This year marks the 50th running of the grueling Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska from Anchorage to Nome, and to celebrate a half-century of sled dog racing, we compiled a complete list of Iditarod winners, including the names of the lead dog or dogs for every champion from Dick Wilmarth in the first race in 1973, through Susan Butcher and her four victories, to Dallas Seavey with a fifth victory in 2021.

Susan Butcher secures her fourth victory at the 1990 Iditarod with lead dogs Sluggo and Lightning. (Image: Getty)

In 2021, Seavey won his fifth Iditarod and tied Rick Swenson for most victories in the great Alaskan sled dog race. Seavey added his name to the list of Iditarod winners when he first became a champion in 2012.

Swenson, a five-time winner in the Iditarod, secured his first win in 1977 and his last win in 1991.

The Iditarod is one of the few sports that allow men and women to compete against each other, because the Alaska wilderness is equally brutal on men and women. Susan Butcher, American’s greatest female athletes, won the Iditarod four times including three consecutive victories in the late 1980s.

Dck Wilmarth 1973 First Winner Iditarod
Dick Wilmarth accepts the trophy for the first victory in the inaugural Iditarod in 1973. (Image: AP)

1970s to Early 1980s: Pioneers and Swenson Domination

Wilmarth won the inaugural Iditarod in 1973 thanks to his lead dog Hotfoot. It took him 20 days to complete the sojourn. Other early winners at the Iditarod included Carl Hunnington, Emmitt Peters, and Gerald Riley.

1973 Dick WilmarthHotfoot
1974Carl HuntingtonNugget
1975Emmitt PetersNugget and Digger
1976Gerald RileyPuppy and Sugar
1977Rick SwensonAndy and Old Buddy
1978Dick MackeySkipper and Shrew
1979Rick Swenson (2)Andy and Old Buddy
1980Joe MayWilbur and Cora Gray
1981Rick Swenson (3)Andy and Slick
1982Rick Swenson (4)Andy
1983Rick MackeyPreacher and Jody
1984Dean OsmarRed and Bullet
1985Libby RiddlesAxle and Dugan

Minnesota-born Swenson won his first Iditarod in 1977 with lead dogs Andy and Old Buddy. It took Swenson 16 days and 16 hours to complete his first victory. He added a second victory in 1979 and became the first musher to win the great sled dog race twice. He added back-to-back victories in 1981 and 1982 with Andy once against as his lead dog to become a four-time Iditarod champion.

Susan Butcher proves her first victory at the Iditarod was not a fluke with back-to-back wins in 1987. (Image: AP)

Rise of Susan Butcher

Butcher grew up in Massachusetts, but moved to Alaska because she loved the outdoors. She is a self-taught musher who got hooked on the sport. Butcher became a household name when she became the first woman to win the Iditarod in 1986. Little did she know it would mark the first of four overall championships and that New Yorker magazine would profile her in 1987.

Butcher and her lead dog Granite won the great Alaskan race three times together for a three-peat between 1986 and 1988. In 1990, Butcher won her fourth Iditarod with Sluggo and Lightning as her lead dogs.

1986Susan ButcherGranite and Mattie
1987Susan Butcher (2)Granite and Mattie
1988Susan Butcher (3)Granite and Tolstoi
1989Joe RunyanRambo and Ferlin the Husky
1990Susan Butcher (4)Sluggo and Lightning
1991Rick Swenson (5)Goose
1992Martin BuserTyrone and D2
1993Jeff KingHerbie and Kitty
1994Martin Buser (2)D2 and Dave
1995Doug SwingleyVic and Elmer
1996Jeff King (2)Jake and Booster
1997Martin Buser (3)Blondie and Fearless
1998Jeff King (3)Red and Jenna

Swenson added a fifth victory in 1991 to take the overall lead with five titles. Swiss musher Martin Buser added two wins in 1991 and 1994. Jeff King ended the 1990s with three victories and different lead dogs in each win.

New Century: Swingley, Buser, Mackey 4-Timers Club

At the turn of the century, it marked the dawn of a new era, yet despite all the technological advances in the world, the Iditarod was still a test of endurance and will. Doug Swingley won three races in a row between 1999 and 2001 with Stormy as his lead dog to join the exclusive four-timers club joining Swenson and Butcher.

1999Doug Swingley (2)Stormy, Cola and Elmer
2000Doug Swingley (3)Stormy and Cola
2001Doug Swingley (4)Stormy and Peppy
2002Martin Buser (4)Bronson
2003Robert SorlieTipp
2004Mitch SeaveyTread
2005Robert Sorlie (2)Sox and Blue
2006Jeff King (4)Salem and Bronte
2007Lance MackeyLarry and Lippy
2008Lance Mackey (2)Larry and Hobo
2009Lance Mackey (3)Larry and Maple
2010Lance Mackey (4)Maple

Buser, the legendary Swiss musher, returned with a huge win in 2002 to become a four-time champion. Although the 2022 race was 80 miles shorter, Buser set a new record by reaching Nome in less than nine days.

Lance Mackey ended the 2000s with a four-peat. Mackey had Larry as his lead dog three of the times, and Maple as a lead dog twice.

In 2017, Mitch Seavey defeated his son Dallas to become the oldest musher to win the Iditarod at 57. (Image: AP)

Unbeatable Seavey Family: Mitch and Dallas

The Seavey clan dominated the 2010s with Mitch Seavey snagging two titles (and his third overall) and his son Dallas reaching the finish line first five times, including three-straight victories between 2014 and 2016. There was a six-year stretch when the Seavey family won the Iditarod between 2012 and 2017.

2011John BakerVelvet and Snickers
2012Dallas SeaveyGuinness and Diesel
2013Mitch Seavey (2)Tanner and Taurus
2014Dallas Seavey (2)Beetle and Reef
2015Dallas Seavey (3)Reef and Hero
2016Dallas Seavey (4)Reef and Tide
2017Mitch Seavey (3)Pilot and Crisp
2018Joar Leifseth UlsomRusseren and Olive
2019Peter KaiserMarrow and Lucy
2020Thomas WaernerK2 and Bark
2021Dallas Seavey (5)North and Gamble

In 2020, while the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown all pro sports in North America, the Iditarod was the last major sporting event still going on. Norway’s Thomas Waerner won his first title in 2020 with lead dogs K2 and Bark in harness.

In 2021, during the age of COVID-19, organizers shortened the race. Despite the altered course, Dallas Seavey snagged his fifth win.

Multiple Mushing Victories

Only nine mushers were Iditarod winners on multiple occasions. Dallas Seavey and Rick Swenson are tied with five wins each. However, old-school mushers think Swenson’s victories were far more impressive considering the grueling conditions in the 1970s when mushers spent significantly more time on the race course in the Alaskan tundra and did not have the benefit of better technology and warmer clothing.

  • Dallas Seavey 5
  • Rick Swenson 5
  • Susan Butcher 4
  • Doug Swingley 4
  • Martin Buser 4
  • Jeff King 4
  • Lance Mackey 4
  • Mitch Seavey 3
  • Robert Sorlie 2

Seven mushers are in the four-timers club including Susan Butcher, Doug Swingley, Martin Buser, Jeff King, Lance Mackey, Rick Swenson, and Dallas Seavey.

Mitch Seavey won three times and Norway’s Robert Sorlie won twice in the early 2000s.