Shallow, judgmental, and bloodthirsty contestants are nothing new in the world of competitive beauty, but when that same contestant is a camel, the world takes notice.
Yes, camel beauty pageants are a thing. While they are certainly unusual, they are far from the only strange or unorthodox animal contest taking place in the world today.
We’ve all heard of dog agility tests and cat shows, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to animal competition.
The Vast and Weird World of Animal Racing
Pitting two or more animals against each other to see which one is the fastest is nothing new. Millions of dollars change hands every year based on how fast a dog or horse can run around an arbitrary circle.
If you think that only dogs and horses people bet on, you will be surprised.
There seems to be no limit to the animals that people will race against, and it seems the more alien the competitors are, the more dedicated the audience becomes.
While speed is always at a premium, it’s also relative.
The 6 Wildest Pet Competitions Are:
1. World Snail Racing Championship
Every July, the world’s view of sport shifts to the small town of Congham, England, a village of 241 people surrounded by pastoral farmland. Fans from all over the world flock to the small parish, as many as 400 or more, effectively doubling the city’s population.
They came for one reason: speed.
Its competitors—the common garden snail—can sometimes reach speeds of 0.03 mph. They can’t maintain that speed for very long, of course, but for 2 minutes or so, you can see as they trail (or leave it anyway) around a 13-inch circular track.
Owners of this breed come from all walks of life, and for some, the luxury and fame that accompanies snail racing can be quite captivating.
The races themselves can be as loud as your average NASCAR contest, with fans thronging the track to cheer on their favorite slugs. What’s more, those who witnessed such otherworldly feats of speed were forever changing every moment.
Take the experience of Dave Pedley, founder and editor of YourCub.com. Pedley discovered racing while on vacation with his family; Intrigued by what might catch the attention of a dozen people, he walked to the front row of the track. The life-changing drama he witnessed before him is best described by Pedley himself:
“We didn’t hold out to see who was crowned World Champion — that’s a pretty slow affair — but judging by the cheers we heard, it sure was an interesting ending! One wonders what the prize is,” said Pedley.
In fact, the fastest snail wins the lettuce!
If you’re wondering how long it takes a snail to cover a 13-inch track, the current record is held by a snail named Larry, who did it in 2 minutes 47 seconds.
2. The Fastest Sport on Four Feet and Four Wheels
Snails aren’t the only strange animals taking to the streets. Hamster racing is another sport that is quite popular in the UK.
While snail racing has always been meant to be laughed at, hamster racing has a much nobler origin story: It was created to give gamblers something to do after mouth and hoof disease led to the cancellation of many horse racing in 2001.
Blue Square online bookmaker came up with the idea of having hamsters race instead of horses. Naturally, these hamsters had to compete with the little dragsters.
Given that they have vehicles to help them reach their top speed, it’s only natural that hamsters have to traverse longer tracks — in this case 30 feet per lap. The current world record on such a track is 38 seconds.
Most of the races are simple, straight-line affairs, but some feature human pit crews and multiple teams. It’s a fantastic replacement for regular car racing, with the bonus that its competitors are cuter.
It was believed that the sport’s popularity would decline once horse racing returned, but instead, the sport spread to many countries, with hamster races being staged in the United States and Asia, among other places. Racers have even picked up big-name sponsors, including from the likes of MTV and Petco.
3. Jumps, Skips and Multiple Jumps: The Most Exciting Competitions
Although there is no shortage of strange animal races to follow around the world, at some point, watching a group of animals run towards a line in the sand grows old. Fresh blood and new competition needed to be introduced.
Jumping is the next logical step (long).
However, unlike freak animal races, jumping competitions are more focused on maximizing athletic ability than creating spectacle.
Tucked away in Calaveras County, just southeast of Sacramento, California, the town of Angels Camp was once a bustling metropolis during the California Gold Rush. More than $20 million in gold flowed through the city, but when the precious metal dried up, the city was left floundering.
What they need is a second gold rush, and only one thing can save them: frogs.
In 1865, Mark Twain published a famous short story entitled, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” The story naturally gave the city an idea: Why not start a frog jumping competition?
The result of the brainstorming was the Calaveras County Fair and the Jumping Frog Jubilee, held in the city every May. Celebrations begin with a parade through downtown, and events include a rodeo, carnival, and something the city site calls a “silly competition” (as opposed to frog jumping, perhaps).
