The animal kingdom's track and field champs star in new exhibit

Cheetah on starting line of a track

A new exhibit at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History allows visitors to experience a track and field competition like no other, with cheetahs, chimps and kangaroos all going for gold.  

On June 9, the museum opened “Natural Athletes: Track & Field Champs of the Animal Kingdom," an exhibit that uses the framework of a sports competition to showcase mammals in motion, offering hands-on opportunities to explore animal adaptations, movement science, wellness and more. It’s the heptathlon, but all mammals are invited to compete for the gold.

“Each of seven animals is presented as the ‘champ’ in one of seven different track and field events,” said Ann Craig, exhibitions director at the museum, “with the Siberian tiger as the high jump gold medalist and Oregon's own pronghorn antelope as the winner of the 800-meter dash.”

The museum’s second Spanish-English bilingual exhibit this year, “Natural Athletes” also profiles real-life champions from around the world in men’s, women’s and para-athletic track and field, celebrating excellence and accessibility in competitive sports.

“At the heart of the exhibit are stories about perseverance, whether that’s animals adapting to changing ecosystems or differently abled athletes using prosthetic technologies to optimize their performance and overall well-being,” Craig said.

The exhibit also highlights health and fitness research happening at the University of Oregon and encourages visitors to enhance their own wellness through movement.

On view through the end of 2022, the exhibit will coincide with a historic track and field season at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, including the World Athletics Championships Oregon22.  

“This is a historic year for Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, and it’s great to have a museum exhibit that ties into that,” said Jeff Hawkins, senior associate athletic director of Hatfield-Dowlin Complex administration and operations at the University of Oregon. “The research into health and wellness at the UO is unmatched anywhere in the world. I’d like to see a cheetah try that.”

The exhibit will be on view during the museum’s normal hours in June, during the modified July hours during the World Athletics Championships Oregon22, and through the rest of the year. Exhibits and activities are included with regular admission; free for museum members and UO ID card holders. Show your Oregon Trail or other EBT card for an admission discount. Check online to plan your visit.

—By Lexie Briggs, Museum of Natural and Cultural History