Brief History of the Yukon Quest
The Iditarod gets a lot of attention but another dog sled race is just as tough-the Yukon Quest! Lance Mackey has won this grueling race four times in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 and he was presented with the Dawson Award in 2006, 2007 and 2008. The Dawson Award is given to the first musher to reach Dawson City (one of Lance’s favorite towns!) Today, we’re looking at some fun facts in this brief history of the Yukon Quest!
The Quest began from an idea by musher LeRoy Shank and a historian Roger Williams. So it was in 1984 that 27 teams of mushers headed out to race to the finish line in this 1,000 mile dog sled race. It is run every year in mid-February and has alternating starting points—either Fairbanks or Whitehorse. Only 50 teams enter this race and the pot for finishing is $100,000, however, that $100K is split between the first 20 finishing teams with the winner receiving $25,000.
The Quest follows the now famous Yukon Gold Rush trail in sub-zero temperatures and the rules for this race are strict, but only the mushers know about these rules—the dogs on the other hand, just do it for their pure desire to race!
Rules of the Quest
To enter this sled dog race, one must be 18 years of age and must present at least eight dogs and no more than 14 dogs to race in their teams. If a musher ends the race with less than eight dogs, he or she is disqualified and once racing begins, adding dogs is not allowed.
In total there are nine checkpoints and dog health is of the upmost importance. No team can leave a checkpoint without approval of the dog’s condition. Some other Yukon Quest rules include:
- Equipment and food must be carried in cloth burlap bags
- The bags must be marked with the musher’s name or kennel name
- Each bag can’t weigh more than sixty pounds
- Straw must be available at each checkpoint for maximum dog rest
- Mushers are allowed to ship any other gear they may need ahead of time—before the race begins—to any checkpoint.
Rules for Dogs Too!
Yukon Quest officials also have rules for the real champs—the dogs. Mushers must have eight booties for every dog on their team per 50 miles of trail. Food must be available for these athletes—about eight pounds per dog. Most mushers have a mixture of commercial dog food that is supplemented by chicken, lamb, and salmon.
No musher wants their animals to become overheated so many times teams will race at night and rest in the daylight. The nights can be very cold and when mushers and their athletes are resting, dogs are fed, a fire is built, the dogs are examined by their human counterparts and of course mushers try and grab some sleep.
In the Yukon Quest, just like the Iditarod, there are mandatory layovers. They include Angel Creek, Dawson and Carmacks. Depending on the year run (odd or even) layovers are a two-hour mandatory stop, an eight over layover and one 36 hour stop.
Other Yukon Quest Facts
The race gets its name from the old “Highway of the North,” the Yukon River. This river traces the path prospectors followed to reach the Alaska interior from the Klondike during the Gold Rush.
The very first musher to cross the starting point in 1984 was “Pecos” Humphreys, however, it was Sonny Linder that won this first race. In Also in 1984, Lorrina Mitchell became the first woman to finish the Quest and so many women have followed in her footsteps over the years.
Tons of other facts including winners and best finish times can be found on the Yukon Quest website along with all you ever wanted to know about the history of the Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race!
The Kennel Staff