If you've never watched a dogsled race before, it's exhilarating and loud! With dogs lunging, howling and barking to get the races started and leaving the chute reaching speeds of 30km/h, there is lots of action going on.
The races happen at the Pinestone Resort & Conference Centre, five minutes south of the village of Haliburton on County Road 21 (formerly 121). Food is available on-site. Choose from two restaurants inside the resort as well as a Lions BBQ set up outside just for the races, closer to the action. Races run all day Saturday and Sunday with teams leaving the start chute at two minute intervals. The most popular race every year is the adorable kid and mutt class, while the skijoring classes offer a unique take on the sport with mushers on cross country skis being pulled by one or two dogs. The 8-dog class offers maximum excitement!
Races are free for spectators to attend. Please remember:
Leave pets at home since they can distract competitors
Do not make unusual noises or movements that might distract competitors
Stay off the race course at all times
Ask dog handlers for permission before approaching their dogs
Don't forget to bring your camera to record the action and feel free to chat with mushers before or after the race. Go ahead and cheer on your favourite teams -- these dogs love to work, and the louder you cheer, the faster they run!
Looking for accommodations to stay at while you enjoy the race? Click here.
You asked and we answered:
Question: Why do the dogs racing look so different?
Answer: At the Haliburton Highlands Dogsled Derby, you'll see all kinds of breeds competing. Shorter coated dogs that are lean and long-legged are usually called Alaskan Huskies or open class dogs. They have been bred very specifically for what they do: running in cold weather at the fastest speeds possible. This breed is not a purebred but rather a dog with many bloodlines carefully bred into it. You will also commonly see purebred Northern breeds; dogs most people expect to see when they think of a dogsled race. These are mainly Siberian Huskies however the Alaskan Malamute, Canadian Eskimo Dog and Samoyed are all considered Northern breeds that have been used as sled dogs for centuries. Skijoring classes typically feature an even wider array of breeds. Be on the lookout for everything from Golden Retrievers to Border Collies!
Question: How do mushers control their teams?
Answer: A dog team is controlled through voice commands. Every kennel has a slight variation in their commands but in general, Gee is for right and Haw is for left. Hike means go, and On-By means to ignore something. Whoa, of course, means stop. If you hear a musher yell Trail, this means the team in front of them should pull over and let them pass. The sled is controlled by the musher shifting their weight as well as using the sled brake. Mushers start training their teams in the fall as soon as the temperature dips below 10C, so by the time snow is on the ground, mushers already have many conditioning miles on their dogs. These athletes, the dogs, are in incredible physical shape.
Question: Teams are constantly coming and going. How do I know who's winning?
Answer: Mushers leave the start chute at two minute intervals and race against the clock. The teams leave the start chute on Saturday based on a random draw for bib numbers the night before. For each race, the opens (mixed breed dogs) will go first, immediately followed by purebreds. Upon completion of the races on Saturday, bibs are collected and redistributed so that the fastest teams on Saturday go out first on Sunday. Winners of the race are determined by combining the times from both days.
Connect with the derby for more info
Phone: (705) 457 - 5281
Mail: PO Box 631, Haliburton, ON, K0M 1S0