used to pull freight in both summer and winter. They were almost any breed, brought in by settlers, mixed with Northern breeds that were already there. Today, these types of dogs are known as Alaskan Huskies. They are not a registered breed. Although Alaskan Huskies may look like a typical Husky, they are very often not related at all. They have been bred with dogs like the European Hounds, Labradors and other breeds that oculd contribute speed and power. The Siberian and Alaskan Malamute are also in their lineage.
Alaskan Huskies tend to win all the races, including the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest, both held in Alaska. Smaller Alaskan Huskies are sprint race dogs running a shorter distance but very fast at about 40 km/per hour. The larger dogs run 1,500 km races over a huge stretches of wilderness and through heavy storms. These dogs must have drive, heart to pull and speed. Alaskan Huskies are now found in various parts of the world including South Africa.
In contrast, the Huskies that we typically see in movies and as pet or show dogs, are the Siberian Huskies. This does not go to say that they cannot pull – almost any dog can pull! Other popular breeds used in mushing are Labradors, Pointers, European Hounds and Dalmatians, to name a few. For typical racing sleddogs, however, colour of coat and eyes is not the be all and end all factor. Drive, speed and willingness are.
Mushing has only been around in South Africa for the last 20 years. We do dryland sledding using mostly Siberian huskies or Malamutes. Some SA mushers, such as myself, use Alaskan Huskies, Labradors and even Africanis dogs.
Winter Dogs- Author Louise Basson -Purchase book
Animal Talk Magazine Article-7 Training Tips PDF file
Understanding the Personality of a Husky
Understanding the different types of sledding
Choosing the right harness and gear
What is the best age to start mushing
What is Scootering and canicrossing
When should the brake be used
How I experienced mushing in Alaska
Choosing a dog for pulling
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Louise Basson on the Expresso Show talking about Huskies and Husky Rescue 2012.