Joe Kaiser, Sports Editor
Since the beginning of time, man has enjoyed sport, and as long as man has enjoyed sport, man has enjoyed racing animals. Many are familiar with the Kentucky Derby, and horse racing in general. Many, however, are unfamiliar with other forms of animal races. Every September, international exotic animal races are held in Virginia City, Nevada. Zebras, ostriches and camels, among other animals, are raced. This, however, is just a smaller event in the sport of camel racing.
As one could guess, camel racing is popular in Middle Eastern countries and even has a large presence in Australia. In fact, the Lasseters Camel Cup is held in Alice Springs, Australia every year. The camel race in Australia with the highest purse, however, is held in Hughenden, Queensland. The Sheikh Zayed International camel endurance race offers the winner of the race AUD 50,000, which is equivalent to around $51,000.
Camel breeding in the Middle East is akin to horse breeding in the United States. Recently, Hamdan Bin Ghanim Al Falahi of the United Arab Emirates, spent $6.5 million on three racing camels, including $2.7 million for a single one. In comparison, thoroughbred horses in the United States sell for an average of approximately $90,000, although prices vary greatly.
Camel racing has come under fire from some human rights organizations. Camels are often raced by child jockeys, and research has revealed that many of these children are sold into slavery. While this travesty continues today, efforts are being made to ensure the integrity of the sport by curbing this trend.
In Nevada, however, the atmosphere is much more geared towards entertainment than profit. People are allowed to jockey the animals only after signing a waiver. This allows everyday people to experience a thrill of which not many can boast. The races are also entertaining to watch, as amateur jockeys sometimes have difficulty controlling their zebras.