Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

A Look At Some Of the Weirdest Races in History

Posted on February 15, 2016 by Martin Banks

Racing is a pastime shared around the world, although the form it takes may differ depending on where you are. From NASCAR to rally cars, from cross-country to the 100 meter dash, we’ve found a huge variety of ways to race. Of course, some races are stranger than others.

Robot Camel Racing


Camel racing in the Arabian Peninsula is akin to horse racing in Europe. It’s a tradition that goes back hundreds of years, and it’s fiercely competitive. The United Arab Emirates in particular has a strong camel racing community, but in recent years the tradition has undergone a transformation. In the 80s and 90s, it was common to train children as jockeys due to their lighter weight. However, camel racing is a dangerous sport, and injuries were common. That’s where the robots come in.

Using parts from drills and two-way radios, builders construct robot jockeys for the camels. The operator can remotely control a spinning whip, and can give commands through the radio. Some owners give the jockeys foam balls for heads and drape them in silk clothes. The best part is, even if the robot jockey falls off, the only thing that gets hurt is the owner’s wallet.

Beer Can Regatta

Life on the ocean wave

In this annual event, competitors race boats made primarily of beer cans. While a frame may be used to keep everything in place, the cans, held together with glue, resin, or waterproof tape, must be the sole method of floatation. The boats vary from the simplistic to the extreme, with some boats made to look like animals and others made to be as large as possible. Of course, beer cans are far from the ideal crafting material, and that’s kind of the point. Each year, several boats sink long before finishing the race.

Extreme Motorhome Racing

In 2007, the TV series Top Gear decided to invent a whole new kind of racing. The competitors secured a wide variety of RVs and stripped them down to the bone, removing all the amenities and electronics that put the home in motorhome. Racing around an oval track, the drivers jockeyed for position in their massive vehicles, with wheels lifting off the ground on every turn. Collisions were unavoidable, although most of the drivers didn’t try to hard to avoid them, and the race ended with several vehicles in shambles.

Death Races

No, not the film series. These death races are real. Though not quite as deadly as the name suggests, most competitors don’t even finish the grueling race. In fact, competitors are actively encouraged to quit. The race could include challenges like crawling through barbed wire, pushing a wheelbarrow through the mud, or carrying boulders to an unknown destination.

In fact, the unknown is a major factor in this race. Competitors go in with no idea where the race will start or end, or what will happen along the way. Past races have gone on for more than 70 hours, and competitors have come out with all manner of scrapes and bruises. It’s a competition for only the most competitive, designed to allow experienced athletes to find their limits, and perhaps even push past them.

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