Virginia City International Camel Races

This event is the height of hilarity in Nevada. Imagine untrained camels, mounted by novice riders, running around a dirt ring to a soundtrack of banjos, harmonicas and wild laughter and cheering. The camel heats are interspersed with ostrich races and the occasional zebra race added for good measure.

The races are the weekend after Labor Day in Virginia City, about 30 miles from Reno. They kick off with a camel parade on Saturday, which is free, and tickets to the races can be purchased online or in person. But get there early because parking is limited.

Camels have long history in Virginia City, once being used as service animals for the gold mines in the 1800s. However, according to local legend, the animals' comical history came into play just over 50 years ago when Bob Richards, editor of the local paper the Territorial Enterprise, ran a fictitious news story about local camel races. Richards was notorious for his practical jokes, so he didn't count on being taken seriously. But the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle thought it was a real story and reprinted it. He was less than amused when he found out it was a hoax.

The following year, Richards ran an announcement of upcoming camel races, and the Chronicle editor decided to turn the tables on the trickster and said he would be sending a team to compete in the races. The Virginia City editor scrambled to make his joke a reality, and the International Camel Races were born. Hollywood director John Huston was the first race on a camel borrowed from the San Francisco Zoo.


Latitude: 39.3121706 Longitude: -119.6490526 Elevation: 6178 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Bethany Drysdale

Admission Fee (if any)

$12 for adults; check the website for specific admission prices.

ADA Accessibility Notes

Accessible, but not easily. The path to the racetrack is a steep dirt walkway.

Pet Friendly Notes

Animals not allowed


I have been a rider in the Camel races in Virginia city and found the races a lot of fun for both the riders and the Audience. The event is well worth attending and is a lot of fun for all.

Bill Pugsley, 2/19/2015

My husband Dave Lum rode for Harold’s Club in late 1960's wearing a Ghenghis Khan costume. He said the camels are mean & spit! No wonder they are ridden by robots in races in other parts of the world.I have his photo on top of that camel!

Sandy Lum, 6/8/2015

I went last year and had a blast you have to see it .its fun then you got all the shops and saloons all day fun . im in redwood city californa im going this year to . see you there

troy texeira, 8/15/2016

Can't wait!

Jennifer, 8/30/2016

Going to plan to go next year, what will the dates be ?

DuaneKennedy , 9/24/2016

We went a couple of years ago and it was great!

Traci, 8/14/2017

Leave a Comment