Chonburi, Thailand – Spectators eagerly await the race encouraged on by enthusiastic emcees over loudspeakers as the powerful water buffaloes and their jockeys prepare for the 100m soil track ahead.
Clouds of dust erupt as the large animals and their riders stampede towards the finish line. The crowd roars in support of their favourites, or for all competitors in general. For the jockeys, controlling a water buffalo requires great technique and strength. Getting thrown off would likely mean serious bodily harm.
Every year hundreds of farmers travel to Thailand’s Chonburi province, 90km from the capital Bangkok, with their big beasts to take part in a traditional “Buffalo Racing Festival”, a cultural event to pay tribute to the hard working farm animals of great value in this Southeast Asian country.
The contest, one of the best-known festivals in Thailand, has been celebrated for 140 years. Legend has it that Thai farmers from the countryside descended on Chonburi city to trade their agricultural products, and the event originated to settle an argument over who had the fastest buffalo in town.