Camels, Cowboys and Cockies Joy – Bedourie, Queensland

Last Updated on March 18, 2019 by Red Nomad OZ

Excitement on and off the track - Bedourie Camel Races, 2011
Excitement on and off the track – Bedourie Camel Races, 2011

Cockroaches, cane toads and camels are generally considered physically and/or temperamentally unsuited to commercial racing. But here in OZ, the absence of animals traditionally raced, such as horses and dogs, is no hindrance to holding a race meet…

Although all these races are held in Australia, I’ve yet to experience the pleasures of cane toad or cockroach racing. But … camels are another story!

We Three Kings ... Camel handlers lead the camels to the starting line!
We Three Kings … Camel handlers lead the camels to the starting line!

Bedourie – home of the eponymous camp-oven – on the edge of nowhere in Queensland’s far west may not have its own postcode or mobile phone access – but who cares? The trappings of civilization are SO not required at the Bedourie camel races!!

The Finish Line!!
The Finish Line!!

Despite being a virgin race-goer prior to this event, I’m more than betting the Bedourie camel races are unique in this respect – the major city races televised by the bookies for benefit of local punters seemed (and were!) a thousand miles away! And thereby dull by comparison…

That was a good thing.

I think.

Otherwise a blip on the radar between Birdsville and Boulia for travellers, this fantastic outback experience swells Bedourie’s population of ~150 considerably as tourists, workers from outlying stations and hell, anyone looking for a great day out join the locals at the track.

Generally held the weekend before Boulia’s more well known races (although in 2011, the Boulia races were a wash-out), it’s also a great opportunity for camel riders and handlers to fine-tune their skills, there being a dearth of official camel race meets where experience can be gained!

The Boys from the Bush**
The Boys from the Bush**


I’m not sure how common colour-blind race-callers are; or if other race programmes are suspended when the ambulance is called out on a real emergency. But I’m betting the ute* full of camel handlers following the racing camels to the finishing post doesn’t appear too often at Randwick!!

Neck in Neck
Neck in Neck

Hard to imagine as the dust billowed up around us that a few short months ago, this remote town was completely cut off by flood waters! But when the dust cleared? Coming from behind after an early tantrum to easily win her heat, my pick – Daisy – ultimately lost to the favourite from Boulia. Bummer.

Happily, there were other distractions on the programme to lessen the pain …

Fruit Damper and Cockies Joy!
Fruit Damper and Cockies Joy (aka Golden Syrup)!

Even to seasoned bakery connoisseurs like Pilchard and I, the morning tea slices of fruit-studded damper*** were daunting. So large – yes, that IS a dinner plate they’re sitting on – we took so long to eat it that we missed a heat!! But a liberal addition of cockies joy, and mug of billy**** tea on the side takes this classic stockman’s standby from pretty damn fine to FAAAAABULOUS!! Ironic that cockies joy***** replaced sugar, honey or jam – being cheaper than all three – during the 1930s depression… no chance of that these days – it’s the first choice for ANY self respecting damper addict!!

The boys line up ... Instructions for the wood-chop event
The boys line up … Instructions for the wood-chop event

And then, the amateur wood-chopping competition where the cream of the region’s young, hotmuscularbuff, fit men – many of them station workers (or cowboys, if you prefer the American vernacular) shed their Akubras and roll up their sleeves to hack through the log they’re standing on with an axe – and without cutting off major body parts.

How do you top that? With teams of two taking turns at the standing block, of course!! Sigh …

Be still my beating heart …

The Team Wood Chopping Event - Bedourie Camel Races 2011
The Team Wood Chopping Event – Bedourie Camel Races 2011

Not much left to do after that excitement but to retire to the spa … Thank god for Bedourie’s foresight in harnessing the Great Artesian Basin’s almost limitless supply of hot water bubbling from the subterranean depths into a public pool to relax those tired muscles. Bliss!!

Yes, you’ve missed the July 2011 Bedourie camel races. So yes, it sucks to be you! But don’t despair – there’s always another year!!

And the cockroach and cane toad races? I’ll save them for another day!

* ute = utility = pick-up truck.

** ‘Boys from the Bush’, by Aussie country singer, Lee Kernaghan.  Lee’s also got another hit – ‘She’s my Ute’ (see above)!

*** damper = campfire bread. Traditionally made with flour and water, then thrown on the coals to cook, today’s damper is far more sophisticated. Using a camp-oven means no filling-cracker campfire detritus stuck to the crust, and flavourings such as bacon/cheese or fruit, lift it from its humble origins to the sublime!!

**** billy = metal container with lid used for campfire cooking. ‘Boiling the billy’ is an OZ euphemism for ‘smoko’, which in turn is a euphemism for having a tea break. To make ‘billy tea’ in the traditional way, boil the water in the billy, add tea leaves, replace the lid, then spin the billy the full 360º! This is said to improve the flavour, although the pyromaniacs among us (yes, Pilchard – that’s you!!!) are happy enough with the taste imparted by a real campfire.

