photo courtesy of the Yukon Quest Official Page
Before we moved to Alaska I always assumed the long-distance racing dogs were big, strong heavily-muscled dogs. The first time I saw them I was amazed at how small they were. They had traveled over 1000 miles and were so little, and so ENERGETIC at the finish line. Some people have tried to use other breeds such as standard poodles, and samoyeds, but most are a husky mix-the unofficial Alaskan Dog. Here their bloodlines and heart matter more than their breed.
Like any other athlete, racing dogs must be efficient at what they do. When all food for the entire race has to be planned in advance, packaged, hauled, dropped, prepared by the mushers at checkpoints or along the trail, decisions have to be made. Those dogs excited to run, sturdy and strong are usually the ones chosen for team. Many a musher has expressed their gratitude to the dogs who found a snow-covered trail in the bitter cold wind, refused to go across unstable ice, or eagerly took off back to the trail after a too-short rest on a long trek home. As with any athlete it isn't so much the size that matters, as the size of the heart and the will to achieve their goal.