At the start of the 2007 Canadian Championship Dog Derby, there were 405 racing dogs in seven racing kennels at Yellowknife. To say this is a hot spot for dog sledding is an understatement. It’s a time honoured tradition. Samuel Hearne recorded dogs pulling sleds with a family's possessions on his trip across Great Slave Lake in the 1760s.
Later, teams with incredible stamina were used to haul furs from traplines and fish from winter nets. Dog teams brought the mail north before aircraft and carried news, and sometimes passengers, from settlement to settlement.
In the mid 1950s, the little town of Yellowknife (pop. 2000) organized its first dog race, with a $50 prize. It was a 40 mile run and the 13 teams entered were trapline teams, mostly six working dogs hitched single file and pulling working toboggans. The drivers were from Dettah and today, some of their descendants are still running dogs.
The Canadian Championship Dog Derby, held in Yellowknife at the end of March each year, is won by the swiftest team and today that means year round practice, technical racing gear, high protein food and careful breeding. Some of Yellowknife’s kennel owners are champion racers, with Alaskan and European experience. But they still harness up to run the traditional endurance race, the 150 mile Canadian Championship Dog Derby at Yellowknife.