Dog Mushing

Alaska State Sport


Dog sledding

Family dog sledding; photo © David Eppstein (used by permission).

Dog Mushing

Dog mushing was designated the official state sport of Alaska in 1972. In April 2010, Alaska also recognized the Alaskan malamute as the official state dog.

Northern people have used dogs to pull sleds for centuries; once a primary form of transportation in many parts of Alaska. From this tradition came sled dog racing. Today it is a worldwide sport for both professional competition and family recreation. People come from around the world to participate in Alaska's yearly Iditarod; "The Last Great Race."

Hero Sled Dog Balto

Quote from the inspiring story of hero sled dog Balto and his team's thousand mile race: "In 1925, a life-or-death race to rescue the children of Nome, AK, from disease made an international hero of one sled dog - and eventually led to the creation of Alaska's Iditarod sled dog race" (from a PBS article: Sled Dogs: an Alaskan Epic).

Dog Mushing Terms

From About Sled Dogs and Sled Dog Racing by Stephen R. Lee: Contrary to common belief, the word "mush" is not used to drive sled dogs. Mush comes from the French word "marche" which is from the verb "marcher" which means to walk. Undoubtedly, the French used this during gold rush days. The word "mush" is felt to be too "soft" a sound to be used as a command. Below is a short list of common commands and terms associated with dog driving sports.

Hike: Get the dogs moving
Gee: Turn right
Haw: Turn left
Easy: Slow down
Musher: One that drives sled dogs
Mushing: The act of driving sled dogs
Lead Dog: Dog that steers the sled dog team and regulates speed
Wheel Dog: Dogs closest to the sled
Sled: Wooden rig the dogs pull in the snow and on which you stand
Snowless Rigs: Also called training carts. Take the place of the sled when there is no snow.



Racing dog sled - photo © Singing Dogs - Dog sled adventures (used by permission).
Musher dog mushing - Hike!


Iditarod: 1,049 Miles