Togo, Heihachiro

Togo, Heihachiro

Togo, Heihachiro, 1846-1934, Japanese admiral, Japan's greatest naval hero. He studied naval science in England (1871-78), gained international recognition for his service in the First Sino-Japanese War, and contributed greatly to the development of Japanese sea power. In the Russo-Japanese War he defeated the Russian fleet at Port Arthur in 1904 and destroyed the Russian Baltic fleet in 1905 at the battle of Tsushima. This historic battle broke Russian strength in East Asia. Later he was chief of the naval general staff and a member of the supreme war council.

See E. A. Falk, Togo and the Rise of Japanese Sea Power (1936); G. Blond, Admiral Togo (tr. 1960).

Togo (October 1913 – December 5, 1929) was the sled dog who led Leonhard Seppala and his dog sled team as they covered the longest distance in the 1925 relay of diphtheria antitoxin from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, to combat an outbreak of the disease. The run is commemorated by the annual Iditarod dog sled race.

Togo was a Siberian Husky, and named after Heihachiro Togo, the Japanese Admiral during the Russo-Japanese War. His coat was black, brown, and gray, and he weighed about 48 pounds (22 kg). He was the son of Suggen, Seppala's lead dog during the 1914 All-Alaska Sweepstakes, and was a precocious leader. At the time of the serum run Togo was twelve years old.

One of the more dramatic events illustrating his abilities occurred while Seppala and Togo were crossing the ice of the Norton Sound. The team was temporarily stranded after the ice they were crossing broke off and became an ice floe for several hours. When the ice drifted back to the solid sheet of ice crossing the bay, Seppala had Togo jump across the 5-foot (1.5 m) gap in-harness to pull the floe closer to the shore. The harness snapped and fell into the water, but Togo jumped into the water, took the traces in his jaw, and pulled the floes together until it was safe for the rest of the team to jump.

Great Race of Mercy

The first batch of 300,000 units of serum was delivered by train from Anchorage to Nenana, Alaska, where it was picked up by the first of twenty mushers and more than 100 dogs who relayed the serum a total of 674 miles (1,085 km) to Nome.

Togo and Seppala traveled 170 miles (274 km) from Nome in three days, and picked up the serum from Henry Ivanoff just outside of Shaktoolik on January 31. The temperature was estimated at −30 °F (−34 °C), and the gale force winds causing a wind chill of −85 °F (−65 °C).

The return trip crossed the exposed open ice of the Norton Sound. The night and a ground blizzard prevented Seppala from being able to see the path but Togo navigated to the roadhouse at Isaac's Point on the shore by 8 AM. After traveling 84 miles (134 km) in one day, the team slept for six hours before continuing at 2 AM.

Before the night the temperature dropped to −40 °F (−40 °C), and the wind increased to 65 mi/h (105 km/h). The team ran across the ice, which was breaking up, while following the shoreline. They returned to shore to cross Little McKinley Mountain, climbing 5,000 feet (1,500 m). After descending to the next roadhouse in Golovin, Seppala passed the serum to Charlie Olsen, who in turn would pass it to Gunnar Kaasen and Balto.


After the successful serum run, the faster freight dog Balto became the most famous canine of the run. Many mushers today consider Seppala and Togo to be the true heroes of the run as together they covered the longest and most hazardous leg. They made a round trip of 261 miles (420 km) from Nome to Shaktoolik and back to Golovin, and delivered the serum a total of 91 miles (146 km), almost double the distance of any other team.

Immediately after the relay, Togo and another dog on the team escaped to chase after reindeer, eventually returning to their kennel in Little Creek. Seppala was dismayed that the champion was neglected by the press, commenting "it was almost more than I could bear when the newspaper dog Balto received a statue for his 'glorious achievements'". (Salisbury & Salisbury, 2003.) Many people consider these words an influence on the movie 'Balto' because nobody thought him good enough just like Seppala had said.

In October 1926, Seppala, Togo, and a team of dogs went on a tour from Seattle, Washington to California, while Balto and his team were sold on the cheap and relegated to the vaudeville circuit since they couldn't be used in the breeding shed and weren't considered 'elite' dogs by the purists. Seppala and Togo drew large crowds at stadiums and department stores, and even appeared in a Lucky Strike cigarette campaign. In New York City, Seppala drove his team from the steps of City Hall along Fifth Avenue, made a pass through Central Park. The team appeared multiple times at Madison Square Garden, which was being managed by Tom Rickard formerly of Nome, where Togo was awarded a gold medal by Roald Amundsen.

In New England, they competed in several dog sled races against local Chinook dogs, and won by huge margins. As a result, Siberian huskies became popular in Maine, and Seppala sold most of his team to a local kennel. The popularity led to their recognition as an official breed by the American Kennel Club in 1930, and most Siberian huskies in America are descended from a serum run participant.

Togo retired in Poland Spring, Maine, where he was euthanized on December 5, 1929 aged 16 years old. The headline in The New York Sun Times the next day was "Dog Hero Rides to His Death" (Salisbury & Salisbury, 2003), and he was eulogized in many other papers. After his death, Seppala had him custom mounted, and today the dog is on display in a glass case at the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Museum Headquarters in Wasilla, Alaska.


Togo's legacy is constantly spreading. Many modern trainers of Siberian Huskies trace the lineage of their dogs back to Togo. Many more search for Balto's relatives than Togo's relatives, but tracing a line back to Balto would be impossible due to the fact that he was neutered when he was still a puppy.


External links

Search another word or see Togo, Heihachiroon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature