Meet Susan Butcher, a New England girl whose only goal in life was to win the Alaskan Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race which she ultimately won 4 times with record times and became one the greatest mushers of all time

Susan Butcher

Susan Howlet Butcher (December 26, 1954 – August 5, 2006) was an American dog musher, noteworthy as the second woman to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 1986, the second four-time winner in 1990, and the first to win four out of five sequential years. She is commemorated in Alaska by the Susan Butcher Day.

Life and career

Iditarod Finishes

Year

Position

Time

1978

19th

16d 15h 40m 30s

1979

9th

16d 11h 15m 32s

1980

5th

15d 10h 17m 6s

1981

5th

12d 12h 45m 24s

1982

2nd

16d 4h 43m 53s

1983

9th

13d 10h 25m 32s

1984

2nd

12d 16h 41m 42s

1985

Scratched

1986

1st

11d 15h 6m 0s

1987

1st

11d 2h 5m 13s

1988

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7 thoughts on “Meet Susan Butcher, a New England girl whose only goal in life was to win the Alaskan Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race which she ultimately won 4 times with record times and became one the greatest mushers of all time”

  1. awill237

    I was living in Alaska the first two times she placed first. It was a *huge* deal. I seem to remember she was a great advocate for proper treatment of the mushing dogs, too, before others had acknowledged them as a team and not a tool.

  2. terad

    That was a nice read for my Saturday morning. Thanks!

  3. NotAnotherWhatever

    She came to our school a few times, and I have an uncle who competed against her in the Iditarod. He had nothing but respect for her – at the time the only musher he talked more highly of was Martin Buser – both were known for their high standards of dog care.

    My uncle believed – and before Lance “I wouldn’t know good sportsmanship if sucker punching another racer got me kicked out of races” Mackey took off I think this was a more popular attitude – that while race standing is important, the best dog care award says a lot more about you as a musher, and if you could only have one, well, first place comes with a truck but the other comes with respect.

    My uncle never won either, but he’s still got a kennel and does tours for tourists on the glaciers, and he’s hoping one of my cousins will bring the prize home for the kennel some day.

    I love the Iditarod – it preserves history and connects the community and raised a lot of awareness about animal care standards. I love the emphasis on dog safety, and good sportsmanship, and on a unified Alaska.The red lantern prize, gold nugget prize, all of it.

    I think about last year where the mushers left to a normal world and came home two weeks later to a full swing of COVID. A musher got trapped here, for a long time. He couldn’t go home to his country because of COVID.

    But the community stuck together and helped each other, much like during the Miller’s Reach fire. I think a big part of that is because of the tradition of kindness and care Susan and Martin and Libby and all those other mushers before nailed into place. It’s in the bones of the race. Having a dog die in your care is such a black mark against you. People remember, and they talk. Sometimes it’s unavoidable from a racer standpoint – when a snow machine crashes into your dog team, you can’t control that. But when you’re Lance Mackey losing multiple dogs and drugging them up along the way? Nah. We remember. And we don’t take very kindly to it.

    People like Susan, though? We remember them. And their stories inform our future. Their stories inspire the Aliy Zirkles, the newest crop of Redingtons, or Smyths. They’re told at elementary schools as reminders: you can do so much more if you work for it and don’t give up than you could even imagine.

    TL;DR – wonderful woman, still very revered here

  4. funky_grandma

    But have you heard about the all-feline team that entered the Iditarod? They didn’t win the grand prize, but they did go home with a pile of cold hard cats.

  5. idevcg

    you say “only goal in life” but I think a lot of people don’t even have “an only goal” and are just completely lost. Basically a living zombie for most of their lives.

    At least that’s how I was. I want an only goal in life too.

  6. OhioMegi

    I have a book she wrote. I share it with my students every year.

  7. cactuspizza

    Musher is such a cool word

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