The huskies running today’s Iditarod bear little resemblance to the bulky sled-dogs Alaskans used to rely on year-round. As breeding programs have refined genetic lines to create dogs designed to excel at the thousand-mile winter-time race, the cost of specialization has been a lack of versatility. Decades ago, sled-dogs might have run in races, but they were also a source of labor. They helped haul everything from ice to beaver meat.
Benedict Jones was born in 1933 at a fish camp up river from Koyukuk where he’s lived most of his life. His neighbor a few miles down, George Atla—better known as the Huslia Hustler – was born just a few days later. Alaska Public Media’s Zachariah Hughes spoke to Jones at the checkpoint in Koyukuk about how sled-dogs were in the old days.