The iconic Beer Can Regatta through Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory. (Image: AAP/ Lucy Hugh Jones)

The ABC came out of the gate strong this morning with a feature spread on a scandal embroiling the Uluru Camel Cup, where punters gather to watch loping ungulates galumph around a red-dirt track. 

It put us in mind of some of Australia’s other “off-Broadway” racing carnivals, where revellers race… well, whatever they can get their hands on, it seems. 

Mexican donkey race

In the dusty plains of Alice Springs, revellers liquored up on tequila and full of beans — literally — leap onto a donkey and hold on for dear life.  The annual Mexican donkey race at the Aileron rodeo in Central Australia pulls crowds from all over during Easter weekend. Competitors race to throw on a sombrero, chow down on a serve of baked beans and down shot of tequila before leaping onto the back of a confused donkey in a race to the finish line. 

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Dunny races

There’s rarely a situation when a dunny joke isn’t funny, according to Australian folklore. And the Dunny Races outside a pub in outback Queensland aim to capitalise on toilet humour, with athletes pulling a homemade outhouse along behind them — including someone to “model” the dunny, pants around their ankles, testing out the strength of the handmade loo.

Competitors race in the Winton Festival ‘Dunny Race’ in outback Queensland. (Image: AAP/Dave Hunt)

Cane toad racing 

Cane Toad Races are more commonplace than they should be, with bars across Australia’s north and west lining up the ugly pests to see how quickly they can flop to the finish line. The toads’ “starting gate” is actually a bucket from which they are unceremoniously dumped so their handlers can avoid touching the warty things. Punters can place bets on the toads, which don colourful bands to identify them. Unwilling toads are spritzed with water to get them racing. 

A contestant hoists her winning cane toad at a Queensland pub. (Image: AAP/Ironbar)

Dry boat race 

Droughts and water shortages aren’t a concern at the blasphemist mockery of the UK Henly Royal Regatta rowing event in dusty Alice Springs.  Sailors holding a lightweight boat frame above their knees and sprint to the finish along a gritty track, Flinstones-style. 

Kids race along a dry riverbed at the Henley-On-Todd Regatta in Alice Springs. (Image: AAP/Neda Vanovac)

Beer can regatta

Another boat race, but this time it’s on water: the annual Darwin event has participants build a boast from beer cans (plastic bottles are also accepted, but what fun would that be), throw their monstrosity on the water and paddle to the end. It’s as much a test on the liver as it is on craftsmanship. 

Thousands of gather for the iconic Beer Can Regatta through Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory. (Image: AAP/Lucy Hughes Jones)

Kids racing kids

It’s chariot racing for children or the vertically challenged: goat racing at the Barcaldine Tree of Knowledge Festival in outback Queensland gets tots over 10 to sit on a cart, strap a couple of goats to the front, and giddy-up to the finish line.

The Australian Goat Racing Cup in Barcaldine, Queensland. (Image: AAP/Jo Martin)

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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