Mushing is a general term for a
transport method powered by
sled dog racing,
weight pulling. More specifically, it implies the use of one or more
dogs to pull a
snow. The term is thought to come from the French word marche,
or go, run, the command to the team to commence pulling. "Mush!" is
rarely used in modern parlance, however; "Hike!" is more common in
English. Mushing can be utilitarian, recreational, or competitive.
Mushing as a sport is practiced worldwide, but primarily in
America and northern
associations such as the International Federation of Sleddog Sports (IFSS) and
the International Sled Dog Racing Association (ISDRA) are working toward
organizing the sport and in gaining
Olympic recognition for mushing.
Mushing for utilitarian purposes includes anything from hauling wood or
delivering milk or the mail to rural
equipment hauling. Dogs have been replaced by
in many places.
Equipment used in mushing includes at least a
for the dogs, and tuglines. Depending on the kind of hitch system used, a
gangline and necklines may also be used.
hunters, for example, use a fan hitch, in which each dog has a separate tugline
attached to the sled. The dogs spread out in a fan formation ahead of the sled
as they run, and this gives them more room to maneuver over rough
ice or other
obstacles. The fan hitch is used in treeless areas. The gangline, a single line
to which each dog is attached, usually in pairs, keeps the dogs in parallel
ahead of the sled, and is better for forested areas with narrow trails. This is
also the typical harness hitch system used in races such as the
and the North American Open. Booties, small sock-like coverings for the dog's
feet, are used where ice is sharp and granular or when the team is traveling a
long distance, to protect the pads of the foot.
Type of dog
Dogs used for mushing depend on the particular application: freighting dogs
tend to be large and sturdy, racing dogs light and speedy, with long legs.
Breeds used for mushing include
German Shorthaired Pointers,
Samoyeds, and miscellaneous
Dog team members
Dog team members are given titles according to their position in the team
relative to the sled. These include leaders or lead dogs, swing dogs, team dogs,
and wheelers or wheel dogs.
Leaders may be unhitched (a loose or free leader) to find the trail
for the rest of the team. Qualities for a good lead dog are intelligence,
initiative, common sense, and the ability to find a trail in bad conditions. The
lead dog steers the rest of the team and sets the pace.
Swing dogs or point dogs are directly behind the leader (one
dog if the team is in single hitch). They swing the rest of the team behind them
in turns or curves on the trail. (Some mushers use the term swing dog to
denote a team dog.)
Team dogs are those between the wheelers and the swing dogs, and add
power to the team. A small team may not have dogs in this position. Alternately,
the term may be used to describe any dog in a dog team.
Wheel dogs are those nearest the sled, and a good wheeler must have a
relatively calm temperament so as not to be startled by the sled moving just
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