Several sports have come and gone throughout Olympic history. The Olympics featured ski ballet, speed skiing and skijoring, where horses pull competitors through an obstacle course. This somewhat esteemed list includes sled dog racing. You’d be correct if you’re thinking a team of dogs pulling a sled upon which an athlete is perched and the fastest dogs & sled wins the race. Given the current popularity of the sport, together with the The Last Great Race on Earth™ known as the Iditarod, it’s surprising sled dog racing only appeared in the 1932 and 1952 Olympic games.
Sled Dog Racing’s Origin
In the early 1900’s, the Iditarod Trail was the only thoroughfare between the Alaskan coast and inland territories. It was decidedly not automobile friendly. Even after the introduction of the airplane, locals used dog teams widely as day-to-day transportation. In a lesser-known capacity, dog teams patrolled the wilderness of western Alaska in World War II. The advent of the ‘iron-dog’ or snowmobile resulted in mass abandonment of dog teams across the territory (hello, climate change…).
Iditarod, The Last Great Race on Earth
From its inception, The Last Great Race on Earth sought to preserve local custom, wildlife and historic landscape. It blends sport, culture and education. The Olympics intend to support a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal, fundamental ethical principles.
Olympic Sled Dog Racing
Packing up and traveling the world with teams of dogs remains an issue. But the combination of Olympian athletes and their dogs competing against other teams and nature sounds like a show-stopping event!
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