The Longest Dog Sled Race in Europe Takes Place in Norway

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The Finnmark 40 Years Anniversary Race invites competitors from all over Europe. The 2020 race keeps the tradition, which means the longest dog sled race in Europe takes place in Norway in week 10, starting on Thursday 5 March. The Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg will officially open the race this year.

Alaska has its manhood test Iditarod. Norway has the longest dog-sled race in Europe, the Finnmark Race, challenging dogs and mushers to explore the limits of their capabilities to perform.

The Longest Dog Sled Race in Europe Takes Place in Norway
challenging dogs and mushers to explore the limits of their capabilities to perform at the Finnmark Race. Photo: Finnmarksløpet

The Finnmark Race is a big event all over the Finnmark region. Alta and Kirkenes are the venues for the biggest events. The start in Alta is probably the place to be, while Kirkenes is the best place to see a checkpoint and all the logistics around the race.

Related: Finnmark, Norway – the Best Place to Wxperience the Northern Lights

745 miles across snowy Finnmark
1,200 kilometers (745 miles) with 14 or 8 dogs per sled over 5-6 days will cross snowy Finnmark: 160 teams and more than 1500 dogs will take part in Finnmark Race, a great test of strength and a great winter festival on the roof of Europe. The dogs as well as mushers must be top-trained, but also the dogs need trust and dedication to the mushers to perform.

The Longest Dog Sled Race in Europe Takes Place in Norway
Ole H. I. Eira and his dogs.

The Finnmark Race takes place every year in March and starts in Alta, crosses Finnmark to Kirkenes and ends back in Alta. It is  not only Europe’s longest, but also the world’s northernmost sled dog race.

Without stop from start to finish
There are no stages in the Finnmark Race – it goes without stopping from start to finish. While there are of course obligatory rest breaks, they take place when the teams reach designated checkpoints. The musher must not only work while racing, but also when the checkpoints are reached. He or she must prioritize the dogs before resting. The dogs need good care, plenty of attention, food and rest.

The winner takes around five days and 10 hours to complete the race in good weather conditions, while the last teams cross the finishing line after seven days.

Related: Snowshoeing and Dogsledding Adventure in Norway

The Longest Dog Sled Race in Europe Takes Place in Norway
Alaska huskies

The Alaska husky
The Alaska husky is a dog with very special characteristics; there is no other dog in the world capable of transporting people quickly over long distances.  A 25 kg (55 lb) husky needs up to 10,000 calories a day, while a man needs around 2,500. The 500 km race is run with teams of eight dogs each, while the 1,000 km race uses teams of 14 dogs.

A total of 11 veterinarians carry out health checks on the dogs throughout the race, and retire any which should not run any further. If too few dogs are left, the team has to withdraw. There is rarely disagreement between the veterinarians and the mushers, for the mushers keep a close eye on how their four-legged friends are faring.

The Longest Dog Sled Race in Europe Takes Place in Norway
Geir Stian A. Larsen and his dogs. Photo: Finnmarksløpet

Related: Seasons, Weather and Climate in Northern Norway

The Longest Dog Sled Race in Europe Takes Place in Norway
The Finnmark terrain is as though made for sled dog racing, with gentle slopes, flat plateaus and forest-clad valleys, which allows the dogs to get up plenty of speed.

The Longest Dog Sled Race in Europe Takes Place in Norway, compiled by Tor Kjolberg

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