Learn the history of sled dogs at an exhibit in Manhattan

Sled dogs have been getting a lot of attention lately, including the December 2019 Disney movie “Togo” and the just-released movie “The Call of the Wild,” and in New York, an exhibit in Manhattan features the history of sled dogs and their important roles in exploration and rescue events, as well as the annual Iditarod race in Alaska.

The exhibit is at the American Kennel Club (AKC) Dog Museum, 101 Park Avenue, and is titled “Mush! A tribute to the sled dogs of arctic exploration at the Iditarod.

The history of the sled dog is sketched, dating back 4,000 years to Siberia. Chukchi dogs, direct precursors of the current Siberian Husky, were suitable for long hunting trips and also family company for having a good temperament.

At the beginning of the 20and century, the Siberian Huskies would be imported to the United States and would make their American debut in 1909 in the All Alaska Sweepstakes. Other sled dog breeds mentioned in the exhibit include the Alaskan Malamute and the Chinook.

“They opened up the north of the country”, Fred Machetanz, Lithograph, 1982, Siberian Husky.

Siberian Huskies played a crucial role in an international race in the early 1900s, the exhibit notes, which was a race between the United States, Norway and Britain to reach the poles.

Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen took a group of Siberian Huskies on his trip to the South Pole, while British explorer Robert F. Scott took ponies, which are herbivores and involved carrying heavy loads of food . Amundsen reached the South Pole first, and while both teams would get there, Scott’s team starved to death on the return trip.

Also noted is the famous serum run of 1925, when an outbreak of diphtheria in Nome, Alaska led to Siberian Huskies delivering serum in stormy and freezing conditions, with much of the journey led by the dog Togo. , featured in the recent Disney film and honored with a statue in Seward Park on the Lower East Side.

Artifacts in the exhibit include mushing clothes used to keep warm over the decades, and the evolution of various materials used in dog sledding, ranging from leather, straw and rawhide to nylon and cotton. Velcro. There is also a camping stove burner used during a 1939-1941 trip to Antarctica. The paintings and photos in the exhibition depict teams of sled dogs and the vast landscapes they often roam.

“Leonard Seppala and his team of dogs”, artist unknown, photo c. 1925, Siberian Husky.
“Elizabeth Ricker with Seppala Huskies”, artist unknown, photo c. 1930.

“For thousands of years, sled dogs have played an essential role in arctic survival and a key role for circumpolar indigenous peoples,” executive director Alan Fausel said in a statement. “The general public fell in love with these breeds, but many don’t realize that every dog ​​was bred for a purpose and sled dogs still retain their purpose today.”

The exhibit also includes a series of photos from the 2019 “Faces of Iditarod” series by Iditarod photographer Jeff Schultz. During the 2019 race, Schultz photographed dogs and people involved in the race, while also conducting interviews that can be heard through an app offered by the museum.

A photo of Jeff Schultz from the 2019 Iditarod.

The portraits include sled dogs and information about their role, personality, and lineage, as well as the people involved, including mushers, volunteers, villagers, and spectators.

The exhibit will run until March 29, and more information can be found at museumofthedog.org.

Bette C. Alvarado