Iditarod 2012: Pictures from the Start of the 'The Last Great Race' [PHOTOS]

  • One of Zoya DeNure's sled dogs stands on its hind legs ahead of the ceremonial start of the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in downtown Anchorage
    One of Zoya DeNure's sled dogs stands on its hind legs ahead of the ceremonial start of the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in downtown Anchorage March 3, 2012. This race event has grown from an obscure contest many considered a one-time lark into a world-famous, big-money sports extravaganza.
  • Sled Dogs
    Sled dogs look on before hitting the trail at the official re-start of the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Willow, Alaska March 4, 2012.
  • Sass of Fairbanks, Alaska, takes his team towards Nome at the official re-start of the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Willow
    Brent Sass of Fairbanks, Alaska, takes his team towards Nome at the official re-start of the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Willow, Alaska March 4, 2012.
  • Steves of Edmonds, Washington, and her team compete at the official re-start of the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Willow
    Jan Steves of Edmonds, Washington, and her team compete at the official re-start of the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Willow, Alaska March 4, 2012.
  • Kinzer of Willow and his team head to Nome during the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Willow
    Jaimee Kinzer of Willow and his team head to Nome during the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Willow, Alaska March 4, 2012.
  • Home town favorite Savidis removes Josephine from her kennel to prepare her for the official re-start of the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Willow
    Home town favorite Justin Savidis removes Josephine from her kennel to prepare her for the official re-start of the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Willow, Alaska March 4, 2012.
  • The dog team of Savidis of Willow look on as their owner approaches just before the official re-start of the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Willow
    The dog team of Justin Savidis of Willow look on as their owner approaches just before the official re-start of the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Willow, Alaska March 4, 2012.
  • A dog barks during the ceremonial start of the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in downtown Anchorage
    A dog barks during the ceremonial start of the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in downtown Anchorage March 3, 2012.
  • Dallas Seavey's team, from Willow, Alaska, races down the 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in downtown Anchorage
    Dallas Seavey's team, from Willow, Alaska, races down the 4th Avenue during the ceremonial start of the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in downtown Anchorage March 3, 2012. This race event has grown from an obscure contest many considered a one-time lark into a world-famous, big-money sports extravaganza.
  • York, 6, and Nord, 7, give high-fives to DeBruin of Ontario ahead of the ceremonial start of the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in downtown Anchorage
    Sophia York (front L), 6, and Denali Nord, 7, give high-fives to Hank DeBruin of Ontario ahead of the ceremonial start of the 40th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in downtown Anchorage March 3, 2012.
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 The 40th Annual Iditarod began in Anchorage Saturday as 66 teams set off on the 1,049-mile journey across the state of Alaska.

For the next two weeks, mushers and their dogs take on the some of the most dangerous terrain in the United States in what is dubbed The Last Great Race.

It is the Super Bowl of mushing, said Brent Sass, champion dog-sledder who is competing in his first Iditarod, reported the Washington Post. It is the big one.

The teams consist of 12 to 15 dogs and one musher. They are expected to endure sub-zero temperatures, with limited to no visibility, deadly mountains, frozen lakes, streams and rivers, and of course, indigenous animals.

There are six former champions competing in the race including last year's winner, John Baker, 49. He is the first Inupiat Eskimo to win the race and the first Alaskan native since 1976, reported the Washington Post. 

Lance Mackey is also competing in the race. He won four consecutive Iditarods, but his streak was cut short in 2011 by Baker. Mackey was disappointed in 16th place finish last year and is confident he can make a comeback this year, reported the Washington Post.

This team is as good as any team here, Mackey said.

The trails were originally used for moving mail, supplies and gold throughout the largest state in the union.  In 1925, the trail was used by mushers to bring Diphtheria serum to Nome from anchorage when an outbreak struck the former territory, reported Yahoo.

Check out the first pictures of the start of the race by clicking through the slideshow.

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