Sunday, November 29, 2009

Historical Sled Dog Harnesses (Part 2)

The Lukosik Harness

Dave Lukosik collected this sled dog harness, which was in use in the earliest part of the 20th century.  Dave wrote that the harness was originally collected by Bob Majni of Macedonia, Ohio(outside of Cleveland) on one of his artifact hunting trips to the Yukon and Alaska!  He hiked the Klondike trail from Skagway years ago and put together a "Yukon Gold Historical Exhibit" that he traveled around the country(US, Canada, Alaska) over the years.  He has been a collector for more than 30+ years.

As the photos will show, it saw hard use and was repaired several times.  That's not surprising because dogs are notorious for breaking stuff.  If you examine the collar of the lead dog's harness in the image below, you can see that it has been repaired or reinforced the same way as the Lukosik harness.

Photograph, glass lantern slide | Dog team and sled, Ile-à-la-Crosse, SK, about 1910 | MP-0000.25.1047

The Lukosik harness is constructed basically the same way as the one made by Bruce Bachelor in the 1970s, depicted in Part 1 of this series, with hame tugs that attach to an O-ring, to which the traces are then attached.

The circular hame of this harness is constructed of iron or mild steel bar, turned up at the ends and lashed together.  Historical harnesses may have been lashed with rawhide babiche or with snare wire, which was readily available in the fur trade.  Be tightening or loosening the lashing, a little bit of size adjustment is possible.

In the detail below, you can see that the hame tug is wrapped around the circular iron hame and then fastened back on itself.  By attaching the hame tug or traces in this manner, the padding of the collar helps prevent harness rubs that would be an inevitable result if the trace or tug were wrapped around the entire collar.

 A profile view of the harness shows the variety of hardware that was used in it's construction.

The length of the hame tugs are adjustable with a buckle.  The backband is adjustable with a peg buckle, and the traces and belly band connect to the O-ring with a simple snap hook.  What I find most interesting about the hardware is that it is all identical to horse harness hardware that remains available today.  I haven't seen the split copper rivets that were used to attach the belly band to the ring in years, but I do remember they were available back in the 1960s and '70s, while I was just a lad.

In the next part of the series, we'll take a look at a couple of newer artifacts.


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