Team Koyuk

Sled dog racing

Most people - in Denmark anyway - base their knowledge about sled dogs on the many terrific broadcasts about Greenland in Danish television. Not many people know that there exist other polar breeds, and that sled dog racing also takes place in Denmark.

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In Denmark there almost always is too little snow to drive with a sled. That means that training and racing in Denmark most often takes place with a cart. Small carts with 3 or 4 wheels - or an ATV (Four wheeled motor cycle) with a team of excited dogs are racing of in the few Danish forests which allow sled dog driving. The dogs are harnessed in pairs with a line in the middle; that's called Nome style. Usually the teams are of 4, 6 or 8 dogs.

If you don't have more than one or two dogs, you can easily run with them anyway; either in front of yourself on a line, while you are running, or in front of a bike.

Most dog drivers (mushers) do consider the snow races the real thing, and that means the races and the training in Denmark are often used as preparation for the real races on snow. Never the less the competition is tough at the cart races in Denmark, and the races therefore are very entertaining - also for the spectators.

Sled dog races are divided into several categories. There are races for pure breed dogs and races without demands for pedigree. Here anyone can participate. Apart from the division into pure breed races and open races, there are distinctions between sprint, middle distance and long distance races.

Sprint races are short distances, between 10 and 24 kilometers, on snow. Usually 2 or 3 times in 2 to 3 days. Middle distance takes place in the same way, but here the distances are about 50 kilometers per day.

Danish championships are held both with cart and sled. The sled championships are mostly held in Sweden, because it is very seldom that there is sufficient snow in Denmark. The last few years the sled championships have been held together with the Nordic Championships in Aasarna, Sweden. Every year there has been many Danish mushers participating - and often with great success. On the picture below you can see Jřrge Grüner at Nordic Open 2006, where he came in 3rd with 8 dogs.

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European Championships and World Championships are held as well, and work is being done to make sled dog racing an Olympic discipline.

"The top of the pop" is the Open Class, where you principally speaking can have as many dogs in front of the sled as you like. Most often that means 12 to14 dogs, and that is a very long and powerfull team!

The long distance races are the most known and prestigious, because they are very exciting races and a great challenge to dogs and mushers. The best known races are taking place in Alaska and are surrounded by a lot of attention and myths, almost like the cycling race Tour De France. The best known probably is the Iditarod, which is following almost the same route as a famous rescue mission in 1925, where the only way to get life saving serum to the small gold mining town of Nome, were 1000 miles by dog sled.

The dogs used in the great long distance races - at least if you want to win - are primarily Alaskan Huskies (not pure breed), because they are stronger and faster.