You may not have heard of Boulia Races, but the famous Australian meeting has been inspired by Oman and the UAE. That’s because Boulia is the Melbourne Cup of camel racing and takes place deep in the Australian outback every year.
When you think of Australian horse racing, the Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse, the Caulfield Cup at Caulfield Racecourse and the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley Racecourse trip off the tongue. Horses like Phar Lap, Black Caviar and Winx dominate the list of most recognisable names.
But Boulia, the small town that is home to the Min Min Lights, has a huge following too. Each July, the crème de la crème of camel racing head to regional Queensland for what is the biggest day in the calendar.
The Hon Kate Jones MP, Minister for Tourism Industry Development said: “This is truly an iconic event, combining the excitement of race day with the unique landscapes of Outback Queensland.”
Despite taking place in a town with a population of just over 300 people, and a place located in the middle of nowhere, 1,721km from Brisbane and 812km from Alice Springs, Boulia Races is talked about in the same breath as the Melbourne Cup for a reason. That is because it is the biggest and best day of the year for those involved in the sport of camel racing.
Run across the red dust of the Australian outback, Boulia Races features the longest camel race in Australia. It is a 1500m cup final that is the equivalent to this sport to what the Melbourne Cup is to thoroughbred racing.
Only the best camels get to contest the grand final and they need to earn their stripes across the entire weekend of the Boulia Races.
From the Saturday morning each year, camels contest race heats run over 400m. Place first, second or third and they progress to the 1000m heats later in the day. Repeat a top-three performance and a place on Sunday’s final is secured. The final, run over 1500m, provides two-and-a-half minutes of excitement before the year’s champion camel is crowned.
Camel racing in Australia was inspired by the hugely popular races in Oman and the United Arab Emirates. And Boulia attracts fans to the middle of the red desert as well as thrillseekers too. That’s because Boulia is a carnival with the camel racing part of a memorable three-day festival that is the highlight of the calendar.
Boulia Races is circled in the diary of many Australians who camp out in the outback each July. In addition to camel racing, the festival includes live entertainment, yabby races (small crustaceans), camel and sheep tagging competitions, and novelty races.
Camel tagging? Yes, you heard it right.
Boulia explains, “It’s easy to explain, but not so easy to do. Fearless contenders enter an arena where a few young and lively camels are waiting. The object is to ‘tag’ a camel by sticking a piece of duct tape on it, then run back to the starting position, only to have to then chase down that same camel to retrieve the tape and finally return to the judge at the starting position. The fastest contender wins, but the crowd are the real winners with the laughs from the sidelines Outback gold!”
It is hard to think that Oman and Boulia could share something in common. But they do – and not only the dry and hot weather. Camel racing takes place in very few places in the world, but Boulia has its place in history. It stands alongside the Melbourne Cup as one of Australia’s most iconic races. And it is all inspired by Oman.