There are some pretty crazy things out there you can bet on, like when alien life will be proven (the odds on 2018 is 100/1 by the way), or even whether or not a given year will present a snowy Christmas. But of all the things you can bet on, we bet you never imagined betting on a common household pest. Those creepy crawly little 6 legged bugs that inspire the desire to jump on top of the nearest chair can actually win you some money! Cockroach races are a real thing, and they are amazingly popular in some parts of the world too!
Cockroach racing could only have started after a bunch of beers, and indeed it’s true. As we all know, the best bar stories start in Australia and this is no different. In 1982 a couple of guys in Brisbane, after slowly working their way through the contents of the bar, got into a rather slurred argument about which one had the fastest cockroaches in their area. In order to prevent the world’s most ridiculous bar fight, it was suggested that races take place to find the winner. The thing we haven’t been able to work out is why on earth they were so set on proving cockroach speed in the first place.
Somehow, the races took on the popularity of a supermodel at a frat party, and before you know it, they celebrated their 35th annual race day in 2016. There are several races a year, but the biggest and most extravagant is on Australia Day in January of every year. Conveniently, this is also mid-summer, and we all know how those many-legged pests multiply in the heat.
Many would ask the question of how on earth you get a rather mindless, and somewhat cringesome creature to run at your behest across a finish line. It’s a pretty good question.
Firstly, there isn’t really a finish line, more like a finish circle. The racetrack is actually a circular board with a line around the outer edge. The bugs are dropped in the middle of the board and the first to reach the outer line is the winner. If your cockroach decides to not to run, well, then you lose.
As far as we know, short of providing a convenient item of clothing to hide in (we all know how they love to run up a pants leg) it’s very hard to motivate a roach to go just about anywhere you wish it to. You have to rely on luck. This can make betting a bit complicated, or very simple, depending on how good you are at etymology.
There are some pretty specific rules though. Firstly, flying is prohibited. If your roach flies, or is thought to be flying, or even opens its wings and looks like it’s going to fly, you can pretty much squish it for all the good it will be to you. Secondly, after each race, the roaches are the property of anyone who catches them, and all other ownership ceases. Provided you wish to catch them.
The cockroach races take place at an event that rivals many for sheer entertainment. While the races themselves are a blast, there is also live music, dancing and of course a good old party. The races are the centre of all the excitement and if you want to get very business-like about your roach watching you can do so in an executive viewing box, just like you would the football. The roaches are only part of the entertainment though. In true Aussie style, they are referred to as the “Cocky Races” and there are prizes for both the Best Dressed Cocky Team, and inevitably, Miss Cocky. You could actually bet on the Cocky’s with Miss Cocky on your arm.
The Cocky Races themselves are considered The Greatest Gathering of Thoroughbred Cockroaches in the World. This is largely because few other places in the world would consider thoroughbred cockroaches to qualify as a breed. Contestants are welcome to bring their own home grown roaches, or one can be purchased on the day for a $5 donation that goes to a charity.
The American Way
You may ask who else would do this, and you may be surprised to find that the roach races have expanded to the USA. It’s slightly less shocking to hear that American races are held by the Loyola University Maryland in the etymology department. Students train the roaches for short sprints – we were too scared to find out what training involved. The races are referred to as Madagascar Madness – The Running of the Roaches.
Now that you know all there is to know about cockroach racing, would you bet on it, or does the mere thought make you reach for the bug spray?