Sled Dog Endurance Capabilities Change Long Distance Racing Strategies

by Sleddoggin Staff on April 7, 2011

It’s no secret that sled dogs are amazing athletes; controversially the best animal athletes of the natural world. With incredible hearts, and super-strength lungs; sled dogs have the ability to run for hours on end without tiring.

We’ve only begun to delve into the mysteries of the sled dog physiology & capabilities; as Dr. Michael S. Davis of Oklahoma State University has pointed out. He’s been continuing his research of sled dog metabolism due to a $1.4 million grant given to him by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Recently he was also given a $300,000 Darpa grant for further sled dog research.

According to an article published by the Anchorage Daily News, Iditarod racers are beginning to “rethink” their racing plans – partially due to Lance Mackey’s incredible back to back Yukon Quest & Iditarod victories. Two years in a row.

Amongst the top echelon of long distance sled dog racing – Lance Mackey, Jeff King, Mitch Seavey, Martin Buser, and Zack Steer are consistently amazed by what their dogs accomplish year in and year out. Mackey has proven that virtually the same team of sled dogs can successfully compete in thousand mile races with only weeks of rest in between.

Mackey’s accomplishments were never thought to be possible in the past.

“Who would have thought that you could warm up for a 1,000-mile race by running a 1,000-mile race?” Steer conveyed in amazement. “Mushers never thought that could be done; the demands would be too much. Lance has thrown all that into the wind. A lot of mushers are scratching their heads. Maybe the dogs actually get better.”

As racing strategies consistently change – new found knowledge on sled dog biology will continue to shape the future of competitive mushing.

What will long distance competitors pull out of their “sled baskets” next racing season?

Further Resources:
Dog endurance changes racers’ strategies (Anchorage Daily News)
Researchers Seek to Demystify the Metabolic Magic of Sled Dogs

*Please note that meticulous training & husbandry skills are associated with increases in long distance mileage – and a professional, knowledgeable stance should be taken before attempting any serious competitive racing. The research associated with this article only apply to long distance racing, and breeds developed specifically for those distances. Professional mushers such as Lance Mackey, Jeff King, and Mitch Seavey have had many years of mushing experience – and are aware of the implications in increasing dog team mileage & physical activity.

Related posts:

  1. Researchers Seek to Demystify the Metabolic Magic of Sled Dogs


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