Yes, people really do race camel and ostriches in Virginia City!
In true Virginia City spirit, the Camel Races began as a hoax. Camels were introduced to the American frontier as pack animals, and were brought to the Comstock to carry salt and general supplies. As Virginia City grew and the V&T Railroad took over the drayage chores for the area, the sometimes disagreeable and smelly animals were turned loose in the hills, and eventually disappeared. Bob Richards, late editor of Lucius Beebe‘s “Territorial Enterprise,” wrote a fictitious account of the city’s “Camel Races” in 1959, and followed up the next year with an editorial announcement of the upcoming races. Local residents, wise to this form of humor which dates back to the tall tales of Mark Twain and Dan DeQuille, early “Enterprise” reporters, watched the first real race that year. The San Francisco “Chronicle” took up the challenge thrown down by Richards; and movie director John Huston charged to victory in that first race on a camel borrowed from the San Francisco Zoo. In 1962, Ostrich Races were added to the event, and in 1987 Virginia City took the competition to its sister city, Alice Springs, Australia, and added “International” to the title.