By Robert Forto, PhD
Scotty Allan journeyed to Alaska, attracted by news of the gold strike in the Klondike. Around him were men of action from many different countries, dependent on in a large measure upon animals. It was not long before Allan had a wife, a baby and a dog team, and with his uncanny knack with animals, was well on his way to being a first class dog-puncher. His first leader was named Dubby, a Mackenzie River Husky from the stock of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Dubby led the team the day his venturesome owner decided to sledge across the Bering Strait to Russia. While in Russia, Allan visited some Siberian Eskimos and then headed back to Nome, impressed with the self-sufficiency of those people.
Scotty Allan joined with Judge Albert Fink and other Nome citizens to organize the All-Alaska Sweepstakes, the first official series of sled dog races anywhere. From these races emerged a new kind of hero in the far North, the racing sled dog driver. In preparation for these 408-mile non-stop races, Allan put his team and himself into training. He watched everybody’s diet, gave up smoking and even practiced going without sleep. He must have done something right, for the first eight years of the Sweepstakes, Scotty Allan never finished lower than third and had three firsts and three seconds to his credit. His team consisted of lop-eared freighting dogs, mongrels, and he was proud of their ability on the racing trails.
In more than one race, however, Allan could look back over his shoulder and see John “Iron Man” Johnson’s long string of Siberians slowly gaining on him. Johnson led a team of culls from Fox Ramsay’s other two imported Siberian Husky teams to a record setting win for him in 1910. The handwriting was on the wall for the mixed-breed freighting teams. Johnson’s Siberians beat Allan’s team by nine hours in 1914, and then Leonhard Seppala and his Siberians wrapped it all up in the final three years of the Sweepstakes.