Traditional Thai water buffalo race enthralls crowds

Published June 27, 2022
A racer rides on the back of a wooden plough to mark the start of paddy-sowing season on Sunday.—AFP
A racer rides on the back of a wooden plough to mark the start of paddy-sowing season on Sunday.—AFP

CHONBURI (Thailand): Boys scurry, duck and weave through crowds sheltering from the suffocating heat before upending buckets of cooling water on beefy bovines waiting to compete at the annual traditional Thai buffalo races in Chonburi on Sunday.

The riotously noisy, muddy and slightly chaotic annual tradition marks the beginning of the rice planting season — with the festival-like atmosphere in the eastern province taking place for the first time in two years.

The main event sees four pairs of harnessed buffalo gallop across a decorated paddy field, with intrepid racers sprinting barefoot through the shallow muddy waters and attempting to both control their beasts and remain upright.

“Before the race starts, we are a little excited and nervous,” said Sompong Ratanasatien, 33, drenched and breathing heavily after his latest bout.

The trickiest point was the start line, he said, where racers must wait for the official start whistle as they attempt to manoeuvre the heavy beasts into position and keep them calm.

“After that it depends on our buffalo and how he matches with my skills,” said Ratanasatien, who was enjoying a winning streak with his two-year-old bovine Kao.

Urged on with a small metal-tipped bamboo whip, the usually placid animals are unrecognisable as they rampage down the watery field.

Bouts are divided according to weight and size, with the heaviest creatures slightly slower to a practised eye but requiring significantly more skill to control. And the racers, who work and train with the buffalos for weeks in preparation, don’t always have the upper hand.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2022

Opinion

A crisis of trust?

A crisis of trust?

Most damaging fallout of the constant demonisation of opponents by political leaders is erosion of public trust in politicians.

Editorial

An unseemly dispute
08 Aug, 2022

An unseemly dispute

THERE is clarity, but perhaps not of the kind that Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial hoped to achieve when...
Unfair on taxpayers
Updated 08 Aug, 2022

Unfair on taxpayers

Unfair move has drawn valid criticism as it coincides with drastic increase in income tax on salaried people and corporates.
Polio nightmare
08 Aug, 2022

Polio nightmare

AS if the resurgence of polio in southern KP were not enough, officials and international monitoring bodies must now...
Political stunt
Updated 07 Aug, 2022

Political stunt

The former PM is attempting to make a very expensive point with his decision to contest all 9 NA seats going up for by-election.
Monsoon emergency
07 Aug, 2022

Monsoon emergency

AS another wet weather system has entered Pakistan, and the federal government has declared a “monsoon...
Taliban’s denial
07 Aug, 2022

Taliban’s denial

THE Afghan Taliban’s recent statement denying any knowledge of the now deceased Al Qaeda chief Ayman...