Tails from the Trail- Adaptations
According to the Iditarod Race rules for 2020, “Rule 43 — Dog Description: Only dogs suitable for arctic travel will be permitted to enter the race. ”
Another adaptation sled dogs have is their fur. Sled dogs, Alaskan Huskies, have two layers of fur. The undercoat, or inner layer, is used as an insulator. This is shorter, fine, fluffy fur that keeps dogs warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The undercoat is the layer that is shed twice a year, with the seasonal changes, and can be referred to as “blowing their coat”. Many dog breeds that have double coats are working breeds that spend much of their time outdoors.
The outer layer is called the guard fur. This layer is usually longer, coarser fur that protects against wetness, dirt, and UV rays. This layer does not shed as the undercoat does.
Being well insulated is not only important for the dogs, our mushers, volunteers, and pilots also need to keep warm. Unfortunately, we are not quite as insulated as our canine athletes and rely on lots of cold-weather gear to keep us warm on the trail. Teachers check out this lesson on the properties of matter and have your students explore what are some good insulators that we can use along the trail.