Two dogs commonly used in sledding are Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies.
These two breeds had quite different origins and uses.
Alaskan Malamutes originated with a group of Eskimo people known as the Mahlemiut. The dogs of that time were very large freighting dogs, capable of pulling very heavy weights. The Mahlemiut people lived in the upper part of the Anvik River in Alaska, and were spread out over a large area. They used the dogs for hauling food back to the villages. The gold rush in 1896 created a high demand for these dogs.
Siberian Huskies originated with the Chuckchi people of northeastern Siberia. With a Stone Age culture, the Chuckchi people used their dogs for tasks like herding reindeer and pulling loads. These dogs were smaller and faster than their Mahlemiut counterparts.
These dogs were exported to Alaska around the time of the gold rush. These two breeds play a very important role in the development of our modern day sled dog breeds.
Today, most northern breeds used as sled dogs. Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, Eskimo Dogs, Greenlands, Samoyeds, Norrbottenspets, and Hokkaidokens are all sled dogs.
Many different breeds of dogs have been and are used to drive sleds and carts. It is not unusual that Irish Setters, Dalmatians, Golden Retrievers also enjoy mushing sports.
Most modern day speed and endurance mushers use mixed breeds.
Some people question the use of dogs in sled dog racing. The relationship between sled dogs and humans is one of the oldest bonds of its kind. Modern sled dog owners are proud of their dogs as canine athletes that are bred and trained to do what they love: run as part of a team.
But wait now, Huskies are not the only dogs running the big races. John Suter went along for a snowmobile ride and was amazed that his miniature poodle could keep up with the snowmobile, at a reasonable speed. He decided to race standard poodles in the 1976 Chugiak Sled Dog Race. Learn more about poodles racing the Iditarod Races here.