Sabtu, 16 Agustus 2014

Sled dog racing growing in popularity as family sport (ABC)

Determined Hunter Valley racer Chris Procter collects rescue dogs and trains them to run in events.ABC Determined Hunter Valley racer Chris Procter collects rescue dogs and trains them to run in events.

Sled dogs love to run no matter what the weather is like in Canberra.

Ninety teams competed at this year's Sled Dog Classic at Kowen Forest near Queanbeyan, although there was no snow in sight.

Rather than a sled, the dogs pull along the musher on a mountain bike, scooters or a modified three-wheel rig around the dirt trails.

Sled Dog club president Andrew Gersbach said the sport is growing in popularity.

"There's about 500 families across Australia that are running in this sport and there are about 60 families here in Canberra actively participating in sledding," he said.

"The competition's great but it's a sport that the whole family can get involved in and it's a sport that you can do with man's best friend type-scenario and it's just a fun sport.

"It is an equaliser - if you train well then you can race well."

Steady overnight rain across the ACT created a thick layer of mud on the forest tracks.

But seasoned racers said the slippery conditions were no obstacle for the dog teams.

"I think they do relish these conditions a little bit," Mr Gersbach said.

"If you are the lead dog you are clean, but if you are [at the] back in the team you are dirty.

"But the water will keep them a little bit cooler as well and they tend to run harder in the mud while the humans talk it up, but they have a lot of fun as well."

Paws for thought as the dog sled racers start running

The noise of more than 100 excited dogs barking and howling as they prepare to race can be deafening.

The sled-racing teams were not restricted to traditional breeds such as Huskies and Malamutes.

Smaller varieties such as Jack Russells and Basenjis, an African bush breed, were also running on the course.

Racer Chris Procter sourced his 11 animals from local dog shelters and trains them to pull him along.

"The dogs are all from the RSPCA or Arctic Breed Rescue in Sydney," he said.

"I'm soft hearted. I don't care how fast they are, they all still like to run.

"There's a heap of dogs in rescue centres that need homes, and it is a good way to do it."

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