Julian Johnston, of Christchurch, runs his team of English
pointers. The team won the six-dog class, overall and
best-cared-for team. Photo supplied.
Huskies may be the dogs most commonly associated with
sled-dog racing, but they met their match in English pointers
at the weekend.
The six-dog class at the Wanaka Sled Dog Festival at Snow
Farm, on the Pisa Range, which concluded on Saturday, was won
by a team of English pointers from Christchurch, led by
musher Julian Johnston.
The four-dog class was won by a mixed team of pointers and
Siberian husky crosses.
Wanaka Sled Dog Festival trail boss Tony Turner said the
English pointers handled the cold well, and had the benefit
of being better suited to training in New Zealand where it
was relatively warm.
Temperatures of -20degC to -30degC was where huskies came
into their own.
Mr Turner said the festival went well. Snow which arrived the
day before the festival made ''all the difference in the
''We had really good trails and it [the snow] put a smile on
the competitors' faces.''
The events comprised of sled dog racing over several
distances, the longest being 12km, and skijoring, where
skiers were towed by a dog or dogs.
The 4.5km two-dog category was won by John Pinney, of
Dunedin, in just over 15 minutes, with his dogs Ash and Cole,
a win made special as a year ago Cole almost had a leg
amputated because of injury.
Numbers in the festival, which is New Zealand's only on-snow
dog sled races, fell after the Christchurch earthquake but
were starting to bounce back.
''In 1996 we had nine competitors, and this year we had 27
teams, but at its peak we had 41 to 42 teams,'' Mr Turner
The number of people involved with sled-dog racing fluctuated
but overall its profile was growing. This year, a large
number of competitors came from the North Island, he said.
Training for sled dog racing in New Zealand was different
than in other countries where the sport was more popular,
because of the lack of snow.
Mr Turner said the reaction from people who saw him training
on Oreti Beach with his 11-dog team attached to the front of
his quad bike, was usually that of ''stunned mullets''.