10 Bizarre Animal Breeds Top 10 Listverse
Humans are competitive animals. They like to win. Those who can, race; those who cannot, train animals to enter contests for them. It is impossible to say when the first races involving animals took place, but it is likely that it was far in the past. Chances were something was bet on the outcome too.
Today, you can bet on the outcome of a bewildering variety of animal breeds. Here are ten of the craziest races around.
Related: 10 unusual stories involving drunken animals
ten Oxford Cambridge Goat Race
One of the highlights of the British sporting year is the annual Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. The fight between England’s two ancient universities first took place in 1829 on the River Thames, and nearly a quarter of a million people cheered on the boats from the banks. Less well known, but equally exciting, is the Oxford Cambridge Goat Race.
Taking place every year at Spitalfields City Farm, you can see two goats go head-to-head for their college honor. One is dressed in regal Oxford blue while the other is resplendent in slightly different Cambridge blue. Because goats aren’t the most attractive animals, the two are lured along the trail by someone carrying a bucket of food.
Interestingly, the Oxford and Cambridge race is not the only goat race. In Tobago, you can see several trotting goats competing on the Tuesday after Easter. The race was first held on the streets, but has since been moved to a $100 million sports arena.
9 Tortoise and Hare
Aesop was one of the great storytellers of antiquity – if he really existed. The collection of short fables that have come down to us under his name contains some of the most famous stories in the world. The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Sour Grapes, and Town and Country Mice are stories that most children hear and have no trouble understanding their morals. The same goes for the tortoise and the hare – slow and steady wins the race.
But some people just can’t enjoy a good story. Some have decided to re-enact the race between the slow tortoise and the fast hare. Several videos can be found online that show these competitions. Curiously, it seems Aesop got it right. In most real races, the turtle manages to creep slowly towards victory at the finish line while the rabbit loses interest and simply stops to eat the grass.
8 Ostrich races
Ostriches are capable of reaching speeds of 45 mph (70 km/h). They are also the largest and heaviest of all living birds and can kick very viciously when threatened. This makes ostrich racing all the more bizarre. Not content with racing the birds against each other, in ostrich racing the birds have jockeys on their backs.
In the past, ostriches were hitched to small cars that pulled the driver. Today, jockeys cling as best they can to the backs of pigeons. They only have the feathers to grab, which probably doesn’t make the ostriches happy. A lot of jockeys don’t make it to the end of the track.
seven Yabby Races
If you’re annoyed that you can’t eat the animals at the end of their run, then there’s a sport in Australia that just might be right for you. Yabbies are crayfish native to Australia and are delicious boiled or grilled. They also do entertaining races.
In each race, ten yabbies are placed in the middle of a ring marked on the ground. To differentiate them, they are marked with numbers painted in white. The contest ends when the winner places their claw outside the ring.
Bets placed on the match take the form of an auction. Bidders announce the number and price they are willing to pay. All the money raised goes into a pot (because losers can also be placed later), and the owner of the winning yabby claims all the money.
6 Makepung Buffalo Races
Sometimes the most entertaining games come from boredom. One day in Bali, farmers were bringing in the rice harvest with their buffalo when they decided to make it a race. This is how Makepung was born.
Two male buffaloes are harnessed to a cart on which a rider stands as they rush along a track. The buffaloes are dressed for the occasion with painted horns and fancy collars and garlands. However, the race may not be entirely pleasant for them – in order for the buffalo to reach full speed, the drivers twist the tail and whip the back with a whip.
There is a sort of prize for the winners. Winning bulls can be sold for high prices and spend the rest of their life as stud sires to other racing bulls.
5 Ban’ei Races
Thoroughbred horses used in standard racing are muscular and have shiny coats. But looks aren’t everything. There are horse races in Japan that test both the horse’s speed and strength. The Ban’ei are races that see draft horses dragging heavy sleds over a track filled with ups and downs. A jockey stands behind them and leads them. These sleds can weigh up to a ton.
Racing began as an outgrowth of agriculture, with horses racing as they pulled crops or moved equipment. Due to the weight of the sled, races sometimes include a break after the first slope to allow the horses time to recover before tackling the second slope.
The sport almost died out, but the popularity of event betting has seen it make a comeback.
4 Cane Toad Race
Cane toads are a pest in Australia. They were originally introduced to Australia from America for the purpose of controlling the sugarcane beetle, which attacked sugarcane crops. It turned out, however, that the cure was worse than the disease. Soon, the cane toad population exploded and severely damaged the natural ecosystem. Today, toads number in the hundreds of millions, and the beetle has barely been dented.
Attempts are made to eradicate the toads, but with limited success. Some are trying to find uses for the toads, such as mixing them into fertilizers or making leather from their skin. Others make it a sport.
Cane toad races see the toads embellished with ribbons to mark them and placed in the center of a ring. They are then freed and the first to escape the ring is the winner. As in yabby races, toads are purchased at an auction and the winning owner receives a portion of the total money raised. A portion of the prize pool is donated to charity, often a charity aimed at getting rid of cane toads.
3 Snail race
Races are usually fast-paced, adrenaline-filled spectacles. The snail race is a bit more relaxed affair. The race is one of the few animal competitions that can be held on a tabletop, so it can be played almost anywhere by anyone.
Usually the common garden snail native to Europe is used. Again, it can be tricky to tell the difference between competitors. Race snails are usually painted with colors to help identify race participants. They are then placed in the center of a ring about 12 inches in diameter, and the winner is the first to cross the edge.
The oldest snail race takes place in Congham, England. To give an idea of the speeds involved in snail racing, the fastest winner of all time recorded a completion time of two minutes.
2 Grand National Shetland Pony
Ever wanted to see a horse race but thought the horses were just too big? Welcome to the fun world of Shetland pony racing. Shetland ponies are sturdy little horses that were bred to pull small carts. For years they were used in mines because they wouldn’t block the shaft. Today, most Shetland ponies are kept as pets, although some are used in place of guide dogs.
For Shetland pony racing, horses and jockeys are smaller than usual. Riders are usually children, as putting an adult on a Shetland pony would likely result in a collapsed pony. Children can be riders until they reach 5 feet (1.5 meters) in height.
The Grand National is the UK’s most prestigious horse race, and the Grand National Shetland Pony race resembles it in everything but scale. Jumps are a suitably cute size for their suitably cute sweaters.
1 Monkey Jockey Greyhound Race
In a list of animal races, it is perhaps unfair to include events involving humans. To catch up, here is an event that brings together not one species but two. Greyhounds are a common racing animal, but putting monkeys on their backs to act as jockeys isn’t that common.
The events began in the 1920s in Australia and spread through the 1930s to the United States. The monkeys were attached to the backs of greyhounds wearing tiny bristles that looked exactly like those used by human jockeys. In 1933 a patent was filed to cover the design of a miniature saddle and harness for monkey riders.
The jockey monkey craze didn’t last long. Many people considered the sport to be cruel to both the monkeys and greyhounds involved. Today, it can only be seen in grainy images from the time.