I use to question the need for a 24-hour TV channel devoted to sports. Well, let me tell you those days are gone. Why you ask? Thanks for the interest; an ever-increasing number of under-appreciated sports are seeing a revival of a sort as a result of exposure on television. While frog jumping hasn’t yet been highlighted in a big way, I know it is only a matter of time. I know, I thought the same thing too until I started researching this overlooked challenge of brut strength and determination in the frog eat fly world of the amphibian kingdom. It’s frog against frog in this heart-pounding contest. Which competitor will triumph? Will it be that bullfrog, or that bullfrog, or perhaps that bullfrog over there? The tension can be cut with a knife.
Frog jumping was made famous by Mark Twain in 1865 when his short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was published and since then there has been no holding back the popularity of the sport. Okay, for a few decades it may have disappeared, but in 1928 it came back with a vengeance and it is steadily growing to become the sport no one really is aware exists today. While there are many competitions throughout North America, the “Calaveras Frog Jumping Competition” is arguably the most prestigious event in the frog jumpers’ annual calendar.
The rules of the competition are strict. There are three amphibian competitors on the stage at any given time. Each frog must begin the jump while sitting with all four appendages on the launching pad. Once the contest begins only the frog and the frog jockey are permitted to be in front of the launching pad. If at anytime the frog jumps into the frog jockey or the frog jockey’s equipment the frog will be disqualified. The jump distance is measured from the launch pad to the length of three consecutive jumps of the frog. Competitors have a maximum of one minute to complete the three jumps. Jockeys may encourage their frogs by screaming, yelling or banging the stage. Once the frog leaves the launch pad, jockeys must not come into physical contact with their frogs. It is important to remember the frog catcher is not permitted to move until all three jumps have been completed on pain of immediate frog disqualification. The top 50 frogs compete in the “International Frog Jumping Grand Finals” where the top frog’s owners can earn as much as $5000 in prize money if the jumping record is broken.
While the competition is fierce, the issue of frog care is an important part of the frog jumping sport and there has been an official “frog welfare policy” in place since 1997. Frog jockeys or any member of the frog handling team that violates the policy or in any way abuses the competitors face banishment from the sport. The competition organizers are anticipating 10,000 frog competitors for the 2012 event.
In an unrelated bit of sporting news the frog leg eating championships will be held the day after the frog jumping competition has concluded.
Originally appeared in The Cascade newspaper