↓ Read on to watch this amazing video
What do you like best about sled dogs? Their unique physical beauty, top-notch marathon skills, or extreme stamina? Sled dogs also have a long history documenting their contribution to human existence, especially in the arctic regions.
For example, during the Yukon Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1800s, they hauled everything, including prospectors, supplies, and mail. Jack London chronicles this in his book The Call of the Wild.
In 1925, a diphtheria outbreak occurred in Nome, Alaska. Twenty teams of sled dogs traveled nearly 700 miles in just six days, delivering a vital antitoxin to Nome’s ailing residents.
The late 1800’s and early 1900’s are known as the age of the sled dog. But then, snowmobiles, airplanes, and trucks came along and made them obsolete. Not quite, though. Some rural populations—in parts of Alaska, Canada, and throughout Greenland—still use sled dogs.
And don’t forget the famous annual sled dog races like Yukon Expedition, Iditarod and International Thoroughbred Stage Stops.
Sled dog breeds, including Alaskan Huskies, Siberian Huskies, Canadian Eskimo Dogs, Chinooks, and sled dogs, generally outlive most breeds of a similar size. This is because they were bred for their intelligence, trainability, health and hardiness.
Their high athleticism helps to extend their lifespan. They also have exceptionally healthy genes and often remain healthy into their teens.
Do sled dogs get cold paws?
The shortest answer is no. Sled dogs stay true to themselves while living in their native habitat. When running, the feet retain heat and there is no problem with blood circulation. However, when sled dogs wake up from a nap and their blood isn’t flowing through their feet as quickly as it should, they may be more inclined to lift one foot off the snow to stimulate blood flow.
Due to the close proximity of their veins and arteries, they have a complex heat transfer system that transfers warm arterial blood to cool venous blood. Warm blood in arteries transfers heat to surrounding cooler veins.
The cool blood from the feet is warmed to a lukewarm temperature before reaching the center of the body. As a result, the dog’s body temperature is prevented from dropping while the temperature of the paw is kept constant.
Also, the fat and connective tissue in their paw pads is of a type that can withstand freezing temperatures. They can even curl up on the snow, raising their paws and tucking their noses under their tails to absorb more heat.
You’re probably thinking, okay, but what about the boots? Booties rarely provide warmth for the paws. Instead, their primary purpose is to protect your feet from the wear and tear and other ailments that running hundreds of miles can cause. Plus, the snow gets rough, like sandpaper in extreme cold, increasing the need for boots.
Ironically, it was the overheating, not the cold, that got the sled dogs concerned. When sled dogs get ice on their fur, it’s an alarming sign that they’re not keeping warm, as it suggests they’re losing enough body heat to melt the snow covering them. Seeing snow-covered, sleeping sled dogs demonstrates their ability to conserve heat.
How do sled dogs survive the harsh winter?
An animal’s ability to tolerate cold weather depends on its diet, coat density, age, health, and physical characteristics. However, despite nature’s perfect adaptations, it is absolutely unacceptable to abandon a sled dog in sub-zero temperatures without provision of food, water, and dry shelter.
Older sled dogs may have difficulty maintaining body temperature and walking safely on snow and ice. In addition, the belly of short-legged breeds is more likely to touch the frozen ground.
Dogs with heart disease or diabetes are at higher risk for frostbite, conditions associated with reduced blood supply to extremities.
A long run without much food means nothing to a sled dog. Humans fatigue when they do this because they start using up their body’s fat and glycogen. Sled dogs burn calories without using other energy reserves because their metabolism is regulated.
Sled dogs need a lot of food to keep them motivated due to their labor-intensive lifestyle. A sled dog can easily eat up to 10,000 calories a day, while a similarly sized domestic dog typically needs around 1,700 calories.
Some pounding teams offer their dogs a precise combination of kibble and meaty proteins like chicken, salmon, or beef. Hot stews are made with hot water, protein, and kibble on cold, cold winter days.
thick double coat
Typically, sled dogs have double coats. The thick undercoat is formed from tiny, occasionally wavy hairs that grow out of a follicle to create a thick layer of insulation that traps heat.
An individual coat is created in some sled dogs by implanting each follicle at a 45-degree angle. The fur helps resist moisture from the snow because it doesn’t lie flat on the skin.
Hair follicles implant at a 30-degree angle in smooth-haired breeds.
A reflective outer layer known as the overcoat is waterproof and twice as long as the undercoat. Thus, it prevents snow from building up on the dog’s skin and undercoat. It also resists extreme seasonal temperatures.
The eyes of sled dog breeds such as the Siberian Husky and Samoyed are almond-shaped. This means they can squint to the point where they barely expose their eyeballs to wind and cold air and still see well.
In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, the shape of their eyes protects the delicate eye tissue from the elements, especially when pulling sledges.
Breeds like the Siberian Husky have a long, busy fox-like tail that reaches into his face and wraps around his nose for extra warmth. Huskies can heat the air around their faces while they sleep, so that when they inhale into their lungs, it is already warmed up in the fur on their tails.
During snowfall, dogs have been known to sleep in this position for 12 hours straight, their faces warm and their paws tucked behind their tails. Modern-bred huskies can spend the night outdoors in winter, as long as they are well fed and their fur is suitable for the weather.
Some sled dogs have a set of built-in earmuffs that protect the ear canal and eardrums from biting cold winds. Thus, the ears absorb heat and reduce the chance of frostbite as they have less contact with the outside world.
The ears are well covered with hair for warm adaptation and a hood over the ear flaps.
Thick, hairy pads and claws
The pads of several breeds, including the Chow Chow and the Norwegian Elkhound, have evolved to contain more fat. As a result, the fat and thick skin that protects the toe pads from freezing leads to frostbite and tissue necrosis. why is it like this? Fat does not freeze as quickly as other living tissues.
Dogs sweat through their mouths and feet. Thus, their feet acted as a means of thermoregulation. Huskies have thick, leathery skin on their furry feet. It insulates and protects their feet from freezing snow and ice. Additionally, their feet and pads are covered with a thick layer of fur.
Malamutes’ large, bear-like paws allow them to grip ice, keep their feet from being engulfed in snow, and spread their weight over a larger surface area.
What traits do mushers look for?
Today, sled dogs are mainly used for racing, also known as sled races. Although they still serve their original transport role in some remote areas of Canada, Greenland and Alaska.
In the United States, dozens of bobsled races are held every year. However, Yukon Quest and Iditarod are still two of the most popular bobsleigh races. The former is a dog sled race from Whitehorse, Canada to Fairbanks, Alaska, while the Iditarod, Alaska is from Anchorage to Nome.
The sport’s popularity has declined in recent years for a number of reasons, including fewer players, less sponsorship, animal rights activism, dog doping scandals and lower prize pools.
Performance is the number one factor in the deciding factor. During long distance races, the feet bear most of the stress, so good feet are a prerequisite for any successful sled dog. On the other hand, dogs with tender feet may always be struggling on the road.
Picky eaters or dogs at risk of digestive issues are not welcome. They may not consume the essential calories needed for high-performance running. Having a thick coat is also crucial. They keep you warm and cold while retaining those essential calories.
Teamwork makes dreams come true. Mushers also look for dogs that can be involved in team building. Many sled dogs mingle with spectators and tourists year-round, so they must be friendly with humans and confident in unfamiliar surroundings.
Ready to discover the top 10 cutest dog breeds in the world?
How about the fastest dogs, the biggest dogs, and those who are – quite frankly – just the kindest dogs on earth? Every day, AZ Animals sends out lists like this to our thousands of email subscribers. The best part? free. Join today by entering your email below.
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.