Archive For the ‘Iditarod’ Category

This Past, Present, and Future of Mushing

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Mushers Past and Present

Hike! The driver yells and the dogs start racing toward their next goal.  They navigate through the snow and ice of the Alaskan wilderness via training and verbal commands from the “musher” on the sled they pull.

The Iditarod, an annual race for dog sled teams and the people who drive them, covers 1000 miles across the Alaskan wilderness. It spans two weeks and draws competitors from all over the world. Started in 1973 to commemorate the history of dog sledding, it’s grown into the world’s most competitive race.

Husky in winter

Work and Transportation

“Mushing”, the practice of using hardy, cold-weather dogs to pull sleds, dates to at least 2000 BC. People have used mushing for centuries to move everything from mail to refrigerators through snowy terrain. They were even used as ambulances in cold climates like Norway during World War I.

Heroic Mushing Teams

One famous run occurred in 1925, when 20 mushers and 150 sled dogs relayed a serum across Alaska in five and a half days in order to save the residents of Nome and surrounding areas from an epidemic.

The Future of Mushing

Today, most deliveries are made by plane and mushing is primarily a sport. It’s growing in popularity with dog lovers the world over. You don’t even need to live in a snowy environment.

“Carting” is growing in popularity as a fun sport to do with your dog. Like it sounds, “carting” uses a cart (usually with wheels) and the dogs. Almost anyone can participate in this activity.

Sled or cart pulling isn’t relegated to only Alaskan breeds either. Traditionally, Malamutes and huskies have been sled dogs, but all types of breeds, including Dalmatians and Golden Retrievers have been hooked up to a sled and taught the techniques. If you have an active dog, chances are, they’d enjoy the activity.

Dog lovers can participate in many types of races. In some, you only need one dog. For others, multiple dogs work better. Would your dog enjoy pulling a sled or a cart?

Team of happy huskies pulling a sled

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Iditarod

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

The chilly run known as the “Iditarod” stretches more than 1000 miles between Anchorage and Nome, Alaska. Known as “mushers,” Iditarod competitors are seasoned athletes that from all over the world.

Here are 10 things you probably don’t know about the Iditarod:

1. The Iditarod is just over 40 years old. The race started in 1973 to save dog sled culture.

2. The name comes from the Native American Athabaskan tribe. It means “a distant place.”

3. Mushers guide their sled dogs with spoken commands rather than with the reins.

4. The dogs are required to wear dog boots to protect their paws from the ice and snow.

5. Each team has 12-16 dogs. There’s a “lead dog” who the other dogs follow.

6. The race takes approximately two weeks to complete.

7. Sled dogs need and love to run. Without several hours of running daily, these dogs become restless and self-destructive.

Two happy huskies smiling for the camera

8. Mushers are required to take at least two eight-hour breaks and one 24-hour break during the race. During these breaks, the sled dogs are examined by veterinarians.

9. Each musher has GPS, you can track them on the web at

Stats of a racer

10. Mushers have their own lingo, for example, “Dog in a basket” means one of the dogs is resting on the sled rather than running.

Racer preparing their sled

The traditional race kickoff is March 1. While the familiar blue-eyed husky is one of the primary breeds who run, malamutes and several other Alaskan breeds make up the dog sledding teams too.

Hundreds of volunteers staff the Iditarod trail at the various checkpoints. They help with first aid, restocking the sleds and caring for the tired humans and dogs.

Eagle Pack is proud to provide food for many sled dog teams including Aliy Zirkle’s team, Alan Moore’s team and Martin Buser’s team.

To learn more about Aliy Zirkle and Alan Moore (husband and wife), check out their blog:

You can learn more about Martin Buser on his blog: