Winter Sports Guide: What Is The Iditarod Dogsled Race?

Information on this historic dog sled races. Tips on making a trip to view the event.

Every year people train their sled dogs to take part in the Iditarod to commemorate the famous run that saved the lives of many people during the 1925 diphtheria outbreak in Nome, Alaska. The serum needed to prevent the disease from being spread and potentially killing those infected was well over 1,000 miles away in Anchorage. The normal means of delivery would have been via airplane but the plane that would be used was not available in the winter months. The only way to get the serum was by sending out sled dog teams to retrieve the medicine. Without the serum, the children of Nome would have been gravely ill and there would have been a high death toll because of it. Because of the weather conditions, there was no other way to transport the serum needed.

These men and their dog teams set out into the bitter cold weather. The winds and extreme temperatures they encountered were brutal. Out of over 20 mushers, only one made it in six days. That was Gunner Kaassen, and his dog team led by Balto. He was the lead dog in the team and because of his faithful service to his owner, he was able to lead the team in such a short length of time.

Because of all the media coverage, Balto immediately became a hero and an instant celebrity. His pictures were on every newspaper around the world. After the run, Balto and his team toured the United States as a travelling show. After Balto and his team retired, they were able to live out the rest of their days at the Cleveland Zoo located in Cleveland, Ohio. There the dogs were able to relax and enjoy the rest of their days. In 1933 Balto passed away and his remains were preserved and he is now on display in an exhibit dedicated to the history of the Iditarod at the Cleveland Natural History Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. At the Cleveland Zoo just outside the wolf wilderness exhibit in a small garden is a memorial to Balto and his team. There is also the historical information about the Iditarod and about how he spent his retirement years. There is also a statue of Balto that was erected in Central Park in New York City, New York in 1926.

There was also an animated movie made in 1995 on the 70th anniversary of the first Iditarod. This film became very popular and as a result sparked a new generation of Iditarod enthusiasts.

The Iditarod, which was first started in 1967 as a memorial to the first Iditarod, is 1,200 miles of raw untamed wilderness. It takes a lot of time and training to get the dogs in shape for this long journey. When out on the trail, there are set points along the way to make sure the dogs are healthy enough to go on. If a dog shows signs of exhaustion, frostbite or any other ailment he is immediately pulled from the race and treated by a vet. Sled dogs are born to run and they enjoy pulling the sled.

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