The Spanish Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona captures headlines annually as young men and women are trampled and gored on the streets of Spain attempting to outrun Spanish fighting bulls (Toro Bravo) let loose in urban areas. In Thailand the running of the bulls (buffalo actually) is no less exciting, but considerably dirtier.
In the video above Thai water buffalo are raced in pairs through a field of mud dragging a small plow, with a ‘plowman’ running behind grasping a short length of rope.
Typically weighing between 300–550kg (660–1,210lb) and able to reach a speed close to 50kph (31mph), the buffalo races are as much a test of the plowman’s endurance as the animals.
Race organisers say the buffalo races are a attempt to remind the children of farmers how the work was done before tractors and the unique Thai-designed two-wheel tractor known as a Rot-E-Taek became common.
The rules of the Chonburi buffalo races are simple, Both the plowman and the buffalo must cross the finish line together… a feat easier said than done as can be seen in the video.
According to local media reports the most successful racing buffalo can garner prices of up to Bt300,000 (about US$9,030).
Not the Chonburi Buffalo Racing Festival
The races, held last month, should not be confused with the annual Chonburi Buffalo Racing Festival held in the same province annually for more than the past 140 years.
Unique to Thailand and one of the most celebrated events held in the eastern seaside province of Chonburi, the traditional Chonburi Buffalo Racing Festival (Khang Wing Kwai) coincides with the lunar calendar and the ending of Buddhist lent (Awk Phansa).
Whereas the the July buffalo races in Chonburi come at the end of the rice planting season, the Chonburi Buffalo Racing Festival is held prior to the harvest season.
Unlike the buffalo races above, those at the Chonburi Buffalo Racing Festival feature a more traditional kind of race, with ‘jockeys’ siting bareback atop the haunches of the bulky animals as they charge along a dry track a little more than 100 metres (109 yards) long in front of Chonburi City Hall in a series of sprint races.
|Water buffalo sprint down a 100 metre long track during the annual Chonburi Buffalo racing Festival
Video uploaded to YouTube by: My Mate Nate
The week-long festival features numerous events recognising the traditional importance of the water buffalo to Thai farmers — the original purpose of the festival – including a buffalo fashion contest, a most healthy buffalo contest, and a parade of decorated buffalo carts.
For 2017 the Chonburi Buffalo Racing Festival is scheduled to take place between October 5 and October 11. For further information contact the Chonburi Province Tourism and Sports Office.
Feature video: VOA News
- Buffalo Racing Festival, Chonburi (Thaizer)
- Thai farmers race buffalo in mud-filled spectacle (BBC)
- Mud baths and faceplants: Running of the bulls Thai style (Viet Nam News)