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Two young Danes find out if they're tough enough for the world's only military dogsled team.
In terrain where six miles an hour is fast, a sled team makes quick time over Shannon Sound.
Their lives spent outdoors, reserve dogs at Station Nord are chained far enough apart to avoid fights. Obedient but with a wild streak, the sled dogs are actually eager to be harnessed and start patrolling.
As the sun sets, the team drives toward an iceberg in Hyde Fjord near the top of Greenland. As a cold dusk settles over the camp, patroller Jesper Olsen inspects the dogs one by one for any injuries they might have sustained after pulling the sled across packed snow and ice for six hours. The Danish flag flaps on the sled as the dogs huff across a flat and frozen sea near Station Nord. Being the alpha dog requires confidence and intelligence, and the black-coated Johan has both. Subscribe to National Geographic magazine and save. Print and digital editions available for as little as $12.


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Back from a kill, Bell, the breeding female of her pack, is greeted by 11 pups, anxious to nurse and beg a meal of regurgitated meat.
When the elements conspire, covering a mile a day is a feat—with occasional stops to dig out the sled.
Although it may seem counterintuitive for sled teams to patrol in the winter, the calculation is simple: It's easier to travel on frozen sounds and fjords. They've been specially bred by the Danish military during the past 60 years to thrive in Greenland's Arctic desert. After two years with the dogs, "you know them better than high school friends," Rasmus says. As the "outside man" for the night, Olsen performs this duty in the team's shared heavy down coat. The patrollers must lead their team, and in whiteout conditions that often means relying on GPS and a compass.
Dogs sent from all 48 states were trained for patrol, sentry duty, mine detection, and as messengers.


Despite protests from their handlers, at war’s end the military left some 4,000 dogs behind.
Hansen, the other dog up front, might have what it takes to one day become the team leader.
Despite her injuries, she still attacked and subdued the shooter, saving her handler and the other members of the team. His bloodhounds helped locate wounded soldiers and later carried messages between outposts during artillery bombardments. With their sensitive noses, dogs were able to smell gas attacks and bark a warning before troops could detect the chemicals. Click to read more about America's military working dogs online in National Geographic magazine.



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