The Calaveras County Fair takes their frog-jumping contest very seriously. When researchers from Brown University wanted to analyze their contest to compare the results with more controlled frog-jumping experiments, the officials limited their observations to using video from a camera in the viewing area. Adding new equipment to the jumping area would change the circumstances of the contest in a way that could give contestants an unfair advantage. And if we can’t even apply the rule of law to a frog-jumping contest anymore, then we are truly fucked. One minute you’re letting some grad students place some digital scales in your frog-jumping contest, and the next thing you know everybody’s raping and murdering.
Anyway, the results were that more than half of the nearly 3500 recorded jumps at the contest last year beat the record in the scientific literature set under more controlled conditions. The Wired Science article linked to above offers some insights on why that might be the case. But before I quote it, you need to know that these frogs have “jockeys.” Seriously.
Most frog jockeys, as human contestants are known, compete using the American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana), a large, voracious species that has invaded the West Coast from the eastern United States. Jockeys can touch their frogs only at the beginning of the first jump. Afterward, they rely on shouting, blowing or crouching behind the frog and doing their own startling leaps to urge the frogs on.
Anyone can rent a frog at the fair to enter the contest. But many serious competitors bring their own, inspiring rumors about secret locations in the wild for catching a top jumper.
Hey, what’re you doing this weekend? Oh, you know, I’ll be in my secret location training my bullfrog. I think I’m on to a really great, innovative startling jump that can add 2 feet to the record. What are you gonna do? Just rent one of those unmotivated slacker frogs?