In many desert countries, particularly in the middle east, camel racing has been very popular since ancient times. It is still played now in many Asian countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bahrain, Jordan, Pakistan, Mongolia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Yemen, Afghanistan, Mongolia etc. and also in the desert regions of Australia.
Camel Racing Tournaments:
In the past, these races used to be held in the Arab countries during special occasions like weddings and birthdays. But in the last few decades of the twentieth century, interested parties started making investments to transform it into a formal sport. So different organisations were created to hold official tournaments and rules and regulations were made along with tracks for the races.
Now international camel racing tournaments are held every year. Two of the major competitions of the sport are the Camel Cup held in Alice Springs in Australia, and the Camel Race Grand Prix held in Dubai.
Camels and their Training:
Camels are now specially trained and bred for racing. Hybrid camels are made through cross-breed artificial insemination and embryonic transfer techniques to create race quality camels.
In Dubai, sophisticated training methods are employed to prepare the camels for races, like allowing the animals to work on the treadmills and in swimming pools. A well-bred race camel with a great record of accomplishment can sell for high prices in the market.
A camel becomes fit for races when it becomes two or three years old. These younger animals take part in the smaller races, the 2.5-3 km ones, while the more mature ones, participate in the 3-4 km races.
When a camel runs, it carries a heavy load on its’ back, which is the rider, the ‘’jockey’’ as they are called. To allow a camel to run at its’ maximum speeds, lightweight riders was demanded. This increasing demand of lightweight jockeys has led to the controversial custom of human child trafficking from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and using them as jockeys. But using child jockeys have been outlawed and recently the new custom of using robot jockeys has become common. Lightweight robots (which are also not very expensive) are now being attached to the backs of camels along with a walkie-talkie through which an owner can talk to the camel and direct it through the course of the race.
Camel racing has become increasingly popular in recent years and has become a great tourist attraction. Millions of people from around the world gather in these races to witness a tradition that has lasted for many centuries. Just like horse betting, betting occurs significantly in such events.