1924: Idaho Mushers Influenced Dog Sled Design

A champion Canadian team entered the American Dog Derby of 1924 and introduced the "northern" sled to the American Dog Derby. It was driven by Shorty Russak (second from left) of Montreal but Shorty did not win the 1924 Derby. Sixteen-year-old Ashton schoolboy, Ollcott Zarn (far left), upset the field of champions by winning 1924 American Dog Derby in an exciting sprint to the finish carrying one of his dogs, unconscious from exhaustion, on his sled. The northern sled had made an impression on the Idaho mushers, however. The sled had a basket that was high off the snow and had handles at the back of the basket so the sled could be pushed and so the the musher could stand on the runners that projected a few inches out the back.

The Idaho mushers took this basic design and began making similar sleds that were narrower, taller, lighter, and projected the runners further out the back for the musher to stand upon for most of the race. From 1925 on, most champion mushers in the American Dog Derby drove the upright sled with a seven-dog tandem hitch. By 1927, the upright sled looked much like it does today. Like most technology, the upright sled was developed in stages in many places by many people but the high dollar and world famous American Dog Derby played the major roll.