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Susan Butcher

Four Time Iditarod Celebrity

After a crash early in the race, Butcher was the first to pull into Nome after eleven days on the trail in the 1986 race. She put her $50,000 prize money back into her kennel, which now housed more than 150 dogs. She raises each dog herself and sells them to mushers for $1,000 to $11,000 each—but only if they do not meet standards for her own team. Granite led Butcher's team to the win again in 1987. Her back-to-back win stirred up a furor over men and women competing together. Her longtime friendship with Rick Swenson ended because of it.

Warm temperatures wreaked havoc at the start of the 1988 Iditarod. Butcher spent twenty-four hours repairing her sled with duct tape and a pocket knife after crashing in muddy conditions. She ran next to the sled, which could not carry her, for three days until she could exchange it for another one. Butcher finished the race in first place, despite gale-force winds and cold. She was the first musher to win Iditarod three times in a row. Millions of T-shirts have been sold that read: "Alaska. Where the men are men and women win the Iditarod."

An intestinal virus plagued Butcher's dogs on the 1989 Iditarod trail, and she finished second. She set a course record of eleven days, one hour, fifty-three minutes, and twenty-three seconds to win in 1990. Now, she and her old friend Swenson were the only two mushers to win the race four times. She finished second in 1992, fourth in 1993, and did not place in 1994. She retired from racing to start a family, but her Trail Breaker Kennels remains one of the most respected in mushing.

Butcher's history-making accomplishments made her a celebrity in the lower forty-eight states. She traveled during the summer, giving speeches, signing autographs, and appearing on Good Morning America, Today, and the Tonight Show. When she took Granite to the White House to meet President George Bush, the dog got his own hotel room, ate beef from a silver platter, and was addressed as "Mr. Granite."

Related Biography: Dogsledder Joe Redington

Born in Oklahoma in 1917, Joe Redington is known as the "Father of the Iditarod." He moved to Knik, Alaska in 1948 and made a career of raising sled dogs after receiving one as a gift. He initially used his dogs in military search and recovery missions in Alaska from 1949 to 1957. He founded the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race in 1973. The race follows the actual trail that was used in the early 1900's during the gold rush to deliver supplies and mail to mining camps. A 1925 outbreak of diphtheria challenged a group of mushers to a "race against death" to cross Alaska and deliver life-saving medicine to Nome. Redington died of cancer in June 1999. Per his wishes, he was buried in his favorite dogsled in a specially made vault. A life-size, bronze memorial statue of Redington was unveiled in 2003.

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Famous Sports StarsOther SportsSusan Butcher Biography - Loved Animals, Hated The City, Began Preparing For The Iditarod, A Dangerous Run-in With A Moose - CONTACT INFORMATION