A husky safari through a winter wonderland – only an hour’s drive from Moscow. Every weekend scores of husky fans gather outside the Russian capital to train their dogs.
Until recently this had been an adults-only sport, but now even the youngsters are getting involved, as this weekend Moscow’s Kuzminki Park staged its first junior event, RT’s Svetlana Kurakina reports.
Olga Zborovskaya owns three huskies taking part in sled-dog racing.
“If you get yourself a husky, prepare for your life to change overnight,” she says. “They’re very sweet and they love human company, but they’re also very active, so you’ll simply have to love this sport and spend hours outside with them.”
Sled-dog racing has traditionally been popular in Russia’s north. Yet during Soviet times sled-dog breeding dropped and the sport nearly disappeared. Its revival began in the 1980s, with sled-dog racing once again going strong not only in the far-flung northern regions, but in the capital too.
So much so that Kuzminki Park has even played host to a junior sled- dog race – something the city’s never seen before.
More than 80 competitors from all over Russia aged from five to seventeen descended on Moscow to take part. Two sisters, both called Sasha, are in love with the sport.
“It’s a great way of bonding with your dog,” one of them believes.
“I love dogs and I begged our mom to get me a puppy,” the other Sasha notes. “So when she got me a race dog, I jumped up at the chance to start racing!”
The youngsters showed their skills in several disciplines: cross-country skiing with a dog, called skijoring, imported from Scandinavia, and sled racing. Things didn’t always go as planned – but no one gave up.
Yevgeniy Belov, member of the “Rifus” sport club, says huskies are becoming more and more popular in Russia.
“But so far we’ve only had competitions for adults. Yet the sport’s become so big in this country that we felt the need to organize a race for juniors, too. They have two kilometers to cover, with several complicated turns.”
It all seems like plenty of fresh air and adrenalin, but it’s also a lot of hard work. These animals are highly trained athletes and dedicated competitors. It takes from two to three years of regular practice to train a good team of dogs. Obedience, resilience and the will to race are all important. The dogs have to listen to your voice and obey your orders.
Drivers have their secrets of how to put a top team together. Sofia Sokolova, who got hooked on the sport almost two years ago, says her husky Blondie has running in her blood.
“Every dog has its own personality – some love running more than others, some dogs dislike each other and don’t want to work together. The key is to have a determined and intelligent team leader, like this one here. Like every high speed sport, sled-dog racing can be risky – but if you train wisely and love animals, it’s just great.”
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