Buffalo race rides on tradition

Several hefty buffaloes thundered down a dirt track in eastern Thailand yesterday, kicking up dust as they were urged towards the finishing line by whip-wielding jockeys perched precariously on their backs.

It was a display of strength and agility from the riders, who risked life and limb in a bid for glory - and a top prize of 8,000 baht (S$328), reported Agence France-Presse.

The race was the highlight of the annual week-long buffalo festival in the coastal town of Chonburi.

The decades-old tradition started as a way for farmers to blow off steam during the slow moments of an arduous rice-planting season, and over time, many superstitions have developed around it.

If a buffalo fell sick, for example, farmers would pray to the spirits of their ancestors to heal it. If the animal recovered, a race would be offered in thanks.

Some 500 buffaloes took part in yesterday's race.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2018, with the headline 'Buffalo race rides on tradition'. Print Edition | Subscribe