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Origins of the Postal Service |  
Dog-Teams |  
Types of Dogs |  
Dog-Team Equipment |  
Weight Allowances for Dog-Teams |  
Dog Food |  
Hardships |  
Conclusion |  
Mail Routes |  
Mail Routes Map |  
West Coast Map |  
Philately |  
Endnotes |  
Bibliography |  
Credits |  


For the dog-teams, snowstorms
and the breaking of the ice on the rivers resulted in particular hardships. In some instances, "the sled becomes wedged, and the poor brutes strain in vain to free the load, or at times it topples upon them, burying their bruised bodies in the snow. To add to the misery of cold and cruel lash, their feet become raw from the sharp ice, and drops of blood mark every foot of the trail."64

Starvation was another harsh reality for dog-teams isolated in the wilderness, with the next city or post hundreds of miles away. In 1901, U.S. postal Inspector Wilcox barely survived a mail run transiting through Yukon.


After being out two weeks a dog-team and sled loaded with provisions on a steep glacier slipped into a fissure and were seen no more. After the loss of a greater part of their food, starvation stared them in the face, and the pain from hunger and cold laid low the remaining partner of Wilcox who was buried in an ice cave. Mr. Wilcox mushed on with but little hope of surviving the journey and travelling for 38 days reached a point on the Yukon where he found some prospectors. During all this trip he clung to the mail.65

Extreme conditions such as these called for the highest levels of dedication and determination.

Accidents were not unusual for mail carriers and their dog-teams in Canada's North, but experienced mushers took precautions to avoid certain dangers.


Usually they kept close to the shoreline if the going was treacherous, and so avoided the risk of drowning in the deeper waters. Of course, that still left the danger of freezing to death after a ducking; but for this contingency the mushers always kept a small can of gasoline on the sled, and some matches in a waterproof container, so that they did not have to fiddle about rubbing two sticks together to get a fire going.66