Parents' Guide to

Toughest Race on Earth: Iditarod

By Will Wade, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Mushers, dogs go up against nature; viewers win.

Toughest Race on Earth: Iditarod Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.

Community Reviews

age 2+

Based on 1 parent review

age 2+

"Common Sense" tells me the Iditarod must end.

The Iditarod routinely kills young, healthy dogs and it has to stop. Six dogs died in 2009, bringing the total known to 142. The dog deaths average nearly 4 a year. Although no dogs died in this year’s Iditarod, more than half did not finish (usually the case each year). Of the 992 dogs who started, 542 did not finish, which is 55%. They are among the best-conditioned dogs in the world due to their training year-round, yet they are dropped due to injury, illness, exhaustion, or just not wanting to continue. One musher scratched after one of her dogs collapsed while running. The distance is too long, and the conditions and rough terrain too grueling for the dogs. There are laws in at least 38 states against over-driving and over-working animals, which is exactly what the Iditarod does. The Alaska cruelty statue that would apply to the sled dogs was changed in 2008 to exempt them. When the dogs are not racing or training they are each kept on a short chain, attached to their small enclosure. This is considered inhumane and illegal in many communities. Mackey’s Kennel is just one example (scroll down at the website to see the chained dogs and enclosures): Animal welfare organizations including The Animal Legal Defense Fund, Friends of Animals, In Defense of Animals, PETA, and Sled Dog Action Coalition want this race to end. People concerned about animals should boycott this cruel race and contact the sponsors to end their support of it.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1 ):
Kids say (1 ):

Watching this show is simply thrilling. There are few sporting events that show people pitting themselves so completely against each other, against the elements, against just about everything -- just completing this race is an amazing accomplishment. The fastest finish ever was just shy of nine days, and the slowest finisher in history took almost 33 days to cross the line. Plus, the amazing dogs are plenty of fun to watch in action, and the relationship between the mushers and their dogs is touching.

Some of the mushers are clearly in it to win; but many others are just trying to see if they have what it takes to survive the journey. It's rare to see such an unvarnished glimpse of people pushing the limits of human endurance and will power. Some Iditarod detractors might say the show provides a one-sided look at the race and doesn't show some poor treatment of animals, but whether a work of fiction or reality, the show is exhilarating.

TV Details

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