Turtle racing is a spectator sport in which – in its most common form – participants place turtles in the center of a circle and watch them wander around until one of them reaches the edge circle.
It was first popularized as a children’s event at county fairs and picnics in the United States, but it has since increased in scope and popularity, and additional variations have been held.
How do Turtles Race?
There are several types of turtle racing:
The most common variant involves placing turtles in the center of a large circle, and the first to pass outside the circle is declared the winner. Sometimes, instead of a circle, the race is run from a clear starting line to a finishing line (which I assume can take a lot longer than the circle-version :-)).
In some cases, before the race, a large lid is placed on top of the turtles, and the race begins when the lid is lifted off of them. Numbers painted or taped on the shells of turtles are frequently used to identify them.
Outdoor races occasionally start the turtles in a sunny spot near a shaded area, and the turtles race into the shade by nature.
Although turtle racing is generally a low-risk pastime, turtles have been known to pose a threat to spectators. On one occasion, a turtle bit a woman who had given it a kiss in celebration of its race victory. After the turtle refused to let go of the woman's lip, paramedics arrived and administered Valium to it. The injection caused no serious harm to the turtle, who quickly resumed racing.
Breeds of Turtle
Although there’s no single breed of turtle considered, in certain parts of the world there are restrictions on what is and isn’t allowed.
Many turtle races use wild turtles captured for use in the events, however this illegal in some jurisdictions, and of course the participation of endangered breeds of turtle is universally prohibited.
Turtles are trapped using specialized netting in some turtle races. Although turtle trapping is illegal in Nebraska, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has granted permission to several turtle races to trap turtles on the condition that the turtles be returned to the ponds where they were caught after the races are completed.
Maximum Turtle Velocity
Turtles aren’t renowned for their speed, so how fast can actually race? The average speed of a racing turtle has been estimated several times:
- Organizers of a large turtle race in Pittsburgh in 1930 claimed that their turtles could reach speeds of up to 12 inches (30 cm) per 30 seconds.
- Early turtle racer S.N. Castle claimed that his turtles could travel 100 yards (91 meters) in four hours.
- A later proponent of turtle racing claimed that the fastest turtles he raced could reach 14 mph (0.4 km/h), although he only raced them over short distances.
- The champion turtle in the 1974 Canadian Turtle Derby raced from the center of a 25-foot (7.6 m) circle to its edge in 39 seconds.
The size of a turtle does not always indicate how fast the turtle will race. Some turtle racers have been taken aback by the speed of smaller turtles.