According to event activist Dr. Georgina Ushi, DVM, from welovedoodles.com, “The competition is held for four consecutive days (from Thursday to Sunday), where the frogs must go through the knock-out rounds to qualify for the grand final where the 50 most athletic frogs will battle it out. -all out. Although there is a very competitive atmosphere on the main stage, visitors can opt for a more recreational experience by jumping just for fun on ‘Rosie the Ribiter’s Stage.’”
The competition is hugely popular, with more than 45,000 people and more than 2,000 frogs traveling to Angels Camp each year. The record jump of 21 feet, 5 inches was set in 1986 by a frog named Rosie the Ribiter, and if any competitor managed to beat her, they would take home a cool $5,000.
4. Rabbit Farming Competition
Sweden is a beautiful place to visit, but apparently, living there will be a little boring. How else would you explain the rise of Kaninhop, a sport that originated in the country in the early 1970s?
Kaninhop, or rabbit show jumping, is a sport in which rabbits of all shapes and sizes are encouraged to jump over obstacles of various sizes. The contest is very popular with rabbit clubs across the country, and the sport is even starting to gain popularity in other countries.
Competitors are not allowed to be corrected by their handlers, and there is even an aspect of friendliness involved, as rabbits will be disqualified if they show aggression towards humans or fellow contestants.
The current world record for highest jump is held by Dobby, a rabbit belonging to Julia Samson of Sweden. Dobby was able to wipe 42 inches in a single tie, which is just 21 inches less than the human record.
The longest rabbit jump ever recorded was 9.88 feet, also held by Dobby. (The record for a human is only 30 feet.)
Running and jumping are logical areas of comparing two animals, but logic has no place in the world of animal competition.
Some contests seem to be born out of boredom or drunkenness or both, and others are downright confusing.
5. Sports for Real Dumbo
Football is called a “beautiful game” for a reason, and it has die-hard fans all over the planet. Everywhere you go, you can find people of all ages, shapes and sizes playing around.
In fact, if you go to Nepal, Thailand or India, you may even see elephants playing games.
Pachyderms use rubber balls which are bigger than regulation balls, which is why they never qualify for the World Cup. They may play with riders on their backs or alone, and the use of goalkeepers is encouraged but not required.
As in regular football, elephants are only allowed to touch the ball with their feet. The use of the trunk is strictly prohibited, but it is not clear who, exactly, would enforce such a rule on the 5-ton animal.
Elephants can be really good, and in one case, the animal team actually beat the human squad 2-1. Humans may have lost, or they may realize that there is no point in taking risks to win and knowing that elephants are losers.
While elephant football is growing in popularity in some countries, it is unlikely that it will enjoy much growth worldwide, if for no other reason than most countries do not have elephants.
6. Backstage Full Dromedary Beauty Pageant
While you’d be forgiven for thinking that we made up the camel beauty pageant idea, it really is real — and it’s big business.
According to Harvey Wells of coolpetsadvice.com, “By far, one of the most enjoyable and high-value events was in the UAE. Abu Dhabi holds an annual camel beauty pageant every year at the Al Dhafra Festival, where thousands of camels appear for the most prestigious beauty pageant. The judges usually choose the most beautiful camel based on its physical characteristics, and the winner receives over a million dollars.”
The Al Dhafra Festival is far from the only camel beauty contest. There are massive events in Saudi Arabia all the time, some offering prize pools of $30 million or more.
Given that there is that much money to be made, you’d better believe that cheating is involved. What is surprising, however, is how much cheating in camel beauty pageants mimics the cheating that occurs in human events.
Botox was banned for use, but that didn’t stop contestants from shooting their camels with the items. Injections are placed in the lips, nose, and jaw.
So, what makes one camel more alluring than the next? Competitors are judged on the luster of their coats, the length and width of their necks, the size of their heads, and of course, the attractiveness of their humps. There were 22 measurements taken in total!
Every Animal Can Be An Athlete If You Are Willing To Create A New Competition
The world of animal athletes keeps getting bigger, and there’s no telling which sport will be the next big thing. The number of prizes and participants continues to grow, and interest in this event can come from all walks of life.
As interest in exotic pets has always been high, it’s only a matter of time until the combination of boredom and curiosity breeds the next big thing. Whether it ends up being a big moneymaker or sheer eccentricity remains to be seen.
Featured Image Credit: anitram, Shutterstock