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Huskies in dog house after ice cancels sled race

EVERY dog is supposed to have its day, but for 1000 huskies gathered in the Cairngorms, icy weather meant they had a day off.

Treacherous conditions forced the cancellation of the final day of an annual sled dog race, which this year marked the 30th anniversary of the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain.

More than 1000 canines had been due to run in the event, which had started on Saturday in perfect conditions.

However, overnight rain left large patches of ice on the course, making it too dangerous for the dogs yesterday.

The event was run on snow for only the second time in 20 years on Saturday but, for the first time in the event's history, a full day's racing had to be called off the following day.

Club member Judy Wakker said: "Unfortunately, the Scottish weather has got in the way. It has rained overnight and parts of the course are just a sheet of ice this morning.

"It is not safe for the dogs, for the mushers or for the spectators so we have had to cancel the day.

"It is so sad, but we had a fantastic day yesterday. The snow was perfect and I had the run of my life. It was great."

While dog sleds can run without snow, ice makes underfoot conditions treacherous for the animals and stops the sled's brakes working properly.

Races were run on Saturday through Forestry Commission trails next to Loch Morlich in the heart of Cairngorms National Park.

Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Samoyeds and Canadian Eskimo Dogs compete in teams of between two and eight, pulling a sled around a trail four to seven miles long.

Just a dozen teams ran in the first race in 1984, but the event is now one of the biggest gatherings of its kind in the world.

Every year mushers from across the UK gather in the forests around Aviemore for the biggest event in the British sled dog racing calendar, which regularly attracts more than 3000 spectators.

In previous years, a lack of snow on the ground at the event has meant races going ahead with mushers using a three-wheeled rig that looks like a tricycle without a seat.

There are eight adult classes and two children's classes so mushers range from eight to more than 60 years old.

Siberian Husky Club organiser, Sarah Robinson, said: "The health and safety of the dogs is our top priority and temperature and humidity are closely monitored to make sure the conditions are right for the dogs and their owners to have maximum fun during the event. We also have a vet on standby during the racing."

The Siberian Husky was the winter sled dog of the Chukchi people of Siberia. They were expected to travel quickly for long distances pulling a moderate load in low temperatures.

Breeding has ensured Huskies retain the pack nature and hunting attributes of wolves, but without their ancestors' aggression.

EWAN FERGUS

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