Nicknamed “The Last Great Race,” The Iditarod is a grueling, long-distance sled dog race from Anchorage, Alaska, to Nome. It’s an incredible race that both humans and dogs train for all year. It takes a lot of strength and teamwork to be able to complete the race, let alone win. The person who directs the dogs, or mushers, must be prepared for all situations. Mushers are on their own during the race and face challenges as they occur.
A team in the Iditarod consists of a musher and a team of 14 dogs. To win, at least five dogs, along with the musher, must be on the towline at the finish line and cover the distance in eight–15 days or more. This race began in 1973 for mushers in Alaska to show others how well sled dog teams work together. Since its beginnings, the race has turned into an international competitive event.
Some of the challenges a team can face are blizzards, white-out conditions and sub-zero temperatures. Racers have to be ready for these situations and know how to survive through them. They can also fall victim to attacks from wild animals that might jeopardize their life or the lives of the dog team.
The traditional dogs used in this race are Alaskan malamutes and Siberian huskies and were chosen for strength and stamina. In modern racing, mixed-breed dogs are used because they are bred for speed, tough feet, endurance and the desire to run. In this race, the dogs are just as important as the person guiding them.
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