Typical homemade freighting dogsled

Base built of six wooden slats that run lengthwise, supported underneath by eight cross braces. The upper part of the sled base is attached to the runners with vertical wood and metal braces that correspond to the crossbars. Runner bottoms covered with sheet metal, extending over the tip of the runners and visible on the top front of the sled runners; these curve upward to correspond to the shape of the runners underneath. Ropes are tied along each side of the sled top for attaching gear. The back of the sled is made of a roughly square wooden frame into which a piece of plywood is mounted. This frame supports the handles, made of peeled, bent and carved branches, these protrude back from the rear of the sled. The handles form triangular sides of the sled as they slant up from where they are attached to the sides of the sled base. There is a small platform at the rear of the sled, and the iron brake rests here when flipped up and not in use.

Although a regular stagecoach mail system was set up from Whitehorse to Dawson City, dogsleds were used for several more decades to carry the mail to outlying areas. Freight dog sleds, such as this was usually operated during the winter months by a single man with a dog-team. This particular sled is believed to be the mail sled used to haul mail to the township of Mayo. In 1906, miners found deposits of silver and copper near Mayo Landing. The area was not developed until 1913, and a post office was officially opened there on June 19, 1914. Mr. J. Johnston became the first postmaster at Mayo, Yukon Territory.

Despite the progress in modern North American travel there were still few options for winter delivery to the minor settlements. Dogsleds offered a choice method of travel. The lack of roads did not impede the dogs from taking the most direct route as they could travel over frozen lakes and they could pass through dense forests. They were capable of covering long distances while hauling several hundred pounds of precious letters or freight.


Yukon Transportation Museum, Whitehorse

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