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Camel riders jockey for race cup

photoOn most days of the year, Jason Pfafman is a mild-mannered computer engineer for Intel in Seattle.

But once a year, he and his family come to Virginia City to be camel jockeys and take on “feather backing,” as they call riding an ostrich. He leaned as far forward as he could, flattening his body to the camel to win one heat Friday.

“It’s an adrenaline rush. It’s certainly not the kind of thing people back at work would believe,” Pfafman said.

From far and wide, as a television sportscaster might say, a crowd of 5,000 or more is expected for the 50th year of International Camel Races at Virginia City.

The Aussies are here. Champion jockeys Shorty Smith, from Tasmania, and Ian Rowan, from Alice Springs, Australia, are here to compete for the International Cup on Sunday. The cup is traded between the winner at Virginia City and Alice Springs, which had its 38th annual race this year. There is no prize money. Just a cup.

Surrounding Alice Springs in the middle of the Australian desert are more than a million feral camels. Many more were born this year because of rainy weather, Rowan said.

In Alice Springs, wild camels are captured and trained to race when they’re young. They’re bigger and stronger than the domesticated animals raced at Virginia City, he said. And they also are used for safaris to the Outback.

In Virginia City, the stock comes from Joe Hedrick’s Exotic Animal Farm in Kansas. In addition to camels and ostriches, he has brought emus and a zebra. Children take to the field to race with the emus.

You can’t exactly say it’s the 50th annual camel race in Virginia City. But it’s the 50th year since the first race.

And it was a hoax. Bob Richards, now deceased, a reporter from the Territorial Enterprise, made up a story about camel racing on the Comstock in 1959 that was picked up by the news wires. Soon, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Phoenix Sun challenged each other to a real race, and that’s how it began.

John Huston, in Reno to direct “The Misfits,” was an original camel jockey while Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe watched.

For a couple of years after that, no race occurred because of lack of interest, a lack of camels and a lack of funding, said Joe Curtis, who owns the Mark Twain Bookstore.

The camel jockeys come back year after year to race and volunteer in putting on the event, said Kristy Bond, 47, a fire captain from Mt. Shasta, Calif., who sported a hat with feathers. Many camp right next to the racetrack.

Bond considers racing the ultimate challenge of balance.

Karla Burrell, owner of Silver Sadie’s Old Time Photo in Virginia City, has been riding for eight years now.

“It’s an adrenaline rush like no other,” she said.

Linda Conroy of Carson City attended her first race Friday as a spectator.

“It was great,” she said, saying her favorite moment was watching an ostrich run in circles.

“I liked the little Australian dude,” said her husband Steve, in watching Shorty Smith.

When was the last time you witnessed a camel or ostrich race? If you haven’t yet experienced it, you must make it a point to attend this hilarious and unpredictable event. A Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival tradition for years, camel and ostrich races continue to captivate audiences with their crazy riders and unexpected animal behavior.

Did you know that the ostrich is the largest bird on earth today and the only two-toed bird on earth? African natives use ostrich eggs as canteens! Don’t believe the myth that ostriches stick their heads in the sand when frightened. One fact, however, that is true, is this birds’ ability to run at very high speeds in excess of 40 MPH. At that speed, it’s a good thing that ostriches have excellent eyesight, and it makes for more excitement at the races!

Camels are fun to watch too, but they have more important uses to Bedouin people, who say that the camel gives the local tribesman his mobility as well as his beast of burden. He can ride it to his date garden, to a distant market, a port – or for fun, such as in the traditional races.

Although JOMP is not a fan of any kind of animal racing events… these are always interesting races!!

Prairie Meadows camel and ostrich races

Quite a crowd for the Prairie Camel and Ostrich Races in August 2009

Posted:  Just One More Pet

September 14, 2009 Posted by | animals, Just One More Pet | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cloner’s Ark: Ten Notable Cloned Animals


Researchers in Dubai made news this week by announcing the arrival of the world’s first cloned camel, a singular achievement in a region where top racing camels are prized.

Iran followed two days later with the birth of the country’s first cloned goat, though many other cloned goats have been born elsewhere.

Most cloned mammals now lead regular lives, but as recently as 10 years ago they often died young of lung malformations, a problem that appears to have been largely overcome. Healthy cloned dogs and cats are the most recent significant achievements.

Many researchers are getting closer and closer to human cloning by trying to clone monkeys.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, all attempts at cloning monkeys from adult donor cells have failed, with one researcher deeming the resulting embryos “a gallery of horrors.” (Splitting newly formed regular monkey embryos does work, but that can be seen as just inducing natural twins.)

