A dog sled is a type of sled which is designed to harness to dogs. Dog sleds have been utilized by humans in northern climates for thousands of years, and they continue to be very popular in many regions of the world. They can be ordered through specialty suppliers who make custom sleds for specific purposes, and through outdoor stores and companies which specialize in dog sledding equipment. It is also possible to make a dog sled by hand, for people who are handy with tools.
Dog sleds can be hitched to a single dog, or to a team of dogs. They may be used for human recreation and transport, along with packing and racing. Many Arctic and Antarctic expeditions historically utilized dog sleds to transport people and goods across the ice, and dog teams are still used for this purpose in some rural areas. Racing has been popularized by Alaska's famous Iditarod sledding race, with numerous smaller races and matches occurring in the icy months in many regions of the world.
The sled design includes a cargo basket, where people or supplies can be loaded, and runners, long skis which are mounted under the cargo basket. Users stand on footboards which are mounted on the section of the runners which protrudes behind the sled, holding a handlebar to stay on. The dog sled can be slowed or stopped with a brake, and the movement of the sled is controlled by giving orders to the dog team. Most dog sleds also have a brushbow, a sort of front bumper which protects the sled from damage and helps it run smoothly over rough territory.
Two basic designs of dog sled are in use, although there are a number of variations. The traditional version is the basket sled, which is mounted high above the runners, creating a great deal of clearance under the sled. It is also possible to see toboggan sleds which hug the ground much more. Toboggan sleds are often used in racing, and they may be referred to as racing sleds for this reason.
Several breeds of dog are used for sledding. Dog sledders tend to prefer heavy breeds with a lot of strength and endurance, and the animals tend to be large so that they can pull the weight of the dog sled easily. Huskies, Malamutes, Samoyeds, Greenland Dogs, Utonagans, and Tamaskan Dogs are all used for sledding, with some breeders crossing for hybrid vigor with breeds like German Pointers and Poodles. In all cases, the dogs are trained from a very young age to work with other dogs and humans so that sledders have coordinated, focused teams of animals for their work.