Thursday, July 28, 2011

Monkey jockeys

Although PETA objects categorically to the use of animals for entertainment, I bet the Banana Derby is as amusing as the ostrich races I saw in Arizona several years ago. Above are Bobo and
Red coming (1st image) and going (2nd image), and you can see them in action (here). The history of monkey jockeys (a.k.a. greyhound jockeys), capuchin monkeys trained to ride dogs around a 5/16-mile course, is traced to Palm Beach, Florida, 80 years ago. There, Loretta and Charlie David spent 2 years teaching 12 female monkeys to race on greyhounds in specially designed saddle harnesses. Such events captivated the American public until the late 1930s, the Chinese in the 1940s, and audiences in Mexico and Australia - where they introduced water and hurdle jumps - until the late 1950s. The monkey jockeys entertained the crowd at the greyhound races at Orange Park, Florida, during the 1932-33 season:
"The monkeys paraded onto the track for their race, which was the eleventh, an added event, didn't disappoint. They each wore oilskin capes over their silk riding suits and Monkey-Jockey You Bet riding Greyhound Happy Doone provided the laugh of the act. Coming into the home stretch, his mount was next to last with Jockey Detour on Greyhound Happy Joe bringing his racer by. But You Bet just couldn't stand to see his 'horse' passed. He stuck out one arm and grabbed the blanket of his competitor. Of course Happy Joe and his rider finished ahead at the wire, but You Bet still had his grip when it was passed and he didn't let go until the curtain was reached. The monkeys appear to take especial pleasure if their greyhound wins and often become angry, striking their dog if he loses. The race drew the fans from the covered grandstand into the rain to get a better glimpse."
The Banana Derby has now brought the attraction back to fairs and festivals in the U.S. It all started when organizer Philip Hendricks looked out the window of his South Carolina home one morning and saw that 10-year-old Bobo had taken a liking to his dog. The monkey was riding George, holding him by the fur and ears. "I thought I should take this on the road. And the rest is history." Bobo is now joined by Gilligan and Bert.

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