***** cockies joy = golden syrup! Cockie = ‘cockatoo farmer’ – a phrase used to describe a farmer with more cockatoos than cattle (ie poor).

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  1. @Kalpana – Cheers to you too, my friend!
    @Pamela – Welcome! Sadly, the bread won’t taste authentic unless it’s cooked over a REAL campfire!! Don’t ask me why, it’s just so!!
    @Lola – There are whole recipe books devoted to campfire cooking – but damper is the BEST!

  2. @Aleah – Haha! I’ll be on the lookout for the next cockroach races … but they’re getting harder & harder to find!!

  3. Wow, a camel race? I always thought that was only done in Africa or something haha. Looking forward to read your cockroach race though. We got a lot of that here!

  4. @Manzanita – Google translate doesn’t really do Aussie lingo, as Mary pointed out above!! And weird to think cowboys/stockmen/wranglers/handlers are the same the world over!!
    @SFlaGuy – UMMmmm… my shots show the race-track and yeah … a dearth of trees there, all right! Lots of trees not far away by the river!! Be interesting to see if the Aussie sun has the same effect on you as the Florida sun!! Always good to hear from you!!
    @Bob Crunch – Welcome!! And thanx … but you should probably know my best article is yet to be written, so you’ll have to keep coming back!!
    @Michelle – I’m not so sure about the camel riding after watching this!! And apparently, the famous cockroach ‘Destructo’ was ‘accidentally’ trodden on after winning a race … ah, the politics!!

  5. Ahh I’d lve to ride on a camel! Cockroach racing? How strange! I can just imagine a huge group of people gathering around watching little bugs running around…haha

  6. I’ve heard of camel races before but I can’t imagine cockroach races. The fruit damper looks delicious. Great article!

  7. Ok… So where did the logs come from?? In your pictures there isn’t a tree for miles. Is that why they need the camels? To get to the forest on the other side of the desert, to get a log to chop in the hot sun?!?!?

    Sorry – spent a 3 day weekend in the Florida sun.

  8. You outdid yourself again, girl. I’m always glad when you provide “terms index” at the end. Seems like cockles joy had a lot of us going. I remembered Ute from before.
    I’ve seen camels race in Morocco when I lived there during the Korean war. Only they were the one-hump kind, guess that’s dromedaries. Reminds me of “taking sugar” in tea, one hump or two? (It’s that kind of a corny morning)
    Love the pictures. The boys from the bush could be Montana yahoo cowboys just in from the ranch for a night on the town.
    You are so right about the beating heart. Always love to watch a sweaty man in plaid flex his muscles.
    Until next time….

  9. @Mrs Tuna – oh come on! This HAS to be better than yet another public loo post!!
    @Nikki – Welcome back!! Do yourself a favour and check out camel racing for yourself!! Although I can’t guarantee all the meets have damper/cockies joy/woodchopping!!
    @Mary – oh, doesn’t Google translator do OZ?? What kind of oversight is that?? Maybe I’ll offer my services …

  10. @Kath – Don’t forget the Akubra!!! No chance of boredom in Bedourie either – though sadly for you, I bet there’s a dearth of camel race opportunities in Geneva!!!!
    @Sailor – another day, another Aussie fact! Some would say I’m a mine of useless information … thanx for dropping by!
    @NJAMB – yep, almost as much fun as training a cat!! But with fewer injuries … at this meet, anyway!!
    @diane b – thanx so much! It really was a unique experience!!

  11. I feel like I’ve just attended a language class. Thank goodness you provided a translation for us cause the google translator was quite confused. :-). have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  12. I haven’t visited for a while and I forgot how much I love your posts. Will keep watch more now. I would love to see the camel racing, it sounds so quirky – just up my ally.
    p.s. Thanks for defining Cocky for me. I am not sure even my Aussie boyfriend knows that.

  13. Fabulous post, so well written and describing the Aussie outback to a T. Sounds like you had loads of fun.

  14. I never knew that you guys have Camel races in Australia. I have heard of them in the Middle East and specially in Dubai. I like the wood chop event too. In the Northern India usually in the Punjab state we do have these kind of exiting events for the strong men to expose there strength.

    Thanks for visiting me and the wonderful comments. Please forgive me if I do not visit you in weekdays. My busy schedule at my regular work is hideous and it is preventing me from blog walking.
    Cruise Pictures

  15. Would LOVE to see a camel race. Went to Ladies’ Day in Melbourne last year and was bored out of my brain but to see camels, wear jeans and have damper slathered in golden syrup would be heaven!

