It’s impossible to estimate the number of cane toads currently hopping around Australia, many of which call Queensland home. Not only do they endlessly breed, but they don’t stand still long enough to count them — their territory isn’t just limited to the Sunshine State, but covers parts of New South Wales and the Northern Territory, and it’s even starting to creep into Western Australia.

This animal was originally bought to our shores as a method of combating the native cane beetle, and while it proved to have a taste for the insect, it was completely useless in the field of climbing sugar cane, thus proving unable to fulfil it’s intended function but leaving it plenty of free time to overpopulate and become Australia’s most well-known pest.

Pest, perhaps, is putting it mildly. There are, however, pubs scattered across the wide brown land that have made cane toad racing a popular and regular event. Or you can replicate the spectacle in your own backyard.

A cane toad race is conducted in the following manner:

  1. The compere will toast the memory of Steve Irwin, introduce the cane toads, and proceed to make jokes based on the nationality of the assembled audience.
  2. The cane toad will be assigned to an appropriately inebriated “jockey”. This person will lock lips with the cane toad before putting it with other racing toads in the “starting bucket” in the centre of a table.
  3. As the race starts, jockeys will blow party whistles at their cane toad in an effort to get them to run and jump off the table faster than other toads and jockeys.
  4. The toad will then be caught or scooped up, and placed in the finish bucket. Although considering the excitement, hurried nature, level of alcohol, and general presence of clammy toad, “placed in the finish bucket” can also be substituted with “slam-dunked”.
  5. First to the finish bucket wins.


While I failed to win the prize (a coveted stubby of XXXX) my toad Bounding Beauty finished a respectable third — not too bad considering there was an amphibian fumble into the crowd mid-race. Prizes varied from the bottle of beer to a dive trip on the great barrier reef.

Pests, perhaps, but I can’t help but feel a little sorry for the humble toads in this race. They didn’t look like they were having fun, but the toads that are a part of this event are possibly the best protected (and maybe the most terrified) of their species in the whole country.

The details: Round up some and get racing. Then kill them — humanly, in the freezer. They’re obnoxious pests, after all.

Peter Fray

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