Weiner Dog Derby races are a lot different than the Kentucky Derby, and they are run on a much smaller course, by much smaller animals. There are no jockeys to skillfully guide their steeds to the finish line; instead, the owners of the racing Dachshunds stand at the finish line to coax their friends to finish the soonest.
To look at a Dachshund, you wouldn’t think it would make a very good racer. They are compact and very low to the ground, with short legs. But just like some people who don’t know that they are smaller, these dogs give it their all. Well, some of them do. Others stand around sniffing each other and visiting, or running off into a field.
When the race-holders use a starting box and the “gate” goes up, they don’t come flying out, like horses from a starting gate. They meander around, sometimes going in a straight line and sometimes not. They may wander to other dogs and other owners, or they might just respond by racing to the finish line, where their mom or dad stands with treats.
So why are people so intrigued by the Weiner Dog Derby races? It’s not competitive spirit. Maybe it’s just the pleasant distraction that wandering dogs with little interest in winning can give the watchers. Dachshunds were originally bred to hunt small pesky animals like badgers, and their name even means “badger dog”. So they must have been fast enough to catch badgers. But how fast are badgers? I’m thinking that they are probably not very speedy at all.
Children are especially enamored of the little racers, perhaps because they are so close to their height. Horses can be imposing, but Doxies, not so much. They do have a fierce heart for a little dog, though. In Shreveport, LA at the Louisiana Downs horse racing track, they discovered that you draw a lot of young kids in with Dachshund derbies, and that meant that the park could attract more families… and more betting. But they bet only on the “ponies”, not the Dachshunds. And there are no children betting, of course.
In typical Dachshund races, the contestants are brought out just like Thoroughbreds in a post parade, even with their own “silks” in bright colors. They usually race with eight dogs on the track at the same time. Into the starting boxes they go, and then when the referee signals, some come out running, some walking and some sniffing the dog next to them in the starting box. Thousands of spectators gather to watch these little dogs with lots of heart run pretty much anywhere they want to. In Louisiana, the admissions money goes to the local animal shelter, so it’s all for a good cause.