It's Huskies we think of when we think of sled dogs, but Irish Setters played a starring role in the sport as well.
My friend Lorna Coppinger wrote a comprehensive history of sled dogs (The World of Sled Dogs: From Siberia to Sport Racing, Howell Books, NY, 1982).
This is what Lorna had to say about the breed, "The Irish Setter, besides being crossbred with huskies, has been run on many a team and done well. His long coat and leg hair hinder in some snow conditions, but his rangy conformation and endurance enable him to complete a 15-20 mile course in good shape, often at or near the front. A 25-mile track record was set at Ashton, Idaho, in 1935 by Don Cordingly and seven Irish Setters, traveling at about 13 1/2 miles an hour."
Here he is with his lead dog.
Lorna continued, "Gary Gunkel and his nine-dog team of setters was unbeatable in the West in the 1960's, and in the East, John Lyman's long team of dark red dogs held their own for years against the husky-powered competition..."
That's Lyman with his team below,
about 1960, (photo from Lorna's book.)
Setters are near and dear to my heart. There hasn't been a time in the last 45 years when at least one setter hasn't been lounging on a couch at my house.
Diggory, my fist setter, about 1970.