  16. @River – up until recently, I thought the AS camel races were the only ones!! It’s hard to imagine a big person riding a camel – balancing on a precarious saddle that looks like it’s about to slide off isn’t for the fainthearted!!
    @Magsx2 – I’m still salivating just thinking about the damper … thanx for your kind words!!

  17. @Kathy – yep, if it’s weird & wonderful, I’ll track it down … thanx for dropping by!
    @Dianne – I’d never actually seen a camel run before – live, that is … they sure do build up some speed!! Watching them was so tiring I had to build up my strength with the damper …!!!
    @Windsmoke – Yes, they’re not often associated with speed! I believe they’re more known for temperamental tantrums …
    @Carolyn – it’s always been ‘golden syrup’ to me – but just LOVE the name Cockies Joy!! Wonder is there a market for camel hair clothing? It’s just bizarre enough to take off!!
    @Jayne – Pity your Dad was deprived of CJ in later years … but LOVING the thought of camel handlers at Randwick – that’s a disturbingly hilarious mental image!!!
    @Linda – well, I see I’ve got my work cut out for me!! Just missed cane toad races by one day recently – maybe the answer is to set it up myself!!

  18. @IWBY – Yep, it’s right out there in the middle of nowhere … But SO glad we made the effort to get out there – and back before the rain blocked the roads!!
    @Lilly – well, come on down & we’ll go bush!! But lots of us downunder think ice-skating races on the lake are pretty exotic!! And International Choc festival?? HHHMMMmmm… that’s almost on a par with my Cockies Joy!!!
    @J&L – Not just the people of Bedourie, my friends! Such a great day out for us non-locals as well!! It might have been my virgin racing experience – but it won’t be my last!!
    @PDP – LOVE your comments, girl! SO good for my ego … and as for the M7L – don’t agonise, just DO IT! Base it purely on the pix and you can’t go wrong, but email me if you need a 2nd opinion!

  19. Hi,
    A fantastic post. It has been a long, long, time since I heard the word “cockies joy” my Grandfather used to say it.

    Oh what a fun day out, and that damper looks fabulous, such huge slices, I don’t think I’ve ever seen damper that big. But it sent the taste buds going I can tell you. 🙂

  20. Camel races are also held in Alice Springs. I know this because one year my brother-in-law rode a camel. Poor camel. He’s a big boy the BIL. I haven’t heard the term cocky’s joy for yonks! Most people just say syrup.

  21. I think I’ll pass on the camels and wait for the cockroach and cane toad races. That’s a bit more my style. 🙂

  22. LOL
    What a great time you had!
    Yep, gotta love cocky’s joy, Dad used to have it on a lot of things before his first heart attack…strangely he refrained from indulging after that 😉
    Can you imagine camel handlers mixing with the hoity-toity members at Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day?!
    Know who I’d rather be with *snort*

  23. Gosh it makes me feel old seeing so many didnt know what “cockies joy” was 🙂 I must admit although familiar with the name we never called “golden syrup” by that name. OT the brushings from camel spins into a great warm fibre. My sister once saw some camels of different colours in a paddock and went in asked if they used the hair and as they didnt they gave us a few bags and we spun it. Some stiff guard (hard) hairs in it but an intersting fibre to work with.

  24. When i first seen camel racing many years ago on t.v. i thought how funny they look running flat out as camels usually just amble along slowly without a care in the world :-).

  25. Looks like those camels can run – how exciting!!
    I’m sure you enjoyed that yummo fruit damper to top of the day!

  26. Wow what a unique things. I’ve never even heard of camel racing…and in Australia!! but then again leave it to Red’s Australian Round Up…to find the unique and cool!!!

  27. I don’t feel like I’ve missed it at all Red, we were right there with you, bit of a ‘bummer’ about Daisy though haha!!Can you believe I’m still agonizing over, y’know…I really must get in touch with you about it.

  28. Hello:
    Camel racing in Australia, we should never have imagined such a thing if you had not brought it to our computer screen with all its excitement, delicious food and dust!

    Well, they may not have some of the advantages of modern day living but the people of Bedourie certainly know how to enjoy themselves!

  29. OMGoodness Red, you have outdone yourself yet again. I absolutely loved this post. Can I leave home and join you on your travels – what a way to live. You just keep doing what you are doing girl, cause you brighten up my home with every read. I didn’t know about cockies joy and now I do. Camel racing – never thought about it, cause all I’ve ever seen is horses and skidoos n sled racing – then ice skating races on the lake if that counts. Loved the wood chopping event – we have similar here in the next two weeks with the International Choclate Festival coming to town – last week in July and first week in August will find all kinds of stuff going on in our little town. Ever hear of “Ganong Choclates” – they are made here 🙂
    Cheers and have another great adventure. Lilly

  30. i didn’t know cockies joy either!! great post.sounds like a fun day out,long drive out there thogh lol

  31. I did have to look up cockies joy. I have never thought about the origin of ‘cocky’ to describe a farmer. Now I know.

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