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A Jessie Arnold Alaska Mystery
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About Dogsled Racing

Dogsled racing is one of the most arduous of winter sports, covering hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles in icy and treacherous conditions. Like the rapport between a horse and rider, victory is dependent upon the special bond that exists between the racer and his or her team.
The history of dogsled races stretches back thousands of years. People in the north depended on the dogs for transportation, protection, companionship, and life's necessities. Explorers like Byrd, Peary and Amundsen used sleddogs to explore arctic regions, while the Royal Canadian Mounties used dog-team patrols to bring law to an often lawless region as early as 1873.
Sleddogs come from a wide variety of breeds, ranging from traditional Arctic breeds (Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes and Samoyeds) to Dalmations and various types of Hounds. Much like human athletes, dogs are trained in a rigorous regimen involving strictly-monitored diets and exercise programs to ensure they are able to withstand often brutal conditions and icy terrain. In many cases, dogs become so accustomed to the conditioning that they will often take a bite of snow the way a human would eat ice cream.
The earliest recorded dogsled race was the All Alaska Sweepstakes, which happened in 1908 over a distance of 408 miles, from Nome to Candle and back again. In 1925, 22 native and mail teams fought their through Alaska and across the ice of the Bering Sea to bring an antitoxin to Nome citizens, helping to contain a diphtheria outbreak in Nome, Alaska.
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The Iditarod race, "The Last Great Race on Earth," is based upon this famous route. Each team of 12 to 18 dogs and their musher cover over 1049 miles in two to three weeks. The name Iditarod comes from the early Athabascan Indians, who called their inland hunting ground Haiditarod, "the distant place."
Dogsled races flourished and grew in popularity in both the U.S. and Canada, with a brief interruption during World War II, when dogs and drivers entered the Armed Forces to serve their countries. The International Sled Dog Racing Association is growing in numbers and popularity, with members in the U.K., U.S., Canada, and Japan, and with races like the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest attracting growing numbers of fans and spectators.
 

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