Togo, the Real Hero Dog of the Serum Run


Togo was one of the most significant dogs of the 1925 serum run that saved the Nome community of Alaska.

Who was Togo

Togo was a Siberian Husky and a lead sled dog, his owner was the Norwegian-American musher Leonhard Seppala. Togo covered a greater distance than any other lead dogs, however, his name was often left out of the news. The dog who not so deservedly got all the fame was Balto, a less important sled dog.

Togo’s genes contributed to the mainstream Siberian Husky line as well as the Seppala Siberian sled dog line.

Even though Togo didn’t grow as much as was expected from an important sled dog, Seppala recognized his special traits when the dog was just a puppy. At a very young age, Togo escaped the kennel several times and run various miles to his original owner. Togo became one of Seppala’s most treasured dogs. At the time of the serum run, he was 12 years old and had been a lead dog for 7 years.


Serum Run

On January 22, 1925, Curtis Welch, a doctor in Nome, Alaska, reported a diphtheria outbreak among the young people of Nome Eskimo Community. He urged the delivery of the serum. However, delivery by ship or plane wasn’t possible in winter and there was ultimately only one option how to get the 20 lb metal box with the serum to the patients – via multiple sled teams.

The box travelled by ship from Seattle to Anchorage and from there by train to Nenana in continental Alaska. From there it was picked up by the first of more than 20 mushing teams on January 27, 1925. On the 674 mile (1,085 km) run the teams had to face extremely low temperatures as well as blizzards and white-outs.

Seppala and Togo ran 170 miles (270 km) to outside Shaktoolik, where they met the serum relay and after the handoff, they returned another 91 miles (146 km) to Golovin. There they passed the serum on. By this time they had run together over 261 miles (420 km) across some of the most dangerous parts of the run.

Togo later in life

Seppala and Togo went on a tour after the serum run. They appeared at stadiums, department stores, in a cigarette advertisement and several times in the Madison Square Garden. In 1926, Togo was awarded a medal by Roald Amundsen.

They competed in several sled races which they won and Seppala even began a Siberian dog kennel. Unlike Balto, Togo spent his final years in luxury and well taken care of. He was bred at the Ricker kennel. He was euthanized at the age of 16.