Balto and Other Statues of Dogs in New York City
Balto the Sled Dog Statue in Central Park
I was cycling the other day up First Avenue and came across a giant statue of a Dalmatian balancing a New York City taxi cab on its nose in front of NYU Children’s Hospital’s new Kimmel Pavilion on 34th Street.
The giant 30-foot statue, Spot, was put up this past summer. The taxi cab is a real Prius donated by Toyota. It was stripped of its motor. When it rains, the windshield wipers work!
The statue was designed to give kids and their families an emotional boost when they arrived at the hospital.
Spot got me wondering if there were other statues of dogs on display in public spaces in New York.
Of course, the first Google search result of “dog statues” in the Big Apple will return “Balto the Sled Dog in Central Park.” I cycled on up to get a look!
Balto is a favorite in the park. His statue has been located west of East Drive and 67th Street and north of the Children’s Zoo since 1925.
In the 1920s, Nome, Alaska suffered a terrible diphtheria outbreak. Teams of mushers and sled dogs — led by Balto and others — battled blizzard conditions over nearly 700 miles to deliver medicine to the stricken town. Brooklyn-born sculptor Frederick George Richard Roth created this tribute to the heroic dog.
And just who were those “others” involved in the rescue of Nome? Well, one of them was Togo. Balto’s owner had other sled dogs, including Togo, his favorite. It turns out that Togo did most of the heavy lifting (or should I say pulling?) during the nearly 700 mile run, but Balto led the last leg as they entered Nome. That’s why Balto got the hero’s welcome!
Did Togo get a hero’s statue in New York City?
He did, but it had an ignominious beginning. The anonymous figure you see below by Shelley Curtis Smith was tucked away in sad little Seward Park in the Lower East Side.
In the dirt.
By a fence.
Where few people could see it.
Fortunately, Togo’s reputation has been rehabilitated. Time Magazine named him the most heroic animal of all time. Disney has made a live action film that tells his story! It stars Willem Dafoe and it is available on Disney+.
And his statue in Seward Park has been given a plaque and a place of honor among some benches where people can enjoy his company.
After checking out Balto and Togo, I remembered I’d seen the Paparazzi Dogs in a square in Greenwhich Village about a year ago. I cycled down to the Village only to find they were gone. I emailed the artists, husband and wife team Gillie and Marc, in Australia. They told me there were several of their works on display throughout the city including some Paparazzi Dogs in the lobby of 75 Rockefeller Plaza.
Gillie and Marc were embroiled in a controversy earlier this year. A statue they created featuring a Dogman holding a big red apple, to be displayed in Chinatown, was met with opposition from the community. Locals used the city not to install the work saying that an image of a man with a dog’s head was insulting. Eventually the statue made its way to Melbourne, Australia.
Raymond and Toby
I was wandering around Astoria recently (as one will) and came across the Socrates Sculpture Park where I found this statue of Raymond and Toby by John Ahearn.
Ahearn is known for his street art.
Finally, here’s a link to an earlier Urban Dog post about a controversial canine statue down on Wall Street that had to be removed.
If you know of other dog statues in New York, send us an email and we’ll update this post.