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Mushing, mushing
Mushing is a term for a sport or transport method powered by dogs It includes carting, pulka, scootering, sled dog racing, skijoring, freighting, and weight pulling More specifically, it implies the use of one or more dogs to pull a sled on snow or a rig on dry land


  • 1 Origin of the term
  • 2 History
  • 3 Practice
  • 4 Dog team members
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References

Origin of the termedit

France was the first European power established in the Canadian Shield; accordingly, the coureurs des bois and the voyageurs of New France used the French word "Marche!", meaning "go" or "run", to command to the team to commence pulling "Marche!" became "Mush!" for English Canadians1 "Mush!" is rarely used in modern parlance, however; "Hike!" is more common in English


An Alaska musher in 1909

The practice of using dogs to pull sleds dates back to at least 2000 BC It originated in Siberia or North America, where many American Indian cultures used dogs to pull loads2

In 1534, Jacques Cartier discovered the Gaspé Peninsula and claimed the land in the name of Francis I of France3 For the better part of a century the Iroquois and French clashed in a series of attacks and reprisals4 That's why Samuel de Champlain arranged to have young French men live with the natives, to learn their language and customs and help the French adapt to life in North America These men, known as coureurs des bois runners of the woods, were the first European mushers in North America, extended French influence south and west and in 1609, New France controlled all the Canadian Shield In 1680, the intendant Duchesneau estimated that there was not one family in New France who did not have a “son, brother, uncle or nephew” among the Coureurs des Bois5 During the winter, sled became the ordinary transportation in the north of New France6

In 1759, the British army defeated the French at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and control the Canadian Shield Many coureurs des bois accepted the British rule and continued to use the sled dog The French term Marche! becomes Mush! in English

During the Klondike Gold Rush, many prospectors came in the Yukon with sled dogs This “Last Great Gold Rush” has been immortalized by American author Jack London in The Call of the Wild Sled-dog became the common mode of transportation in Yukon and in the new US territory of Alaska

In 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen used sled dogs in a race to become the first person to reach the South Pole He succeeded, while his competitor Robert Falcon Scott, who had instead used Siberian ponies, tragically perished7

By the time of the first World War, mushing had spread to European countries such as Norway, where dog sleds were used for nature tours, as ambulances in the woodlands and mountains, and to bring supplies to soldiers in the field8

During the 1925 serum run to Nome, 20 mushers and about 150 sled dogs relayed diphtheria antitoxin 674 miles 1,085 km by dog sled across the US territory of Alaska in five and a half days, saving the small city of Nome and the surrounding communities from an incipient epidemic


La Grande Odyssée 2005 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race 2010

Mushing can be utilitarian, recreational, or competitive Mushing as a sport is practiced worldwide, but primarily in North America, northern Europe and the Alps Racing associations such as the International Federation of Sleddog Sports IFSS and the International Sled Dog Racing Association ISDRA are working toward organizing the sport and in gaining Olympic recognition for mushing It is the state sport of Alaska The most famous sled dog races in the world are :

  • Finnmarksløpet in Norway,
  • Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska,
  • La Grande Odyssée in France and Switzerland,
  • Yukon Quest in Alaska and Yukon

Although dogsled racing gets more publicity and is seen now as the primary form of mushing, recreational mushing thrives as an unorganized sport providing healthy outdoor form of winter exercise for families

Mushing for utilitarian purposes includes anything from hauling wood or delivering milk or the mail to rural travel and equipment hauling Dogs have been replaced by snowmobiles in many places, but some trappers and other isolated users have gone back to sled dogs, finding them safer and more dependable in extreme weather conditions

Dog team membersedit

Dog team members are given titles according to their position in the team relative to the sled These include leaders or lead dogs, swing dogs, team dogs, and wheelers or wheel dogs

Lead dogs steer the rest of the team and set the pace Leaders may be single or double; the latter is more common now, though single leaders used to be more common during the mid-20th century Sometimes a leader may be unhitched a loose or free leader to find the trail for the rest of the team, but the practice is uncommon and is not allowed at races Qualities for a good lead dog are intelligence, initiative, common sense, and the ability to find a trail in bad conditions

Swing dogs or point dogs are directly behind the leader one dog if the team is in single hitch They swing the rest of the team behind them in turns or curves on the trail Some mushers use the term swag dog to denote a team dog

Team dogs are those between the wheelers and the swing dogs, and add power to the team A small team may not have dogs in this position Alternatively, the term may be used to describe any dog in a dog team

Wheel dogs are those nearest the sled and musher, and a good wheeler must have a relatively calm temperament so as not to be startled by the sled moving just behind it Strength, steadiness, and ability to help guide the sled around tight curves are qualities valued in "wheelers"

Mushing graphics

See alsoedit

  • American Dog Derby
  • Carting for dryland mushing
  • no:Finnmarksløpet - world's northernmost dog-sled race Norwegian article
  • Montana Race to the Sky
  • Yukon Quest
  • All Alaska Sweepstakes


  1. ^ Discovering Denali: A Complete Reference Guide to Denali National Park and Mount McKinley, Alaska - Dow Scoggins - iUniverse - 2004 - ISBN 0595750583, 9780595750580 - p 137 - Mush : This term is a misuse of the French word "marche" "to go" Dog mushers heard the French Canadian trappers using the word marche to make their dogs run They interpreted it as "mush"
  2. ^ White, Tim "A History of Mushing Before We Knew It" International Federation of Sleddog Sports, Inc Retrieved 2012-10-21 
  3. ^ Riendeau, Roger E 2007 A brief history of Canada Facts on File, cop p 36 ISBN 978-0-8160-6335-2 Retrieved 2010-08-11 
  4. ^ Douglas Hunter, God's Mercies: Rivalry, Betrayal and the Dream of Discovery, Random House of Canada Limited, 2000, pp 240–242
  5. ^ “The Coureur de Bois” The Chronicles of America Accessed February 11, 2012 <http://wwwchroniclesofamericacom/french/coureur_de_boishtm>
  6. ^ Dictionnaire Universel De Commerce: Contenant Tout Ce Qui Concerne Le Commerce Qui Se Fait Dans Les Quatre Parties Du Monde L'Explication De Tous Les Termes, Qui Ont Rapport Au Negoce, Les Monnoyes De Compte A - E by Jacques Savary des Bruslons, Philémon-Louis Savary, 1723 - "C'est avec ces canots, qui sont construits d'écorces de bouleau que se fait tout le Commerce du grand fleuve & des lacs, pendant l'été En hyver, on se sert de traîneaux tirez par des chevaux ou par des chiens; & c'est la voiture ordinaire pour aller de Quebec à Mont-real pendant cette saison, lorsque la riviere de S Laurent est glacée" Translation in English : "It is with canoes, which are built of birch bark that is done all the trade of the great river and lakes during the summer During winter, we use sleds pulled by horses or dogs, it is the ordinary car to go from Quebec to Montreal when the river St Lawrence is frozen"
  7. ^ "Roald Amundsen" PBS Online Retrieved 2012-10-21 
  8. ^ Myhre, Knut "Nordic Dogsledding in Scandinavia" International Federation of Sleddog Sports, Inc Retrieved 2012-10-21 

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