The ADVENTURE Top 10: Toughest Races - National Geographic ADVENTURE

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March 23, 2009


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This is an exciting race that must see and watch.

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Any news on an amateur obstacle course for dogs instead of the extreme Iditarod? I'd love to get something going in California for dogs from all over to compete.

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Wow that last comment was heavy. 53% of the dogs die? That's terrible.

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For a well reasoned response to Ms. Glickman's half truths, please read the following:

@dog care irvine - I have news for you, this race is tough on the mushers also, it's a ton of very hard work in extreme conditions.

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Yeah it seems like this race is a crock of bullshit considering the dogs are doing all the work. And that's terrible that so many dogs die and are injured for no reason.

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These races are really making people excited and enioyable, but on the other side, they are also very dangerous.


This is a really great top ten list, and I agree, Iditarod is the toughest. Anyone can post their own to our site The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.

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These races are really making people excited and enioyable, but on the other side, they are also very dangerous.

Margery Glickman

The Iditarod is Barbaric

The dogs do all the work in the Iditarod and they suffer accordingly. Five dogs died in the 2009 Iditarod. Two dogs were on the team of Dr. Lou Packer. Dr. Packer told the Anchorage Daily News he believes the two dogs froze to death in the brutally cold winds. For the dogs, the Iditarod is a bottomless pit of suffering. What happens to the dogs during the race includes death, paralysis, frostbite (where it hurts the most!), bleeding ulcers, bloody diarrhea, lung damage, pneumonia, ruptured discs, viral diseases, broken bones, torn muscles and tendons and sprains. At least 141 dogs have died in the race. No one knows how many dogs die after this tortuous ordeal or during training. For more facts about the Iditarod, visit the Sled Dog Action Coalition website, .

On average, 53 percent of the dogs who start the race do not make it across the finish line. According to a report published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, of those who do finish, 81 percent have lung damage. A report published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine said that 61 percent of the dogs who complete the Iditarod have ulcers versus zero percent pre-race.

Dogs get no benefit racing in the Iditarod. Mushers get advertising contracts, book deals, speaker fees and lots of money from dog sales.

Iditarod dog kennels are puppy mills. Mushers breed large numbers of dogs and
routinely kill unwanted ones, including puppies. Many dogs who are permanently disabled in the Iditarod, or who are unwanted for any reason, including those who have outlived their usefulness, are killed with a shot to the head, dragged, drowned or clubbed to death. "Dogs are clubbed with baseball bats and if they don't pull are dragged to death in harnesses......" wrote former Iditarod dog handler Mike Cranford in an article for Alaska's Bush Blade Newspaper.

Dog beatings and whippings are common. During the 2007 Iditarod, eyewitnesses reported that musher Ramy Brooks kicked, punched and beat his dogs with a ski pole and a chain. Jim Welch says in his book Speed Mushing Manual, "Nagging a dog team is cruel and ineffective...A training device such as a whip is not cruel at all but is effective." "It is a common training device in use among dog mushers..."

Jon Saraceno wrote in his March 3, 2000 column in USA Today, "He [Colonel Tom Classen] confirmed dog beatings and far worse. Like starving dogs to maintain their most advantageous racing weight. Skinning them to make mittens.. Or dragging them to their death."

During the race, veterinarians do not give the dogs physical exams at every checkpoint. Mushers speed through many checkpoints, so the dogs get the briefest visual checks, if that. Instead of pulling sick dogs from the race, veterinarians frequently give them massive doses of antibiotics to keep them running.

Most Iditarod dogs are forced to live at the end of a chain when they aren't hauling people around. It has been reported that dogs who don't make the main team are never taken off-chain. Chained dogs have been attacked by wolves, bears and other animals. Old and arthritic dogs suffer terrible pain in the blistering cold.

Margery Glickman
Sled Dog Action Coalition,

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