Dogs are the best friend of you and your child. They can protect you, save you, keep you company and become someone who you can love. In Butte, Alaska, they also take you sledging or mushing. “Mushing?” you may ask. Read on.
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As their name suggests, the Siberian husky dog breed originates in Siberia. They were imported into Alaska in 1908 from the Anadyr River and surrounding area. William Goosak, a Russian fur trader, introduced them to Nome, Alaska during the Nome Gold Rush, initially as sledge dogs.
Siberian huskies are classic northern dogs; active, energetic and resilient, their ancestors lived in a freezing environment of the Siberian Arctic. They are intellectual but tend to be independent and stubborn. They thrive on the human company but need firm, gentle training right from puppyhood.
As born pack dogs, Siberians enjoy family life and get on well with other dogs; their innate friendliness renders them indifferent watchdogs. It is simple to understand why several people are drawn to the Siberian’s wolf-like looks. They are described as affectionate and good-natured. Generally, they also get along with people, including children, and do well in homes with multiple dogs.
But this athletic, intelligent dog can act independently and be a challenge for its human companions. They are bred to run, and this vitality may overcome their love for their guardians at times. They need a lot of exercises and are wont to escape even over the most carefully erected fence.
They were developed to work in packs, pulling light loads at moderate speeds over vast frozen expanses. They were bred to need very little food to survive. Quick and nimble-footed, they are known for their powerful but seemingly effortless gait. They are naturally clean, with little doggy odour.
What is mushing?
Are you still wondering what ‘Mushing’ means? If you are then you have never experienced the Iditarod; the most famous dog sledge race in the world. Mushing is the sport of driving a team of dogs. The person who participates is called a musher. The terms derive from the command “Mush!” that mushers have traditionally called to urge the sledge dogs forward. This term comes from French “marche” (walk) as the French Mushers command to get the dogs to start moving. The British evolved the word into something they were more comfortable with pronouncing.
Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race
Run annually in March the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race crosses from one side of Alaska to the other. Mushers, with a team of 14 dogs, five of which must still be towing when they reach the finish line, cover the distance in 8–15 days or more.
The Iditarod trail is through a harsh landscape of tundra and spruce forests, over hills and mountain passes, and across rivers. The teams mostly race through blizzards causing whiteout conditions, sub-zero temperatures and gale-force winds.
It is regarded as a link to the history of the state as humans occupied it, and it involves many traditions commemorating the legacy of dog mushing. It is a significant and popular sporting event in Alaska, and the top mushers and their teams of dogs are local celebrities. Today the competition has around fifty mushers and about a thousand dogs who are mostly Alaskan. But competitors from fourteen countries have completed and sometimes won the event, stealing the trophy from under the Alaskan Mushers noses.
Siberian huskies crave exercise – and lots of it. If they don’t get it, they are likely to dig, howl or chew anything they can find. That love of exercise and cold climates makes them the perfect dog for pulling a sledge across sub-zero temperatures and proves that they are perfectly suited to the harsh environment of Alaska.