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Toboggans and Sleds

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Toboggans and Sleds
Clip Art of A Toboggan
Dixie Allan

Here is a clip art image of a toboggan. On Page 2 you will find an image of a sled.


Wooden toboggans were used by many tribes in Canada, including the Cree and Innu, as well as the Anishinabe peoples, who were known as Chippewa in the US and Ojibwe or Ojibway in Canada. The origins of the word toboggan are contested. One claim is that it derives from the Micmac language of eastern Canada. Another account is that it stems from the Anishinabe word nobugidaban.

Whatever its name, the wood toboggan was the prototypical snow sled. These snow sleds were made from two or three thin hardwood boards that were curved around at the front end using heat, steam, or hot water. Wooden cleats or crossbars were attached to hold the boards together, and then this highly useful winter sled would be left to dry for two days. Once ready for use, a cord or rope would be attached to the front of the wooden toboggan snow sled, and the loaded sled pulled forward by humans or a team of dogs.

Over time, variations of the wood toboggan began to appear and were put to different uses. Around 1800, a snow sled for carrying people (fur traders in particular) was invented known as a cariole. Unlike a wooden toboggan, a cariole featured enclosed sides, a back, and a partly covered top.

Snow Sled is used as a synonym for sliding devices of all kinds but snow sleds are actually a specific type of snow transport. Snow sleds can be distinguished from wood toboggans by their long and narrow runners, which reduced friction and enabled the carrying of heavier loads. The sled designs used today for fun and recreation were once necessary tools for Native American peoples to survive.

In the last 100 years, we have seen many new and improved sled designs, beginning with the Swiss invention of the bobsled in the late 19th century. The greatest difference between modern sleds and the original toboggans is that sleds are now used primarily for recreation. But for those who would like a glimpse of the earlier times, the annual 1100-mile dog sled race known as the Iditarod offers a unique reminder of the tremendous challenges of primitive winter transport.

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