History of Mushing Sled Dogs

MARQUETTE, Mi. — As the winds blow in from Lake Superior, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula will howl back…with dog sleds!

“Everyone always remembers the story of Togo and Balto and everything.” said Sarah Kimball, coordinator of the Midnight Run sled dog race.

The famous Alaska Serum Trail, from Anchorage to Nome, saving the city from diphtheria…this trail still exists today and is known as the Iditarod.

Going back to our roots, the earliest evidence of humans using dogs to pull a sled dates back to Siberia over 6,000 years ago.

Even after the invention of the airplane, dog teams continued to be widely used for local transportation and daily work, especially in native villages.

“It’s a tradition, it’s celebrating a tradition of using sled dogs in UP for all kinds of things. Even mail was delivered to parts of UP with dog teams, there for a long time.” explained Darlene Walch, president of the UP Sled Dog Association and former musher.

Although dog sledding is no longer a necessity, it has become a hobby and a sport.

In fact, dog sledding was almost added to the Winter Olympics in 1994.

But for now, the story hits hard on the race to the Iditarod, which is only two weeks away.

And the UP200 in Marquette, Michigan is grandfathered as a qualifier for that race.

“I watched the very first one in 1990 and was captivated. I thought it was just spectacular. So, I volunteered, got on the board and started raising my own dogs. .” says Walch.

Mushers don’t participate in this for the money or the glory, as there is very little of either in sled dog racing. But it always comes down to one thing… Dogs.

Bette C. Alvarado