Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Who Invented Sled Dog Teams?

There's a historically interesting little piece at the Alaska Science Forum, dated March 23, 1987, in which Oscar J. Noel writes:
I am reminded of a question asked by Mr. Alvin Bramstedt Sr. of Anchorage. The query, to the "Dear Bud" column in the Anchorage Times, asked: "Did our Alaska Eskimos and Indians have dog teams before the arrival of the white man?"
Noel replies in part:

Recently, I came across an illustration taken from the 1675 edition of Martin Frobisher's "Historic Navigations." This illustration shows, in the background, a dog in harness, pulling what appears to be a canoe-like sled, or perhaps what might be called a pulk. This illustrates that at the time of earliest contact with Europeans the Eskimos were indeed using dogs as draft animals.

Picture detail

I find in the book, "The World of Sled Dogs", by Lorna Coppinger, that the earliest historical records of the use of sled dogs in the Siberian Sub Arctic appear in Arabian literature of the tenth century; in writings of Marco Polo in the thirteenth century; and of Francesco de Kollo in the sixteenth.

A footnote to the entry from Sue Ann Bowling, Coordinator (of the Alaska Science Forum?) notes:
After reading Mr. Noel's article, I called the head of the UAF Anthropology Department, Professor Jean Aigner, and asked her what archaeology had to offer. Her response was that there is firm archaeological evidence for the use of dog sleds by Alaska Natives for at least the last thousand years. European influence may have led to changes in details of harnessing, but the use of dogs in harness was originated by Arctic Native peoples.
Also of interest is this credit on the piece:
This article is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research community.
Nice to know there's broader interest in the history of mushing.

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