Emile St. Godard
On the Mush! You Huskies Radio Show we continue our summer series on the people that made the sport of dog sledding what it is today. This week we talk about Emile St. Godard
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Emile St. Godard burst onto the racing scene in 1925. The Pas, Manitoba was his hometown, but for the next ten years he was the man to beat throughout Canada and the United States. Even Leonhard Seppala found it difficult to overtake the racy husky-hound crosses on St. Godard’s dog team. These dogs, sleek and long-legged, were bred for speed and intelligence. If the temperature did not plummet, or the snowdrift too deep, they were virtually unbeatable. In 1925, he won two high profile races; the 200-mile non-stop race at The Pas, and the three-day, 40-miles-a-day Eastern International Dog Sled Derby at Quebec. St. Godard holds world records in the races at The Pas, having won five in a row. By 1928, he was a three-time winner of the Quebec Derby, and although Seppala beat him in 1919 and in 1930, he returned to the top and won the race the following years.
Competition in the eastern races heightened in 1927 when Seppala arrived, St. Godard had to keep himself and his dogs alert in order to stay ahead. The two champion mushers drew huge crowds of excited sled dog fans whenever they appeared in a race. In the 1932 Olympics, the St. Godard and Seppala rivalry caught the attention of Arthur Daley, sportswriter for the New York Times:
“Lake Placid, New York, February 8, 1932. In the colorful sled dog race it was a Canadian team that was victorious as Emile St. Godard, the veteran, Manitoba musher, emerged as the victor over Leonhard Seppala of the United States…these two keen rivals, less than a minute and a half apart after the first twenty five miles yesterday, again stages a bitter battle on the second twenty five mile route today. St Godard proved that his Russian Wolfhound-Malamutes were faster dogs when he finished first once more, compiling a total time of 4 hours 27 minutes 12.5 seconds. Seppala famous for his race with death to bring the antitoxin to Nome was clocked in at 4 hours 31 minutes 1.8 seconds for the fifty miles.”
During St. Godard’s brief racing career, he entered more than fifty sled dog races and won over half of them. He was never far from the top. Nominating him to the Dog Mushers’ Hall of Fame, Short Seeley comments that Emile St. Godard “was one of the most sports-minded sled dog racers ever.”
St. Godard learned his sport as a freighting driver, hauling supplies to trappers, traders and miners in the brush country of northern Manitoba. When he got serious about sled dog racing, he quickly switched from the working “scrub huskies” to the racing hound-husky crosses that had been the mainstay of Canadian teams for years. St. Godard died young of pneumonia at the age of forty-three. Yet his solid success as a sled dog driver, his winning smile that made him a favorite, are still remembered by many of today’s great dog drivers who credit him for influencing them in the sport.
Dr. Robert Forto is the Dog Sledding Examiner, a musher training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner and the host of the Mush! You Huskies Radio Show