By now everyone should know about the Jamaican bobsled team that first went to the Olympics in 1988 and whose story was told in the movie Cool Runnings. But did you know that there is also a Jamaican dogsled team? It is hard to imagine a team of sled dogs and mushers training under the tropical sun for snowy competitions, but it is true.
Image via The Daily Beast
It all started back in 2005 when Danny Melville, owner of Chukka Caribbean Adventure Tours, got the idea to start the team. Inspired by the bobsledders and discovering that there was a "dryland cart" for northern dogsled teams to train during the warmer months of the year he hatched a plan. He bought a dryland cart and sent his manager, Devon Anderson, off to Scotland to train with champion musher Alan Stewart.
That being done it was actually time to set up the team He found two men willing to be mushers (sled dog racers). Newton "Mushin' Mon" Marshall and Damion Robb became the human part of the team. Now all Melville needed were some dogs. The type of dogs that are usually used in sledding, like Huskies and Malamutes, are not to be found in Jamaica since it is too hot there for them.
The nine dogs needed were found among rescue dogs and strays in Kingston. Not one of them is a full-breed dog. Every one is a bona fide mutt. With the team formed the training started in the lush green landscape.
Check out the video below to see how fast the dogs run and how happy they are to do it (the action is slow in the beginning of the video, so be patient):
Note that the training track is quite short. Even the dogs in Jamaica are not really good at handling the heat since they are not able to sweat. With a short course the dogs are able to cool down with frequent breaks. You are also to see clearly that the dogs are having loads of fun in their endeavor
This may make you wonder how these dogs used to the tropics would handle northern climes and snow. Well, the truth is that they don't. When the mushers head north for a race they rent the dogs for the actual race. This is due to the strict animal quarantine laws of Jamaica. A dog taken out of the country may not be returned to the country. This is due to fears of contagion.
Image via About.com
Today is Jamaican Dogsled Day to honor the dogs and the men. While the Iditarod Sled Dog Race is currently underway for 2017, the Jamaica Sled Dog Team is not entered in the race. However they have been in the race twice before -- first in 2010 and then again in 2014.
In 2010 the team represented the first team to come from the Caribbean. Most come from northern countries -- and that means that the musher was also the only black man in the race. Perhaps this will lead to a more diversified competition.
There are many references floating around the web about the chance for travelers to Jamaica to get to meet the dogs and have a try at being pulled by the dogs. This offering was discontinued years ago.
Image via Wikipedia
The story of the Jamaica Dogsled Team and their initial outing in the 2006 U.K. championships in Scotland was told in the documentary Sun Dogs. The film also stars singer Jimmy buffet who is one of the team sponsors.
In case you are wondering about it, the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals not only knows about the team, but is also one of the team sponsors.
Ya, mon. Jamaica's got a dogsled team.