Canine Hero in Central Park

On February 2nd, back in 1925, a dog named Balto reached Nome, Alaska and became a national hero. Later that same year, a sculpture was dedicated in Central Park in his honor.

Gunnar Kaasen (musher) with Balto.

In 1925, in the dead of an Alaskan winter; howling winds, snow and ice, and bitterly cold temperatures had cut off the city of Nome from the outside world. It was at this time when an epidemic of diphtheria had broken out, which was especially fatal to children and the Native population. The one and only doctor in Nome did not have any active diphtheria antitoxin to combat the disease.

View of Nome, Alaska in 1916.

Somebody, somehow, had to rush medicine to Nome, or thousands of people would die.

To deliver the medicine, 20 mushers and 150 sled dogs banded together in a relay-run to carry a batch of the life-saving diphtheria antitoxin from Nenana, in the interior of Alaska Territory, all the way to Nome – 674 miles of wilderness in the most extreme conditions imaginable. They delivered the serum in an amazing 127½ hours, a little over 5 days!

Musher Leonhard Seppala with his dogs after the serum run in 1925. His lead dog, Togo, on the far left.

Balto led the last team and to him has gone all the glory. The sculpture in Central Park is an icon.

Gunnar Kassen and Balto in Central Park, where the dog’s statue was unveiled in December 1925

Balto died in 1933 and his remains were mounted by a taxidermist and donated to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Taxidermied Balto displayed at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

The sculpture of Balto in Central Park is one of the most cherished works of art displayed in America’s most visited public park. The bronze monument was designed by Brooklyn artist Frederick Roth.

Balto Sculpture in Central Park.

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