The camels are back! Every two years the action of Outback camel racing comes to Tara Festival, bringing the opportunity to see the camels within just 3.5hrs drive of Brisbane.
Here’s everything you need to know about what to expect to see when the camels hit the racetrack at Tara Festival from 2 – 4 August 2024.
How Many Races are There?
There are six races on Saturday, followed by another six on Sunday.
Saturday races are all run across 400m. On Sunday the starting barrier is then moved further down the track for races run across 600m.
Camels who place 1st and 2nd in the heats go on to compete in the Cup Final. Camels placed 3rd and 4th in each heat compete in the Plate Final and all the other camels get a second run as they compete in the Consolation Final. The Consolation Final is a great opportunity for all camel trainers to have a chance to take home some prize money.
400m Sprint Heat 9am
400m Sprint Heat 10am
400m Sprint Heat 11am
400m Consolation Final 2am
400m Plate Final 3pm
400m Cup Final 4pm
600m Sprint Heat 9am
600m Sprint Heat 10am
600m Sprint Heat 11am
600m Consolation Final 12pm
600m Consolation Final 1pm
600m Cup Final 2pm
What Can I Expect to See?
To see all the racing action, plan to be beside the racetrack about 15 minutes before each race and you’ll see the jockeys mounting the camels with the assistance of the camel handlers. This happens near the finish line and can be viewed from the trackside in that area.
A great sight to witness is the camels being led by the camel handlers, with jockeys mounted on their backs, up the racetrack from the starting line and all the way to the starting barrier. This is an opportunity to give the jockeys a wave and choose which one you’ll cheer for.
After the camels race past, you’ll spot a vehicle or two bringing the camel handlers back to the finish line. Straight after each final there is a presentation of the winners ribbons and trophies to watch next to the finish line.
Where do the Camels Come From?
There are typically around 30 camels competing and each comes from a different area of Australia with their camel racing teams. Teams travel as a crew of trainers, jockeys, handlers and of course camels to compete and come from as far as the Newcastle area of NSW, Yeppoon in Queensland and Boulia in Outback Queensland.
Tara has its own local camel racing team – look for local trainer Richard Norman and his new camel ‘Norman’ on the racetrack.
Are the Camels Bred and Trained?
Most racing camels are caught wild in Outback Queensland where millions of camels are considered feral animals. Unlike horse racing, there’s no talk of bloodlines, as great racing camels are rarely bred especially for racing.
Racing camels are trained, typically for a few months leading into the winter racing season, to make sure they are in top condition and ready to be handled safely. Camel trainers love their camels and the welfare of their camels is of utmost importance to them.
When they aren’t in racing season, most of the camels are out in a paddock grazing, though some such as the camels from Anna Bay (Newcastle region) are ridden by tourists along the beach!
Who are the Jockeys?
All camel jockeys in Australia have a usual day job and camel racing is their hobby and passion. A few trainers jockey their own camels, but most trainers take a backseat on race day and have a few jockeys on their teams.
Jockeys don’t have to make certain weights like in horse racing. They do wear racing silks in their team colours, with a protective vest underneath and a mandatory helmet in each race.
Many camel jockeys make their start as horse riders and find their way at some stage into camel riding.
Are there Bookies at the Track?
Place a punt with one of the bookies beside the racetrack and cheer your camel home. The racing in Tara is a professional racing event and is overseen by an official from Racing Queensland.
There’s a Calcutta run on the camel race Cup Final for both the 400m Saturday and 600m Sunday. Be ready 30 minutes before the Cup Finals to bid in the Calcutta.
There is a vet on hand during all races. After the races, blood samples are taken off winning camels to be certain the playing field is fair and racing rules are followed.
How Can I Follow Who is Racing?
Before each race there is a board outside the racing office (near the finish line) where the names and numbers of the camels and their trainers are listed. After the race, the results are updated on this board and the race time is published too.
The race caller also announces the winners of each race over the speaker system.
What do the Winners Get?
The’s $32,000 cash prize money up for grabs across the 2 days of racing, plus ribbons and trophies.
There are not enough camel races or enough prize money in Australia for racing teams to make a profit to live off, but the prize money sure helps with buying hay, fuel money and some beers along the way to allow them to continue their passion.
After the 600m Cup Final is presented, a trophy presentation is also made to best jockey, best trainer and best local trainer.
What is it Like for the Jockeys?
It’s a wild ride for the jockeys and their primary job is to hold on tight and not let go!
Jockeys sit on a little pad behind the hump of the camel – they almost look like they are falling off the back when you see them, but they do have foot stirrups.
Surprisingly the jockeys have limited control of camels during the race, as they can’t steer the camel with reigns. The camels want to return to their camp beyond the finish line, so they know which way to run, but at times camels can head in the wrong direction or even sit down mid-race!
The jockeys all love camels and develop a rapport with each camel they ride – they’ll tell you each camel really does have a distinct personality.
About Tara Festival
The camel races are a highlight of Tara Festival of Culture and Camel Races, but there’s a lot more happening off the racetrack. There’s a yabby race after every camel race, plus there’s non-stop multicultural stage acts, roving entertainment, live music Friday and Saturday nights and the country corner with country music and sheep shearing demonstrations.
Camping at Tara Festival is all part of the fun. Bring your own camping gear or find out more about Where to Stay