No Frilly Hat Required at America’s Craziest Animal Races

Saturday is Derby Day. The parties in Louisville are already in full swing as attendees prepare for the 141st running of what is often referred to as “America’s Greatest Race.” There are still tickets available if you have the urge (and the appropriate hat) to sit in the stands sipping mint juleps, while you cheer for your favorite among the most incredible equine athletes in the country.

Watching the sleek thoroughbreds stride around the track at Churchill Downs is like watching runway models during fashion week in Paris. It’s not for everybody. Some people prefer cuddly over couture. Yahoo Travel went looking for events that celebrate cuteness, where adorability trumps brawn, and where you don’t have to wear a funny hat to fit in. Turns out that whether it’s got fur, feathers, scales, or a shell, you can probably find a race featuring your favorite two, four, or no-footed creature. Here are a few of our favorites.

Dachshund Dashes


Ready, set, woof! (Photo: Georgia Dachshund Races)

Adorable dachshunds — ears flapping with their incredible speed — run for top prizes at events from coast to coast. Most events are for charity, usually benefitting a rescue group. There is even a national organization with official rules and a circuit of races leading up to a championship event at Doxie Downs in Findlay, Ohio. They sip weenie martinis instead of mint juleps at their race parties. Your next chance to see a qualifying race is at the Georgia Dachshund Races on June 27 in Marietta, Georgia.

Related: World’s Most Bizarre Animal Competitions

Racing Stripes


Sprint to the finish line. (Photo: Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots/Facebook)

For several years, the folks at Louisiana Downs have been bringing zebras and ostriches to the track for summer entertainment. Jockeys ride (or attempt to ride) the sprinters in a short run to the finish line. These domesticated animals train for the track and seem to love it as much as the audience does.

Galloping Goats


Get your goat. (Photo: Falmouth Goat Race/Facebook)

The Falmouth Goat Races were originally intended as a practical joke, but the idea took hold and has become an annual event that draws people to the tiny Virginia town. The activities include a parade, awards for the ugliest and prettiest goats, and races all day. September 26 is the date to put in your calendar for this year’s festival.

This Little Piggy Went to the Races


Here, piggy piggy. (Photo: Explore Minnesota)

The pig races in Nevis, Minnesota are an entertaining excuse to enjoy an afternoon at a small-town fair that includes a beer garden, face painting, and food. No more waiting on pigs to fly.

Related: Every Animal Lover Needs to Take This Vacation

Prancing Ponies


Pony up. (Photo: U.S. Pony Racing/Facebook)

Thoroughbreds may be sleek, but ponies are downright precious, as are the kids who race them. U.S. Pony Racing holds events in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Rhode Island. TIP: the smaller the ponies and the riders, the more fun the race.

Slow and Steady Wins the Turtle Races


Slow and steady wins the race. (Photo: Turtle Kraals Key West/Facebook)

If hermit crabs are too fast for you, try the turtle races at Turtle Kraals in Key West. The pace is slow, but then isn’t that the idea behind visiting the Florida Keys?

Legendary Leapers


Frogger! (Photo: Calaveras Visitors Bureau)

No list of creature competitions would be complete without a mention of Mark Twain’s favorite jumping frogs of Calavaras County, Calif. Though it’s more about distance than speed, the Jumping Frog Jubilee includes parades, a rodeo, and of course, the jumping of the amphibians.

Related: Zzzzzoo: You Can Have a Sleepover with the Animals at These Zoos and Aquariums

Lizards on the Backstretch


Who knew horned toads were so fast? (Photo: Coalinga Chamber of Commerce/Facebook)

The less-than-attractive horned toad is celebrated with a four-day festival in Coalinga, California. Besides the races, the Horned Toad Derby includes a parade, live music, food eating contests, and baseball games. The races are similar to hermit crab events where contestants start in the center of a circle and the lizard scampering across the line in any direction is the victor.

Spitting and Sprinting


Desert fun in Virginia City, Nevada. (Photo: Virginia City, NV/Facebook)

You don’t have to visit Abu Dhabi to see camels race. The Camel & Ostrich Races have been a favorite for more than half a century in the desert town of Virginia City, Nevada. Wear your cowboy hat and you will fit right in.

Running of the Burros


No donkey’s years here. (Photo: Western Pack Burro Ass-Ociation/Facebook)

Pack Burro Races are a tradition from Colorado’s mining history, brought back to life in mountain towns throughout the state by the Western Pack Burro Association. Participants run alongside their burros over courses ranging from four to 29 miles, over rough terrain. We’re thinking it’s the donkeys who have the last laugh in these races. In case you wondered, their Triple Crown races are in Fairplay, Leadville, and Buena Vista.

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