Alaska’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

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Mushers and their dogs took a leisurely jaunt through Anchorage on Saturday, March 2nd in the ceremonial start of Alaska’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The Iditarod Trail International Sled Dog Race determines which musher and dogs can complete the race in the shortest time under their own power and without aid of others. The maximum number of dogs a musher may start the race with is sixteen dogs. A musher must have at least twelve dogs to start the race.

The 1,000+ mile race kicked off in a festive mood as 66 teams posed with fans and piloted their sleds 11 miles on streets covered with trucked-in snow. Each sled carried an Iditarider, a fan who won the short ride at auction.

This event comes before the real, competitive start of the race Sunday, March 3rd in Willow, 50 miles north. This is when teams leave the big crowds behind for remote terrain shared mostly with their dogs. From Willow, where the race clock starts ticking, mushers and their dog teams will begin making their way through unforgiving wilderness toward the finish line in the old frontier town of Nome on Alaska’s western coast.

Before reaching their destination, the teams will cross mountains, frozen rivers and forests before hitting the wind-pummeled coast. They’ll sign in at village checkpoints, sometimes stopping for mandatory layovers. The winner will get a new truck and $50,400. The rest of the $600,000 purse will be split between the next 29 mushers to cross the finish line.

To view weather conditions at the checkpoints, visit this page.

The Iditarod Trail Committee (ITC) takes great pride in its role of providing excellence in dog care, not only during the race, but through an extensive program of pre-race vet­erinary screen­ing.

Visit the Iditarod veterinary center here.

The original sled dogs were Inuit Sled Dogs bred by the Mahlemuit tribe and are one of the earliest domesticated breeds known. They were soon crossbred with Alaskan huskies, hounds, setters, spaniels, German shepherds, and wolves. Siberian huskies were introduced in the early 20th century and became the most popular racing breed. The original dogs were chosen for strength and stamina, but modern racing dogs are all mixed-breed huskies bred for speed, tough feet, endurance, good attitude, and most importantly the desire to run. Dogs bred for long races weigh from 45 to 55 pounds, and those bred for sprinting weigh 5 to 10 pounds less, but the best competitors of both types are interchangeable.

For complete information on this historic race, visit the official website.

Photo via Frank Kovalchek from Anchorage, Alaska, USA

Jodi G. Thomson was born and raised in Seattle WA, she and her husband relocated to Houston TX in 2010. She enjoys writing and spending time with her husband and their pets.

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