The survival of the early indigenous groups of Alaska and Siberian Russia depended on sled dogs for help with hauling, hunting and herding. Even today, teams of sled dogs and drivers race across the barren upper reaches of the Alaskan geography every year during the famous 1,000-mile-plus (1,609 kilometers) Iditarod Race.
Snowmobiles offer faster, more convenient transportation across the snowy expanses of wintry Alaska. They don't require the time and effort of raising, training and hitching a team of Alaskan huskies or other such sled dog breeds. But if you had your choice between a snowmobile and a sled dog team for a trek across the Alaskan wilderness, could sled dogs make the cut? Would they be a blessing or burden?
The lowered use of sled dogs certainly has not rendered them useless. In fact, sled dogs reign supreme over snowmobiles in some situations because the dogs may prove hardier in tougher conditions. They can see farther than humans can, potentially preventing sleds from diving over drop-offs or submerging in icy water. Sled dogs' reliability can also outmatch snowmobiles, which can break down and leave you stranded on foot.
If you've been thrown off course, sleds dogs' innate sense of direction can serve as a virtual GPS system. Although strange scents may cause them to stray a little, sled dogs have a general knack for finding their way back to where they came from. For instance, people who drive packs routinely on the same paths don't have to direct their course because the dogs instinctively know where to go.
Sled dogs can also offer warmth and protection during the night by scaring away predators. During the day, they can sense open water or weak ice. Toss in their ability to forecast bad weather, spot dangerous animals and run for long distances without much food, and you can see why these dogs helped the Eskimos and others survive for so long.
But despite these canine superpowers, sled dogs have their weaknesses. Read on to find out how sled dogs could hold you back and put you in life-threatening situations.