Sled dog racing began about 1907 in Alaska. The first and most famous, the All-Alaska Sweepstakes, was run first in 1908. At present it has given way to the Fairbanks Spring Classic, which in 1931 was won by a team of eight Siberian huskies over a windswept, snow-blinding trail of sixteen miles in one hour, fourteen minutes and fifty-seven seconds. Other annual derby races are held at Ashton, Idaho; Banff, The Pas, Prince Albert, Quebec and Big River in Canada; and Lake Placid, New York, and Laconia, New Hampshire.
In 1936, the 20th annual American Dog Derby at Ashton, 25 miles, was won with a time of 2 hours, 14 minutes, 4 seconds.
Fourteen miles per hour is very fast time. The driver runs with his team most of the time. The longest race ever held was Winnipeg to St. Paul, in 1917, five hundred and twenty miles, ten days.
The annual Laconia dog derby was finished on February 8, 1937, three days, a total of 30 miles each day and won by Narcisse Dompierre, veteran Quebec musher in a total running time of seven hours, 23 minutes, 42 seconds.
Seven to twelve dogs are customary for a team. A lame or otherwise disabled dog must be carried on the sled. A dog can be dropped from the team only at the close of the day.
The long races have given way to the lap races. The two-by-two Alaska hitch with the lead dog running free is the usual racing team. A quitter among the dogs, a fighter, a wrong turn, a slacker may lose the race. Training for the races is done as early as six months before the event. It is permitted to fit moccasins on dogs whose feet become sore.
Sled dog racing is a clean, wholesome sport. It is increasing in popularity and well so. It is a sport wholesome for dogs, drivers, and spectators. It takes one out in the open air. It demands strength, fair play, pluck and a fighting spirit. There is little chance for foul play. We should like to see the establishment of an international sled dog association with elimination races in various regions and one grand meet for the world championship annually.
In October 1940 a sled dog derby was held at Hamilton, Massachusetts, ten teams of nine dogs each, most of the dogs Siberian huskies. A midget auto chassis weighing about 400 pounds and carrying two passen gers, a total of 700 pounds was pulled by each team instead of a sled. The race was a mile long and the winning team covered the ground in 3 minutes 32 seconds.
When the Olympic games were held at Lake Placid, New York in 1932, the 50 mile race was run two laps of 25 miles each and was won by Leonhard Seppala’s Siberian huskies at an average speed of 14.5 miles per hour.