A heroic and heart-tugging statue in Central Park

City parks are filled with animal sculptures—some quite brutal and realistic, reminding genteel urbanites of the power and grandeur of nature.

But one statue pays homage to a specific brave creature: Balto the Siberian husky.

In 1925, Balto led a team of dogs through 600 miles of blinding blizzard to deliver diphtheria medicine to kids in isolated Nome, Alaska.

He was arguably the most popular dog in the country after his story hit the news, prompting some New Yorkers to raise funds to have him immortalized in bronze.

The real Balto even came to the city for his statue’s unveiling just 10 months later:

The parks commissioner said of Balto’s statue, “it was a most unique occasion in having a real ‘hero’ present at the dedication of a monument in his honor, as most heroes have to wait until they are dead to be so honored,” reported The New York Times.

“‘But we are glad,’ he added, ‘to reward loyalty and courage, even in a dog.’”

While Balto’s statue is one of the most popular in the park, the real Balto had a few rough years, sold to the vaudeville circuit before he was rescued by the Cleveland Zoo, where he lived out the rest of his life.

[Top photo: Centralpark2000.com]

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7 Responses to “A heroic and heart-tugging statue in Central Park”

  1. Parnassus Says:

    This is one of my top favorite posts. You left out the final ending; after Balto died at the Cleveland Zoo, he was stuffed by a taxidermist, and to this day you can still visit the real Balto at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History at University Circle.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Ah yes, and here’s a link to a photo of stuffed Balto. He’s quite handsome:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/30706946@N00/428563937/

  3. rocco dormarunno Says:

    I always have to smile when I pass this statue. Part of it still retains its bronze sparkle, especially on Balto’s back and rib cage. The rest of it has oxidized into a dull black/green. Urban legend has it that it’s because visitors, especially kids, love to pet him. Maybe it’s not legend!

  4. r185 Says:

    Balto’s trek also inspired the Alaskan annual Iditarod race.
    http://www.iditarod.com/

  5. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    There’s a picture of me, about 10 years old, which would have been 50 years ago, sitting so terrified upon Balto. I knew he was a statue but still I was so far away from the camera taker, either my father or mother, that I was pretty sure I cried right after that shot. If I can I’ll try and find it and show you how much the area has changed around it. Knowing where it was taken 50 years ago, Central Park, means nothing, looks like yesterday is today, which it is.

  6. Katie Levin Says:

    The Balto statue also has a big role in John Guare’s 1990 play, *Six Degrees of Separation.*

  7. A bear and a goat dancing at the Central Park Zoo | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] If you’ve spent time in Central Park, you’ve probably seen his work. Roth designed the Mother Goose monument as well as the statue of hero husky Balto. […]

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