Smithsonian Journeys Dispatches

Photo: Shoes? For Dogs?

A handler fits a dog with protective booties at the Iditarod. Photo: Alyssa Bobst

You don't usually think of your dog needing shoes, but the dogs at the Iditarod Sled Dog Race wear them to keep their feet dry and to keep snow and ice from painfully packing into the spaces between their toes. The booties stay on with Velcro (TM) and a typical musher uses about 1,500 during the course of the Iditarod. The booties, which are changed at each rest stop, are washed and reused but they are subject to so much wear and tear that musher suppliers provide them in bulk lots of 3,000. Booties can be one of the biggest expenses incurred by mushers each year. Besides the booties, dogs also wear coats, which keep them warm during rest periods.

The dogs are big eaters, too, each consuming up to 14,000 calories per day during the race. Meals for dogs include a balance of dry food, meat, fat, and plenty of water. Dogs typically eat three large meals per day during the Iditarod, with plenty of snacks in between. We've heard that they love fish as a high-energy trail snack.

See the action of the Iditarod for yourself on our brand-new Iditarod experience. We're excited to bring you this uniquely Alaskan race in 2010. Smithsonian Journeys Program Manager Alyssa Bobst has already checked it out for you; you can read her blog here.

What's your favorite animal sporting event? Share below.