Cockroach Racing History
The story goes like this. One evening in 1982 two locals were sitting in a pub having a few beers at the Story Bridge Hotel in Brisbane, Queensland Australia. As it often does in bars, conversation turned to a totally random topic, and the two punters started to argue about who had the fastest cockroaches living in their suburb in Brisbane. Of course this had to be sorted out, and the two decided to meet back the next night in the hotel parking lot for a match to prove once and for all whose cockroaches were faster. The winner of that first race is sadly not recorded in the annuls of history, but what happened next certainly is.
Australia Day and Cockroach Racing
Since that fateful night in Brisbane, cockroach racing has captured the imagination and hearts of Australians country wide. So much so in fact that it has become an integral part of Australia Day which is held on Jan 26 every year. Clubs are run all year in which owners can train and exercise their favourite roaches in preparation for the big day.
To enter, you have to pay a fee and either purchase a roach at the races or bring your own from your personal stable, which is preferred. The excitement surrounding cockroach racing on Australia day is almost as much as surrounds the big horse races, and indeed the annual event has earned the title of The greatest gathering of Thoroughbred cockroaches in the World. Betting on the day is fast and furious, with bookies creating odds determined by size, stamina and past performance of the roaches.
There are three main events to the races. The first is the sprint, which is held in various locations. The second class, the steeple chase, takes the winners of the sprints and pits them against each other. The final event called The Gold Cup is held at the original Story Bridge Hotel and is attended by large crowds.
Cockroach racing is held all year round in various clubs, mostly as a fun way to gamble. An average race arena is a ring with a diameter of 6 meters. In the steeple chase format various obstacles are placed in the ring which the roaches have to climb over to reach the edge. The roaches are released at the same time from glass bottles in the centre of the ring, and the first to reach the edge wins. Each roach is marked in some way by their owners, usually with a blob of coloured paint.
Often the roaches have names, some famous ones being Soft Cocky, Cocky Balboa, Drain Lover and Pricilla Queen of the Drains. Although indigenous roaches can be used for racing, most these days are imported Madagascan hissing roaches which can be bought in pet stores, and are notoriously big and fast.
Cockroach Racing Worldwide
Cockroach racing became so successful in Australia that it has spread to the rest of the world too. In the USA clubs have been set up and an event called Madagascar Madness – The running of the Roaches is run each year by the Loyola University of Maryland. Roaches are trained by the entomology department as sprinters and marathon runners. A cockroach race is also held prior to each presidential election in the States, organised by the Pest Control Association of New Jersey. The roaches are named after the presidential candidates, and the event draws a large and enthusiastic crowd. Betting is fierce, but all proceeds go to charity.