Camel races are always a big hit with Ipswich kids
Camel races are always a big hit with Ipswich kids

'Big donkeys': Camel races always a hit at the Show

ONE of the highlights of the Ipswich Show each year is the annual camel races.

Every year Ipswich locals love to get up close to an animal that is rarely seen in the wild, unless of course you live in the Simpson Desert.

Lionel Keegan has a long history of bringing his camels to the show, and says that many people have the wrong concept about camels, in fact he thinks they are great company.

"All up I've been doing this for about 27 years," Mr Keegan said.

"I caught some a long time ago, trained them and then I found I was hooked on camels.

"I found it was in my blood. I love keeping camels, they are so quiet and they keep me out of trouble. They tend to keep to themselves, and are such majestic animals."

 

GIVE US A KISS: Lionel with one of his favourite camels, MinMin.
GIVE US A KISS: Lionel with one of his favourite camels, MinMin.

Most camels live between 40 and 50 years, and if you've ever ridden one most people say it is much smoother than riding a horse.

"It is very different, more like riding a pacer horse, it's a very smooth ride," Mr Keegan said. "I have three camels that love the races at the show, and they will try to race each other to get to the starting line, they are so competitive with each other.

"I can tell what mood they are in each morning, as I have 27 of them now and each time I do rides at shows like Ipswich or even at Australia Zoo, I can tell if they are grumpy or happy, they are so like humans that way. But when they are racing you need them in a bit of a mood."

Like many children across Ipswich, the show is the only chance that many of them get to see, hear and feel animals, something that Lionel takes lots of pride in.

"The amount of kids who come up to me and say they've never seen a camel before always astounds me, I often hear them say 'mum, look at the big donkeys'.

"It's good to be able to educate people about camels, they don't spit, for example, and I'm always asked what they carry in their humps. I get asked that all the time.

"It's a bittersweet thing when you see kids at shows seeing animals like these for the first time, for me the animals are the show, that's what it's all about. Kids, animals and lots of fun."



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