David Epstein explains why slow dogs win the Iditarod sled race across Alaska:
Slow dogs win. As I write in the book, it’s not the fastest dogs that win, so sled dogs when they were first bred for racing, the mushers bred for speed traits, and the idea was to race between checkpoints in the Iditarod, very very quickly. And they topped out in their top speed, and then what became popular, because of Lance Mackey who I write about, who couldn’t afford to breed fast dogs, he had to breed instead, dogs that were slower but would just go and go and go, and had a drive to pull the sled all the time and never wanted to stop. And it turns out, and scientists look at some of those sled dogs, they’ve actually been bred for motivation, they’ve been bred for work ethic, and the speeds of the Iditarod races are getting faster because the dogs are pulling longer, not faster.
image via OregonSunshine
As a greyhound owner, this makes total sense to me. Sure cheetahs and greyhounds can both run fast, but they can only do it for short sprints. After that, they’re tapped out and need to recuperate. It takes way more energy to go fast than to just go at a nice steady pace.