Germany's biggest dogsled races will be held in the Black Forest later this month. Thousands of spectators will turn out to watch some 150 teams try to beat each other over the finish line -- weather permitting.
Musher Henry Hirsch with his team of Huskies in Todtmoos
Think dogsled racing only takes place in Alaska? Think again.
If enough snow is on the ground then, the International Federation of Sleddog Sports will host an international competition from Jan. 28 to Jan. 30, in the winter sports resort town of Todtmoos, in Germany's Black Forest.
Some 150 of the world's top mushers -- as dogsled drivers are officially known -- and their canine charges will descend on the picturesque village near Freiburg, in southern Baden-Württemburg.
The first dogsled races in Germany took place in the Hessian town of Bad Sooden-Allendorf in 1973. Only 16 mushers and their sleds raced the course. The handful of onlookers shouted mostly jibes.
The Iditarod, from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, is the worlds best known dog sledding race
Since 1975, Todtmoos has hosted the race, and the number of onlookers and fans has risen steadily. By the time Todtmoos hosted the World Cup races in 1994 -- the first held in Europe -- the raced was watched by 40,000 enthusiastic spectators.
Barking, but not mad
With snow-draped evergreens lining the course and amid the aroma of spiced mulled Glühwein, attendees at the Todtmoos race get to experience dog sledding with that fairytale touch.
But forget spending a "silent night" in the quiet snow. With 1,000 dogs of various breeds in residence during the races, visitors to Todtmoos had better be prepared to put up with howling and yipping. Most of the racing dogs are huskies, but other breeds also participate.
A one-day ticket to the races in Todtmoos costs €6 ($7.80), while a combination ticket to all events costs €10 per person.
There is also a cultural program to round out the event, including torchlight hikes, country music -- and a class on how to bake a genuine Black Forest cake.
Also, anyone who is inspired by the races and wants to give sled driving a go can try their hand in a one or two-day "mushing" class. The classes, which tend to book up fast, cover theoretical as well as practical aspects of dog sledding, such as how to handle the dogs and how to steer a sled.In February, two nearby Black Forest towns will host longer races. Bernau will host races on Feb. 12 and 13, and Harrischried from Feb. 19 to 20.