Russians celebrate Christmas on January 7th. On January 6th and 7th people of Samara can leave their tight and grim city limits behind to see the traditional Christmas dog race in the ski area on the outskirts of town.
The Christmas dog race gathers dogs and, inevitably, their owners from various parts of Russia as the race has the national championship status and winners will go to the World Championsip. Competitions include skijoring, i.e. dog(s) pulling a person on skis, and sled dog racing, i.e. dog(s) pulling a sled with the musher (driver) standing on the runners. A couple of years ago there used to be pulka competitions as well, but they no longer happen here.
Typical participants include Siberian and Alaskan Huskies, Malamutes, Samoyeds, Inuit dogs with occasional mix of Labradors, Alsatians, Dobermans and even Poodles. You’ve guessed it right – these are dog breeds, not their owners’ last names or aristocratic titles.
While it was rather freezing in the city with cold wind pushing mercury down to −20°C (−4°F) and clouds all around, the forest protected from windy gusts and made it feel like much more subtropical climate for Russia’s January. Besides, the sun was curious enough to wipe away most of the clouds in a nearly picturesque fashion. In other words, it was a gorgeous day.
But sun or not what made it even more gorgeous was the presence of those kind-spirited restless creatures that everyone wanted to grab and pat, but dared only grab and pretend to pat for a selfie. Those dogs seem to be made for running and living in the wild. They ate snow, raced down the lanes like they had no load behind, let their tongues fly freely in the air and their eyes see the finish line way before it could actually be seen.
For men and women it is about sports and being the fastest. For dogs it is just about being dogs. Well, some dogs (just like their masters) were of a wrong kind competitvely-speaking, but I am sure they enjoyed the walk not less than their competition enjoyed the run.
I enjoyed the walk too indeed. Up and down the hills, with bare trees drawing their trunks and branches to the blue sky, in a nice company. That’s what Christmas dog race is about for me. I should say for dozens of other people it was almost the same, they only preferred their skis to my boots.