Tübingen Duck Race: Germany's Most Amazing Race Event

CelebrationJoy Staff Oct 19, 2018
Of all the weirdest festivals held the world over, this one probably takes the cake. The Tübingen Duck Race Festival is a major attraction of the quaint little university town in Germany.

Did You Know?

Located in southern Germany in the state of Baden-Württemberg, Tübingen is a university town with a population of roughly 1,700,000. 30km south of Stuttgart, the town is known for its student-friendly atmosphere and comparatively large student population.
A picturesque town with waterfront houses and stores, it is located at the ridge between the Ammer and Neckar rivers, two important landmarks. A culturally rich community, that works hard and parties harder, the people are warm, helpful and receptive towards tourists and enterprises, as a significant capital arrives from local and foreign tourists.
It boasts of several festivals year round, like the Wedding Fair, Fasnet, FDF (Für die Familie), Stocherkahnrennen ,The Rose Festival, Ract! Festival, French Film Days, Town Race, Children's Book Week, the Chocolate Festival, etc. One of the biggest festivals and attractions of Tübingen is the annually held Duck Race, or as it is locally known, Entenrennen.

The Origin of the Rubber Duck Race

Rubber duck races have been around since 1988, when the first ever race was supposedly held at Scotsdale, Arizona, US. These events were mostly fundraisers and later became events in their own right. Fundraiser duck races generated money from people sponsoring each individual duck with a predecided fixed amount and donated the earnings for charitable causes.

Rubber Ducky Facts

1937: Mr. Burgess L. Gordon secured the patent for the first rubber ducky water sprinkler toy for the bathroom.
1947: The floating rubber ducky was first designed by artist Peter Ganine, who first sold 50,000,000 floating ducks modeled after a sculpture he made. The rest is history.
2013: Rubber duckies are so popular the world over that they have been inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame.

What is The Tübingen Duck Race?

The Tübingen Duck Race, or Entenrennen, is held every year in October. Since its inception in 1999, it has evolved into a highly awaited event. It's not real ducks that compete in the race.
Little yellow plastic duckies popular in bathrooms are the participants. They are thrown in at the starting point on the Neckar river. Each duck has a registered name and number. They are carried along the current of the river, cheered by contestants, to the finish line. The first duck to reach the finish line, wins.

Where is The Tübingen Duck Race held?

Through the south German town of Tübingen, flows the Neckar river. On this river, thousands of little rubber ducks are let loose from a bridge, by a truck or by hand.
The section of the river the ducks are required to travel is from the Alleenbrücke to the Neckarbrücke, two bridges on the river. It takes roughly 45 minutes for the ducks to travel this distance and cross the finish line.

Number of Ducks Competing

There is no limit to the number of ducks that may participate in the Entenrennen. The most cited figure is 7,000 ducks and counting. Participants may enlist as many duckies as they want in their service.

Rules at the Tübingen Duck Race

An Entenrennen ducky can be rented at the Tourist Information Center, 10 minutes away from the starting point, or you can bring your own. Participants can buy rubber ducks for 3 euros each.
Each duck has a metal weight attached to its bottom, so that it doesn't overturn in the water and drown. No one is allowed to enter later than the allowed timings, add propelling mechanisms for ducks to swim fast, or personally throw a duck into the race at any point other than Alleenbrücke.

Timings of the Tübingen Duck Race

Between 11am and 1pm, all ducks (both brought and rented) must be brought to the starting point and placed there. All ducks placed either before or after the stipulated time are disqualified from the Duck Race. The race begins and a starting pistol is fired exactly at 2:00pm and ends by 2:45 or 3:00pm.

Awards and Celebrations

After the Entenrennen gets over, by around 3:15 PM, the human participants return to Neckar Island, where they await the award ceremony.
The first rubber duck to cross the finish line gets its owner a holiday gift voucher. Runner ups never go home empty-handed. There are plenty of prizes for them as well. The participants must have their participation tickets with them as proof of ownership of the winning duck.

Other Festivals Similar to the Tübingen Duck Race

Besides the Tübingen festival, there are several other duck races held around the world, since they have now become a popular form of harmless entertainment as well as a fun way for masses to participate in awareness campaigns.
The popularity of rubber duck races is such that even big corporate companies are seen as sponsors of several batches of ducks as well as prize money. There are even competitions where people compete to decorate their ducks in the most attractive and attention-grabbing decorations.
There are numerous organizations around the world that hold duck races for charity and funds, but the ones mentioned here are the most popular. You could also look around your locality and find out if any such events happen in your city or any close neighboring cities, just to participate in all the wacky fun!

The Thibodeauxville Fall Festival

It is held in the city of Thibodaux, Louisiana, on the second Saturday of November.
The Annual Thibodeauxville Fall Festival has a duck race in the Bayou Lafourche starting from the weir and ending at Canal Blvd, among its several other activities. The festival starts at 8:30 in the morning and ends at 5 in the evening. It has been around for 25 years and still going strong.

The Nevada Humane Society Duck Race and Festival

This festival is held at Reno, Nevada, by the Nevada Humane Society.
Approximately 30,000 plastic ducks compete in order to raise money for homeless cats and dogs. They are "dumped" by trucks at Arlington Bridge and finish at Wingfield Park. Ducks sell quick here and the race begins at 4:00pm. The festival starts at 11am and ends at 5pm.

The Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby

An annual fundraiser to help the athletes from the Special Olympics Illinois, the Ducky Derby involves sending a whopping 50,000 ducks into the Chicago River at the Columbus Drive Bridge. There are various combo packs of ducks that are available for adoption.

The Great Brisbane Duck Race

Held to raise funds for the PA Research Foundation in Australia, the event sees 30,000 rubber ducks floating down Brisbane River for about 100 meters. The festival kicks off at 10am and the duck race begins at 2pm. There are a variety of competitions within the race, like team championships, even motorized and non-motorized larger-sized duck categories.

The Great British Duck Race

The largest ever record-breaking duck race was held at the Thames River in the United Kingdom, with 205,000 little plastic ducks floating for about 1 km. The Great British Duck Race held on 6th September, 2009, raised over £100,000 in charity for various organizations.
If you're big on cuteness and a die-hard animal rights activist, this is just the thing for you. Whereas most people prefer the adrenaline of live bull-racing, cock fighting or horse-racing, you can keep your conscience at ease while you witness the merry spectacle of people of all ages cheering bright, sunny and always smiling rubber duckies.
They're recycled each year by using and storing the same stocks of ducks. Such a vivid and bizarre spectacle attracts crowd from all parts of the world. People color their ducks in vivid colors that stand out among the thousands of ducks making their way down the river, which makes the event so much more fun. No animal is harmed in the making of the race.