The following is a list of significant animal species cloned from adult cells, in chronological order — plus one that’s even more remarkable.

Frog: The first amphibians cloned from adult cells were made in 1962 by John Gurdon, a British biologist at Cambridge University. His experiments showed that cloning adults was theoretically possible (clones made from embryonic cells had been created a decade earlier).

But his tadpoles didn’t survive to full adulthood, and it wasn’t until years later that he was able to get cloned frogs that lived full lives.

Carp: Way back in 1963, a Chinese researcher named Tong Dizhou apparently created the world’s first cloned fish when he transferred the genetic material from an adult male Asian carp into a carp egg, which developed and was born normally, and even sired children.

But since his work took place behind the “Bamboo Curtain” at the height of the Cold War, Tong’s achievements went unheralded in the West. He died in 1979.

Sheep: The famous Dolly was born on July 5, 1996, in Edinburgh, Scotland, the first known mammal of any species to be cloned from an adult donor. She was the only one of 277 cloned embryos to survive.

She quickly became a media sensation, yet went on to live a short but quiet life, bearing six lambs naturally. Cloned cattle, genetically similar to sheep, followed within the next year.

In February 2003, suffering from a virus-borne form of lung cancer common among sheep, Dolly was put to sleep. Some experts wondered whether she was already “old” at birth, due to her genes coming from an adult animal, but her creators disputed that.

Goat: The world’s first cloned goat was born on June 16, 2000, the result of work by scientists at Northwest University of Agriculture and Forestry Science and Technology in Xi’an, China. Unfortunately, the kid, nicknamed “Yuanyuan,” died after a day and a half from lung defects.

On June 22, 2000, another cloned goat was born in the same facility. Named “Yangyang,” she lived at least six years and had kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.

Housecat: CC, or Copy Cat, the world’s first cloned domestic cat, was born Dec. 22, 2001 on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Though she was the clone of a calico, her surrogate mother was a tabby, and CC’s coloring was a mixture of the two.

She currently lives in the household of one the scientists who worked to create her and has had naturally conceived kittens of her own.

White-tailed deer: The same Texas A&M team responsible for CC the cloned cat also created the world’s first cloned deer, which was born on May 23, 2003. Dubbed “Dewey,” he was cloned from a dead buck. Three years later, he became the father of female triplets, who were conceived the old-fashioned way.

Horse: Five days after Dewey, the world’s first cloned horse was born in Italy. A female named “Prometea” — presumably after Prometheus, the god who gave man fire in Greek mythology — news reports from the time indicate she was healthy.

Dog: Snuppy, an Afghan hound born April 24, 2005, was the world’s first cloned dog. He was created by a team led by Korean genetics researcher Hwang Woo-suk, who also claimed to have cloned human stem cells, later found to be untrue; Snuppy was the sole part of Hwang’s work that was untainted.

Snuppy has since fathered 10 puppies through artificial insemination of two cloned female dogs.

Pyrenean ibex: The world’s first extinct mammal to be “resurrected” was a subspecies of the more widespread Spanish ibex, or mountain goat. The last known Pyrenean ibex was found dead in early 2000, but tissue samples that had been taken when it was alive led to a joint Spanish-French cloning program.

After hundreds of failed attempts, a live Pyrenean ibex was born in January 2009, for the first time in more than a decade. The surrogate mother was a domestic goat. But the achievement was short-lived; the kid died 9 minutes after birth due to malformed lungs.

Camel: Injaz, the world’s first cloned camel, was born April 8, 2009 in Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates. Her name means “achievement” in Arabic, and she likely won’t be the last cloned camel, as camel racing is very popular in the Gulf states and certain animals are prized.

However, Injaz won’t ever get to know her older “twin” — the donor animal was slaughtered for its meat in 2005.

And last but far from least:

Fatherless mouse: Japanese researchers went beyond cloning in 2004 to create the world’s first fatherless mammal.

The mouse, nicknamed Kaguya, was born in 2004 and was a “parthenote” — she literally had two mommies. Genetic material from two mouse eggs was modified and combined so that one “fertilized” the other.

Kaguya has almost certainly died of old age since, but bore at least one litter of naturally conceived pups.

Source:  Fox News

Posted:  Just One More Pet

May 22, 2009 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Just One More Pet, Pet Health, Unusual Stories | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment