NORWAY — Endo was baying long before his turn, since he stepped on the snowy field and felt the harness enclose around his torso. 

A chorus of dogs barked in shared tension around him, and when his turn came to go to the starting line, he strained against the line tethering him to the skier behind, legs quivering and erupting in leaps into the air.

A signal, a great bound, and then he vanished through the heavily frosted trees. 

At Roberts Farm Preserve on Sunday morning, skijoring, the Norwegian word for ‘ski driving,’ saw seven teams race a three-mile course through groomed snowy trails, up hills and down ravines.

The sport melds cross-country skiing and sled-dog racing — sans sled. Dog and man are connected by a long leash, believed first recorded centuries prior in China, according to Skijoring International, an advocacy group spanning the Northwest. 

Jocelyn Bradbury, of Oxford, has been skijoring for 18 years, raising and racing dogs and once trying to take a hiatus from the sport, only to be pulled back. 

“The sensation of running with the dogs, of all the hard work coming together, I don’t know what it is; it’s almost like being one of the dogs,” Bradbury said. 

During the fall, Bradbury trains on trails, sometimes running in a pack that will pull the dogsled she maneuvers through the snow. During the winter season, she races on the weekends, traveling throughout New England and more far-flung destinations like Quebec City in Canada. 

“It’s like being on crack when you’re out in the woods,” she said. 

Pre-race behavior on the starting-line varied. Some dogs tucked thier tails between legs and waited patiently or — like Endo — jumped up and down, eager to be released. Some dogs wore boots on their paws, even though the temperature warmer than any other day in months.

Racers looked nervous or confident, representing all ages and experience levels. Amelia Bothel, 22, has driven from Portland in pursuit of the sport, skiing behind her two-year old Saint Bernard mix named Z.  

Longtime skier Lex Burton, of Sugar Hill, N.H., started skiing with Jimmy two years ago. The duo had the best time, edging out Endo and Marc Vanderwood of Oxford by 18 seconds. 

Wife Sara Vanderwood has been working with dogs for nearly four decades and is a past president of Mushing USA, now the United States Federation of Sled Dog sports. A former member of the U.S. National Skijoring Team, Vanderwood, who raced Endo’s three-year-old half brother, Koko, described the movement of dog and man as “symbiotic.” 

“Your dog is running as fast as they can, you’re skiing as fast as you can, and it makes one very fluid team,” Vanderwood said. 

When the race was over, racers took to the warming hut for cocoa and energy bars. Outside, once again barking, the dogs ate well-deserved treats, bones and pig ears.

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