Growing up in upstate New York, my dad and I would go to the Saratoga Races every August. There's nothing like watching your horse come around the final turn, battling for the lead. So events like this weekend's Preakness Stakes always bring back some very cool memories.
But horses aren't the only animals with a racing tradition. Here are ten examples.
1. Calaveras County Jumping Frogs
These high-jumping amphibians, made famous by Mark Twain, are actually battling it out right now. The Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee began on Thursday. If you hurry, you may still be able to get a bet in.
2. Ostrich Festival Races (Chandler, Arizona)
Did you know Ostriches can exceed speeds of 40 miles per hour? The good folks of Chandler, Arizona, do. I'd love to see this one, just to see what kind of wacky jockey decides to sit on an Ostrich. I'm thinking there may be alcohol involved.
3. Armadillo Races (Edgewood, Texas)
Imagine little round knights in not-so-shiny armor, racing around a dirt track. Sounds kinda cute. Although I've read they grow to 2 1/2 feet. That's considerably less cute. Armadillo racing became popular in Texas in the 1970s, and the Armadillo World Headquarters is in Austin. (You heard me...the Armadillo World Headquarters.) Guess they're mighty proud of their armored mammals down in Texas.
4. Camel Races (Virginia City, Nevada)
You wouldn't think there would be camel races in the United States. Then again, we do have a big desert, so why not? The Virginia City Camel Races are a nostalgic reminder of the Comstock Lode, the first large discovery of silver ore in the U.S., when I suppose they used Camels to transport the silver. According to the official website, they also race ostriches and emus, because that's how they roll in Nevada.
5. Cockroach Races (Davenport, Iowa)
This is one of the slimier races I've come across. The annual cockroach races are held by the entomology club at Iowa State University. And if you've ever hung out with the members of the Iowa State Entomology Club, you know this is one rockin' event. They also put on something called the Insect Horror Film Festival, which features gourmet insect tastings. Who says there's nothing to do in Iowa in October?
6. Lizard Races (Lovington, New Mexico)
How do you celebrate the 4th of July, with fireworks? How last season. The folks in Lovington, New Mexico, like a few lizard races with their barbeque. The Chaparral Park speedway is apparently the world's premiere mini-reptile racetrack (Go USA!). And there's a colorful history to the event, as well.
At the inaugural race in 1976, the lizards, frightened by the big crowds and flashbulbs, apparently started to eat each other (you can't make this stuff up).
Modifications to the track and crowd placement have decreased the reptile carnage in recent years. But there's always a chance one of the little guys will go all Godzilla on the competition.
7. Wiener Dog Races (Buda, Texas)
Who doesn't love wiener dogs? Not only do they look great dressed up for Halloween, but you can also make a little extra cash with them at the track. Head down to Buda, Texas, in April, and you'll enjoy the annual wiener dog race (and parade!), as well as the yearly chili cookoff.
8. Lobster Races (Aiken, South Carolina)
You would think an annual lobster race would be held in Maine, but the city of Aiken, South Carolina, has been racin' crustaceans "“ that's right, the Aiken racin' crustaceans "“ since 1985 as a spoof of the Kentucky Derby. This year's race, which just happened a couple weeks ago, drew close to 10,000 fans.
9. 4th of July Celebration & Porcupine Race (Council, Idaho)
Squeeze this one in between visits to the Potato Museum and Philo Farnsworth's home. The race is held each year for charity, but I'm sure a few dollars need to be taken out for bandaids, just in case any participants make their way into the crowd.
10. Great Alaskan Pig Races
And we end our collection of Great American Animal Races in the 49th state. Why race pigs in Alaska, you ask? If you had to pick something other than dog sled teams, you'd think moose, or elk. Something that represents the state, right? At least, I did. But Alaskans appear to prefer pigs. They're quick little guys, too. And in these races, there are hurdles. I may need to find a Vegas sports book that takes pork action.