International dog sled competitions in the Townships

By Taylor McClure – Special to The Record
International dog sled competitions in the Townships
John Piscope of Laconia, NH, with his lead dog following a win at the Sutton International Dog Sled Race. (Photo : Record Archives/Carol O’Brien)

Many of us have heard of the international dog sled races the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod, but what about the International Dog Sled Derby in Sutton? Or Stanstead? The Eastern Townships has a history of dog sled racing with successful mushing teams coming from across North America to battle it out for the top prize and laurels.

The International Dog Sled Derby in Sutton started in 1964. In its first year, it was organized by Mrs. H. Jones, who owned a business in Sutton called Igloo Kennels. The derby was supported by sponsors, and it was overseen by Race Marshal Taylor Carling, judge Bob Madden, timer Wally Holden, and starter Real Boulanger.

That year, the trail stretched 12 miles and it saw Jean Bryar, who won the North American dog sled championship in 1962 and 1963, take top prize. In two separate heats, she covered the trail with a combined time of 89.27 minutes.

As the first race for the village, there were many questions of interest for the racers, which they were happy to answer for spectators as they unloaded and harnessed their teams.

One interesting fact expressed by a participant: “Drivers don’t use the word mush when giving commands to racing sled dogs. Instead, we say alight, ahead, let’s go, boy, gee, haw, and whoah.”

In The Record’s archives, the event was described as the village’s “most colourful and thrilling” winter event leaving the entire community standing on its toes.

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