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What is Pulka?

Huskies can be used in pulka.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 July 2014
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Pulka is a type of winter sport popular in Scandinavia which has recently spread to other parts of the world. Pulka can be great fun, and involves a high level of cooperation between people and animals for success. It integrates dogs, a sled, and a skier. Pulka can be done with one dog or multiple dogs, depending on the amount of weight being pulled. In addition to being a competitive sport, pulka is also used by some winter adventurers to move supplies.

Pulka begins with the dog or dogs, which are put into a harness attached to a small sled called a pulka. Commercial pulkas weigh approximately 16 pounds (7.5 kilograms) unladen. In competition, the pulka is loaded with a set weight, which is around 40 pounds (20 kilograms) for male dogs and 33 pounds (15 kilograms) for females, who tend to be smaller and less able to bear heavy loads. When used for recreation, the pulka may be left unloaded, or used for gear and supplies.

The skier attaches him or herself to the pulka using a strap. Technically, the skier is not being pulled by the dogs, although flat terrain provides an opportunity to rest. The skier must work with the dogs to succeed, contributing on uphill climbs rather than acting as dead weight. Pulka requires more coordination than traditional dog sledding, because in addition to handling the dogs, the skier must also stay upright and in control of his or her skis.

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A wide variety of dogs are used for pulka. It is not necessary to use heavy breeds such as those used in dog sledding. Labradors, German Shepherds, Pointers, and Giant Schnauzers are all popular dogs for pulka in addition to Huskies and more traditional sledding breeds. When selecting dogs, sportsmen look for obedient, loyal breeds which can work well with other dogs and humans.

Pulka is most popular in Scandinavia, and is not as well known in the United States where dog sledding and skijoring are more common winter sports with dogs. Pulka is recognized by the International Association of Sled Dog Sports as a sport, and competitions are regulated by that organization as well. In 1952, pulka was demonstrated at the Oslo Olympics, raising public awareness about the sport. In Scandinavia, regular pulka competitions are held at varying distances, usually a minimum of six miles (10 kilometers) but ranging up to 18 miles (30 kilometers), with race distances for men usually being longer.

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