If you’ve lived in the UAE for some time, you’ve probably seen a truck loaded with camels drive past you at some point. Although, their main function used to be transportation, camels have found themselves a new occupation: racing. Here are some fun facts about the camel races.
- They take place during the cooler months of the year from October to April
- Entrance to camel races are usually free and they usually take place at 7 am and 2 pm
- Camels are trained twice a day, in the morning and evening for about 45 minutes for each session.
- The baby camels are taken away from their mothers when they are around one and a half years old and start training for races when they are two years old. Racing camels must be able to run a minimum of 40 kmh.
- The young camels are introduced to the track with the rest of the herd and are expected to pick up the skill by merely running alongside the older and more experienced camels.
- The age of the camel determines the length of the race. Young camels between the ages of two to four race only for four or five kilometers while five or six-year-old camels race for about seven to eight kilometers and finally, the camels older than six years’ race for ten kilometers.
- The best way to experience a camel race? There are pickup trucks that drive on a road alongside the racetrack to keep track of the moving camels. Ask a driver if you can get onto one of them and you’ll get to watch the action unfold.
- Since child jockeys* were banned in the UAE in 2005, robot jockeys ride on the backs of camels. Their whips are controlled by a herder who rides in a pickup truck. However, camel herders do ride the camels during training.
- Most of the racing camels are females because they are gentler and hence easier to handle than their male counterparts. Furthermore, special occasions require camel meat which typically comes from the male camels.
- If a camel wins a race, the Sheikh will buy the winning camels for about a million or two million dirhams, therefore, camel racing is also done for economical purposes as it is the Sheikh’s way of funding his people.
* Jockeys – a person who rides horses or camels