From Academic Kids

Mushing is a general term for a sport or transport method powered by dogs, and 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. The term is thought to come from the French word marche, or go, run, the command to the team to commence pulling. "Mush!" is rarely used in modern parlance, however; "Hike!" is more common in English. Mushing can be utilitarian, recreational, or competitive.

Mushing as a sport is practiced worldwide, but primarily in North America and northern Europe. 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.

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 Dogs have been replaced by snowmobiles in many places.



Equipment used in mushing includes at least a dog sled, harnesses for the dogs, and tuglines. Depending on the kind of hitch system used, a gangline and necklines may also be used. Greenlandic hunters, for example, use a fan hitch, in which each dog has a separate tugline attached to the sled. The dogs spread out in a fan formation ahead of the sled as they run, and this gives them more room to maneuver over rough ice or other obstacles. The fan hitch is used in treeless areas. The gangline, a single line to which each dog is attached, usually in pairs, keeps the dogs in parallel ahead of the sled, and is better for forested areas with narrow trails. This is also the typical harness hitch system used in races such as the Iditarod and the North American Open. Booties, small sock-like coverings for the dog's feet, are used where ice is sharp and granular or when the team is traveling a long distance, to protect the pads of the foot.

Type of dog

Dogs used for mushing depend on the particular application: freighting dogs tend to be large and sturdy, racing dogs light and speedy, with long legs. Breeds used for mushing include Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, Alaskan huskies, Eurohounds, German Shorthaired Pointers, and miscellaneous crossbreeds.

Dog team members

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. Leaders may be unhitched (a loose or free leader) to find the trail for the rest of the team. Qualities for a good lead dog are intelligence, initiative, common sense, and the ability to find a trail in bad conditions. The lead dog steers the rest of the team and sets the pace.

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 swing 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. Alternately, the term may be used to describe any dog in a dog team.

Wheel dogs are those nearest the sled, and a good wheeler must have a relatively calm temperament so as not to be startled by the sled moving just behind it.

See also

External links



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