If you are a camel race fan you might know that Camels can reach speeds of up to 64 kilometres per hour (40 mph) during sprints, and can maintain a steady 40 kilometres per hour (25 mph) over much longer distances. Phenomenally popular throughout much of the Middle East, in India, Pakistan, Mongolia and also Australia, camel racing has become big business. It could be the perfect sport for you – if you don’t mind a slightly bumpy ride.

Some camel races can leave winning owners extremely wealthy and there’s a social scene to rival anything you’ll see in horseracing. Indeed, it is said that Sheikh Zayed, a former president of the United Arab Emirates, was such a fan that he kept a personal stable of 14,000 camels with a staff of 9,000 to look after them. With all that oil wealth sloshing around, it’s no surprise there’s lots of money at stake – in 2010 one breeding female with an impressive racing heritage sold for US$2.45 million.

Some of the biggest race meets in Australia are in July and August, while the racing season across the Middle East runs from late October to early April. Race distances can be anything from 2 to 10 kilometres (1.2 to 6 miles), and fields can vary from as few as six camels up to as many as 75. As you might imagine, a race containing dozens of moody camels is no place for faint hearts or weak wills. As with horseracing, the general rule is the lighter you are the better. However, the professional sport has been besieged by allegations of human rights abuses relating to underage jockeys. It has been known for children as young as six to be entered into races so that the load on the camel is as light as possible. However, the rules have now been tightened in the face of international consternation, and today jockeys are generally required to be at least 15 years old and to weigh more than 45 kilograms (99 lb).

Perhaps in response to this, in recent years some camel owners have attempted to do away with jockeys altogether, preferring to use saddle mounted robots instead – it’s not worth wasting your time trying to find a ride with an owner who will only consider you if you can be remote controlled. A racing camel comes into its prime when it is two or three years old. Most and to be female,because they are slightly less temperamental than their male counterparts. However, even they can be moody and unpredictable. They are not averse to spitting and kicking and, in extremis, can give a nasty bite. Therefore, always treat your camel respectfully, calmly and confidently. If you panic, it will too, and that’s a real recipe for trouble.

A standing camel is quite a beast, so riders mount when they are lying down. There is likely to be a ledge or lip on the camel’s saddle – put one of your legs onto it, and gently swing your other leg across the camel’s hump. Grip the saddle firmly with your knees and hang on tight – when a camel stands up, it leans first forwards, then backwards, and these are the prime moments for you to fall off. Try to tilt your own body in the opposite direction to the camel’s lean to give you as much stability as possible.

Fortunately, there aren’t any mechanical stalls to worry about – the start of these long-distance races is signalled by the lifting of a long, rope-like barrier. Try to remain as relaxed as possible. Not only will this keep the camel calm, but it will also help you maintain the flexibility of movement you’ll need to stay upright as your camel takes off like a rocket. As in horseracing, you have a whip to encourage your mount. You’ll also need goggles to protect your eyes, but may still have trouble seeing through the huge dust clouds created by stampeding hooves on desert ground.

Finally, watch out for bad sportsmanship – with the potential rewards getting ever larger, animals that place in big races are routinely drug-tested. In addition, there have been scandals over the use of ‘whips’ that deliver an electric shock to make the camels go faster. Hang on and good luck!