Two weeks ago, when we visited Enchanted Winds Tree Farm, we got to meet two beautiful sled dogs, Maka and Cassie, who were visiting with their owners from Cle Elum, Washington. Sled dogs or sledge dogs are a distinct breed of dogs, known for their incredible running speed. These powerful dogs most likely evolved in Mongolia 30,000 years ago.When humans migrated to North America, almost 15,000 years ago, they brought their dogs with them. Dogs were an essential part of the Native American culture and were kept as pets, and used for help in traveling, protection, and hunting purposes.
In later years, when Europeans began to infringe on native territory, they also adopted the practice of using dogs. When the Gold Rush began in 1896, the number of miners hoping to find gold meant large numbers of travelers in highly inaccessible terrain during winter, when it was extremely difficult for humans to travel on foot. This is where sled dogs came to the rescue of travelers. Teams of dogs helped transport people, supplies, the injured and the ill, and even helped carry mail.
Archaeological evidence shows dog sledding in Canada, North America, and Siberia originated 4000 years ago. It is believed that dog sledding started in the arctic, because it is a region where no other form of transportation was possible. A team of six dogs could handle 500 to 700 pounds on one sled. Dog sledding history was made when in 1925 when Diphtheria broke out in the remote icebound village of Nome, Alaska. There was no road and aircraft could not land because of harsh winter climate. Sled dogs were used to retrieve serum from Nenana, and saved the small village of Nome from an incipient epidemic.
Sled dogs are amazing animals, renowned for their stamina, speed and ability to survive in the coldest and most inhospitable conditions. Which is why I sometimes wonder: Why doesn’t Santa use sled dogs instead of reindeer?
Old longings nomadic leap,
Chafing at custom’s chain;
Again from its brumal sleep
Wakens the ferine strain.
~Jack London, The Call of The Wild
Take the road less traveled, Beth