Definitions

sled

sled

[sled]
sled, vehicle that moves by sliding. A sledge is typically a heavier, load-carrying sled drawn by a horse or dog, while a sleigh is a partially enclosed horse-drawn vehicle with runners that has seats for passengers. The simplest form of the sled is a board turned up in front, as in the toboggan. Developments include the addition of wooden or metal runners, the coupling of two sleds in tandem (the bobsled), and the introduction of light and graceful horse-drawn passenger sleighs. Small sleds with runners are used in winter sports.

Evidence indicates that the sled was used in the Neolithic period, before the invention of the wheel or the use of any draft animal except the dog. Probably it was first drawn by a person. Whether the sled originated in the Old World or the New, or independently in each, is not known. Eskimos used a dogsled in pre-Columbian America. In ancient Egypt sleds were used to haul blocks of stone. The sled is still commonly used in northern regions.

See bobsledding; luge; skeleton; tobogganing; see also travois.

Sport of racing sleds pulled by dogs over snow-covered cross-country courses. It developed from a traditional Eskimo method of transportation. Modern sleds are usually of wood (ash) construction, with leather lashings and steel- or aluminum-covered runners. Sled dogs are usually Eskimo dogs, Siberian huskies, Samoyeds, or Alaskan malamutes; teams typically consist of 4–10 dogs. The course is usually 12–30 mi (19–48 km) long, though some, including the Iditarod, are considerably longer.

Learn more about dogsled racing with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Any working dog used to pull a sled carrying people and supplies across snow and ice. The breeds most commonly used are the Alaskan malamute, Laika, Samoyed, and Siberian husky. All are powerful dogs with a thick coat and high endurance. Seealso Eskimo dog.

Learn more about sled dog with a free trial on Britannica.com.

A sled, sledge or sleigh is a vehicle with runners for sliding instead of wheels for rolling. It is used for transport on surfaces with low friction, usually snow or ice but any grassy surface is good when it is not too dry. In some cases round river-washed stones make a good surface for sledges. Devices to be pulled across bare ground, such as a travois, are not generally called "sleds", although skids often are.

Sleds are typically smaller and simpler than sleighs which are generally understood to be a larger vehicle designed for riding in a sitting position that is drawn by a draft animal such as a horse or oxen, though this is not always the case. The sitting connotation is clear as the English bobsleigh is a steerable sled invented to sit upon or within. North Americans transmorphed this into bobsled, since clearly the vehicle is not drawn by a draft animal. Both (or all four) are lightweight vehicles whereas a sledge is more usually a low, sturdy, and rough work vehicle designed for haulage of heavy loads such as cordwood, stone or ice blocks or the manifold heavy transport needs on a farm.

With only gravity as the propelling force, a sled can be used downhill as a recreational (toy) vehicle or drawn behind one trudging step by trudging step to haul a load—such as logs or children back up a slope. Modern competitive sledding has come about since the 1870s when steerable sleds were invented as a recreational prescription to combat winter boredom amongst the rich and privileged in the alpine resort town of St Moritz by British hotel guests.

Alternatively, sleds may be pulled by animals, usually horses, mules, oxen or dogs. They may also be pushed or pulled by humans (playing children, a parent pulling a child, etc.). Man-hauled sledges were the traditional means of transport on British exploring expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic regions in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Dog-teams were used by most others, such as Roald Amundsen. Today some people use kites to tow exploration sleds in such climes. The Egyptians are thought to have used sledges extensively over the sands whilst building their public works, in particular, for the transportation of taller obelisks.

A troika is a vehicle drawn by three horses, usually a sled, but it may also be a wheeled carriage.

The SR-71 Blackbird is also referred to by the nickname "sled" and its pilots are referred to as "sled drivers".

The various categories of sleds include:

  • Coaster sled
  • Wooden sled/sledge
  • Draft-animal sled/sledge
  • Flying sleigh
  • Bobsled - an Olympic sport.
  • Toboggan
  • Kicksled or spark or kicker, a human-powered sled
  • Aerosan, powered by an airplane propellor

See also

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