ANCHORAGE, AK (WTVO) — The Iditarod, the world’s most famous sled dog race, kicked-off with the ceremonial run on the streets of Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday.

There are only 33 mushers in this year’s race, the smallest field to ever compete in the 50-year history of the race.

Mushers and race organizers pointed to the retirement of some veteran mushers, others taking a break to recoup financially after the pandemic, inflation and lack of financial sponsor as reasons for the smaller number.

They also pointed to the continuing pressure from animal rights groups who say that it is cruelty to the dogs.