I’ve been wanting to photograph a dog sled race for quite some time now but the last few winters saw a minimal amount of snow and most of not all races were cancelled in my area. This year, as most of know, has been one of the harshest winters that I can remember. Needless to say it was the perfect weather for this event with lots of snow for the dogs to frolic in.
A couple of weekends ago the opportunity arose and I got into the car and drove an hour and half north to Cannington, Ontario to attend the 10th Annual Dog Sled Races.
(Click on any of the images to enlarge and see those cute faces)
Let me first make a confession. I was a bit nervous to attend. I was worried about how the dogs were going to be treated. Was this just a business for the owners? Were the dogs just an end to justify the means… that big prize at the end of the day?
I arrived early so that I could walk around and hopefully see the dogs before the races started. I went straight to the area where the owners had parked their trucks and they were getting the dogs ready, putting harnesses on and mentally preparing for the race ahead.
What I found put a smile on my face. Happy Dogs! Dogs sitting together eagerly awaiting their romp in the snow. Without fail each dog I approached gave me a very sweet greeting and even a few licks on my nose when I bent over to greet them. I tried not to disturb the riders while they were preparing their team but they were all very nice and happy to introduce me to their dogs.
Here’s a little history for you….
“Dog Sledding was a method of winter travel developed by Northern Native peoples and adopted by early European explores and trappers as the most efficient way to haul goods across snow-covered terrain. Usually, teams of 2 to 12 dogs are tied in pairs to a single towline, or gangline. The gangline is attached to a sled and the dogs pull the sled across the snow.If the terrain is deep snow, dogs may be placed in single file to follow the driver who will walk ahead breaking and packing down a narrow trail in snowshoes. Where the snow pack is hard, in the Arctic, Inuit often use the “fan” hitch where each dog is attached to the sled by its own towline.”
– Cannington Dog Sled Race Committee
Oh…one last bit of trivia. Do you know why drivers are called “mushers”? Early French Canadian drivers called out “Marche!” (which means “walk”) to their dogs. This was misinterpreted by English explorers as “mush.” I’ve done my job here today. 🙂