Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill Monday that officially bans greyhound racing in Colorado. At one time, greyhound racing was a $250 million enterprise here, as fans thrilled to the cry of "Here comes Rusty!" as the dogs took off after a fake bunny. But the sport hasn't actually been practiced here for six years; it's viewed by many as inhumane and has been blamed for creating a glut of injury-riddled or difficult-to-care-for dogs who need homes once their careers are over.
Fortunately, there are plenty of animals you can race.
Greyhound racing has been banned in more than forty states besides Colorado. So this bill seems like a smart move, but it also leaves a hole in the gaming industry here, since there is only one operational horse track in Colorado -- Arapahoe Park -- as well as some rodeo-related horse-race events.
There are a number of other animal-racing options around the state, though. Here are five suggestions for where you can go to get in on the action -- but not necessarily any monetary action. As far as we know, betting isn't allowed at any of these events.
5. Wiener Racing While greyhound racing is no longer permitted, you can still see racing going to the dogs around Colorado, especially if you're in the mood to catch dachshunds in places like Colorado Springs or Grand Junction. In fact, the sixth annual Wiener Dog Races are slated to be part of Grand Junction's Oktoberfest celebration this fall, and if the past five bouts have been any kind of example (you can see videos on YouTube), the competition is sure to be exciting down the stretch. Dachshund owners pay $10 to enter their canine contestants. The races run on a bracket system, and if there is a tie, they'll race those wieners again.
4. Burro Racing One of our state's oldest traditions, burro racing got its start in Colorado in the 1850s, according to legend, when drunken miners in Leadville decided to make some easy money by pitting their pack animals (which they used to carry tools and supplies) against one another. Today the Western Pack Burro Ass-ociation ("66 years of hauling ass!") hosts a yearly Triple Crown of races in Fairplay (during Burro Days), Leadville and Buena Vista. There are also races (all are riderless) in Georgetown and Idaho Springs. How exciting are these matches? Well, in 2012, the Colorado Legislature designated pack-burro racing as the official state sport.
Continue to keep counting down our top five animals you can still race in Colorado now that greyhound racing is banned.
3. Llama Racing Another regular feature of Burro Days is the Pack/Walk Llama Race (talk about a daily double!), which, according to the Rocky Mountain Llama Association, is an "excellent opportunity for the general public...to experience the abilities of the llama on a defined course." In addition, you can experience Llama Lunacy, in which children run an obstacle course with a llama. Odds are good that you'll enjoy it.
2. Pig Racing Little piggies take the track at a variety of summer and fall venues each year around Colorado, including some fairs and corn mazes. But you can also go hog wild with these muscled beasts at the annual Frisco BBQ challenge (set for June 13-14 this year), when more than seventy barbecue chefs will face off in a battle of tongs and spice. The bigger battle, though, is between the adorable little cutlets, one of whom will coast to victory. Last year's winner was named Kevin Bacon. Could he be the frontrunner again? (Bonus fact: In the early days of the Wynkoop Brewing Company, the annual Running of the Pigs was a major feature of the anniversary celebration. After animal-rights activists complained, a certain brewpub owner named John Hickenlooper changed the event to the Pleasuring of the Pigs.)
Continue to see our top pick for animals you can still race in Colorado now that greyhound racing is banned.
1. Rubber Duckie Racing Okay, so rubber duckies aren't technically alive, but they certainly do draw a lot of attention (and a few gamblers, no doubt) to mountain towns all over Colorado that host rubber duckie races along their assorted rivers and streams. Breckenridge, Steamboat, Vail and Estes Park, among others, all have rubber duckie races, as do Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs. These are definitely the most humane of all the animal relays, even if they're a tad plastic. Rubber duckie, you're the one...you make bath time lots of fun....
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