Balto

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For the 1995 animated film, see Balto (movie)
A statue of Balto, in downtown
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A statue of Balto, in downtown Anchorage

Balto was the lead dog on the final leg of the 1925 serum run to Nome, the transport of diphtheria antitoxin from Anchorage, to Nome, Alaska in the United States by dog sled, to combat an outbreak of the disease. The run is commemorated by the annual Iditarod dog sled race.

In January 1925, doctors realized that a potentially deadly diphtheria epidemic was poised to sweep through Nome's young people. The only serum that could stop the outbreak was in Anchorage, nearly a thousand miles (1,600 km) away. The two aircraft that could quickly deliver the medicine had been dismantled for the winter. After considering alternatives, officials decided to move the medicine by sled dog.

The serum was transported by train from Anchorage to Nenana, where the first musher embarked from Nenana as part of a dog-sled relay aimed at delivering the needed serum to Nome. More than 20 mushers took part, facing a blizzard with −53 °C temperatures and strong winds. News coverage of the race was worldwide.

On February 2, 1925, the Norwegian Gunnar Kaasen drove his team, led by the husky Balto (named after Samuel Balto), into Nome. Balto and Kaasen became celebrities, even though more than a dozen mushers and their teams participated. The longest and most hazardous stretch of the run was actually covered by Leonhard Seppala and his dog team, led by Togo. They left Nome towards the end of the run, picked up the serum, and turned back.

A statue of Balto was erected in New York City's Central Park in 1926, and in March of 1927, Balto and six companions were given a permanent home at the Cleveland Zoo, where they received a hero's welcome. After Balto's death in Cleveland on March 14, 1933, at 11 years old, he was mounted and placed on display in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

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