From Robot Camels to Wife Carrying: The 13 Strangest Races in the World

We race a lot of cool things here in America: horses, stock cars, and babies at halftime of NBA games. But to find true innovation in racing ridiculous things, you’d have to search the entire world. Or, at least all of Florida.

Which is what we did -- the whole world thing. Here are 13 of the craziest races from home and abroad.

Omak Suicide Race

Omak, WA
It's cute you thought you were tough that time you stayed on the mechanical bull for, like, a whole two minutes. You know what might make you a little tougher? Racing a horse down a 225-ft cliff then across a river, which is what they do every year as part of the Omak Stampede rodeo in Central Washington. It’s based on old Native American endurance races, which there's a non-zero chance were conducted under the influence of peyote.

Cane Toad Racing

Port Douglas, Australia
You know how you know it’s 8pm in Port Douglas? Well, sure, you could look at your phone. OR you could find yourself in the Iron Bar standing around a table full of cane toads and people blowing party horns at them. Because every night at 8pm, bar patrons pick a toad, kiss it, put it in the middle of the table, and blow that horn to encourage that toad to be the first to jump off the table. The winner gets an antidote for warts.

Cheese Rolling

Gloucester, UK
In order to answer the age old question, “What moves faster, a man or a 9-pound ball of cheese?", the people of Gloucester (yes, home of Gloucester cheese) hold an annual cheese-rolling race on the spring bank holiday. Atop a hill, locals line up each with a 9lb round of the stuff, give it a one-second head start, and chase it down a hill. The cheese can allegedly reach speeds of 70mph, which gives a while new meaning to the phrase “Cheese whiz”.

Krispy Kreme Challenge

Raleigh, NC
You gotta love the south, where people somehow find a way to make a 5-mile road race a completely gluttonous experience. Every year, competitors run a 2.5-mile course through downtown Raleigh to a designated spot where, instead of Gatorade and water and Power Gels, they down… A DOZEN F&#K*NG DONUTS. Then run back. And if you yack, you’re disqualified. But if you think about it, you’re probably the winner.

Robot Camel Racing

Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Edgar Prado and Rosemary Homeister Jr. better hope thoroughbred owners don’t start getting any ideas from Dubai, where they’ve taken the majestic sport of racing camels through the desert and replaced the human riders with robots. Originally done to stop the exploitation of children as camel jockeys in the early 2000s, wealthy camel owners also realized these saddle drones don’t take a cut of the winnings, can’t throw races, and don’t develop drinking problems.

Cockroach Racing

Brisbane, Australia
When you come home and discover that giant palmetto bug scuttling across your kitchen floor, don’t look at it like a pest. Look at it as a potential for pari-mutuel activity. Those zany Aussies do; every Australia Day, the Story Bridge Hotel in Brisbane hosts a full card of 14 “cocky” races, where for $5 you can buy your own roach and enter it in a race for another $5. A bucket of roaches is dumped in the middle of a circular track, and the first roach to the edge wins.  

Wife Carrying Championships

Sonkajärvi, Finland
Try and not think too much about the origins of this race, which involve Vikings carrying women back from defeated lands to wherever it was vikings came from. Today’s version is much more lighthearted, where male contestants carry a female partner through a 253-meter course with three obstacles, one of which involves water. And in true Viking fashion, no waifish girls allowed either. The female carry-ee must weigh at least 108 pounds.

Pantomime Horse Nationals

Birmingham, England
Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of being a horse jockey, riding breakneck speeds atop a thundering thoroughbred down a roaring homestretch. Then you realized you’re over 5’1” and enjoy stuff like eating. But you can still kinda live that dream at the annual Pantomime Horse Grand Nationals in Birmingham, England, where entrants pay $80 (£50) to put on a horse costume and ride through a 12-obstacle course for the grand prize: a bottle of champagne. 

Human vs. Horse Marathon

Llanwertyd, Wales
Or maybe you were like “F- that horse, I can run faster!" Man vs. Beast was a show, after all. You probably also think you can out-muscle a freight train and dribble a football. But, as the race founders’ theory goes, if it's a long enough distance, a human can win. Accordingly, for 22 miles, humans race horses with riders through Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales to see if that’s the case. And twice -- in 2004 and 2007 -- a human on foot actually won.

Great Grove Bed Race

Miami, FL
Perhaps the easiest racing job on this list belongs to the guy whose job it is to lie in bed. That’s it. Sure, he MIGHT have to help his other four team members design and build a wheeled bed to be pushed over a 1/8th mile course through downtown Coconut Grove, and he MIGHT have to be in the same themed costume as the other teammates. But they’re doing all the hard work, while the guy lying down still gets to meet the celebrity grand marshall, which in past years has been Flo-Rida, and Vanilla Ice.

School Bus Figure 8 Racing

Various tracks around Florida
Yet another great cultural advancement brought to you by the good people of Florida: Racing school buses in a pattern that pretty much guarantees catastrophic collisions. And though you might expect that in Northern Florida, they might not bother taking the children out of said buses first. The guys (and girls) behind the wheel are all trained drivers in decommissioned buses. But you can still pretend they’re the ones slowing you down at school zones, if it makes you happy.

Fleurieu Compass Cup Cow Racing

Mount Compass, Australia
If the high speed world of camel racing is too intense for you, head Down Under to this annual Australia Day festival near Mount Compass, where the day’s main event is a race among dairy cows. The cows don’t so much race as run around the corral while their “riders” try to guide them toward the finish line. But the day is also full of all kinds of other contests, including the dung fling (exactly what it sounds like), the engine blow up, the rubber boot marathon, and the wobbly cow race.

Beer Can Regatta

Darwin, Australia
It doesn’t take a whole lot of creativity to throw old beer cans into a recycling bin. But crafting them into a boat that may or may not completely sink, and racing it against 60 other teams in front of literally half your city? THAT’S some commendable stuff, and every year the Lions Club of Darwin hosts such an event, where over 20,000 people come out to see whose boat made out of beer cans can go the fastest. Sadly, the outboard motor division was discontinued in 1982 when they switched from steel cans to aluminum.