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Thu 27 Apr 2017
Running with the Buffalo
Written by Gor   
Tuesday, 14 October 2003 00:00

If someone called me a “buffalo”, I definitely would not be happy about it. That is because in Thailand, when someone is acting like an idiot, we call them “buffalo” or kwai in Thai. I am not sure how this tradition started. I can understand why a teacher calls a naughty student “monkey” but is a buffalo really stupid?

As a city boy, I had never really seen a buffalo close up. Of course, I had seen pictures of them ploughing the rice paddies and pulling heavy carts. To me, they looked like hard working animals. Maybe people call buffaloes stupid because they are slow animals. Anyway, that is what I thought until I heard about the buffalo racing in Chonburi! Yes, you heard right!

Of all the festivals in Thailand, I think the Buffalo Racing is the most amazing. It all started over a hundred years ago when there were two men arguing about whose buffalo was the fastest. They ended up having a race between the two buffaloes. That’s how it became a tradition. So, this year I decided to go and see for myself.

When we first arrived it looked just like the temple fair we have in Samut Prakan. There were bumper cars and shooting galleries and a lot more. But, there were a few differences. I was amazed to see a boxing ring, which really interested me. It was so exciting to have a chance to watch real boxing. This was the first time in my life.

About fifty metres away there were a lot of people standing around a pole watching some kids trying to climb to the top. At first I didn’t understand why. Then I looked up and saw some hundred baht bank notes hanging up there and a bit higher up there was a five hundred and a thousand baht bank note. They tried lots of different ways but each time they kept slipping down the greasy pole!

It was then we heard some cheers from behind us and we realised that the buffalo races had started. We followed the sound of laughter and soon saw a buffalo running down the track with a person running after it. It was really funny to see that person running with the buffalo like they were in their own race.

We carried on walking towards the starting line. I saw about six buffaloes there with some jockeys on top and others trying to get back on. From what I saw, it wasn’t easy at all to stay on the buffalo as there wasn’t a saddle. It took at least ten minutes to get every buffalo ready for the race. There were lots of false starts as the buffaloes were jumping around a lot.

As the track was only about 100 metres long we decided we had time to walk down to the finish line and take some pictures from there. We arrived just in time as the buffaloes soon came thundering towards us. The lead buffalo was really fast and everyone at the finishing line had to run for their lives! It didn’t look like the buffalo was going to stop! Out of the six buffaloes that started the race, only two of them finished with a jockey still on its back.

After watching a few more races, we walked over to the buffalo sheds. There must have been at least 100 buffaloes. I chatted with one of the buffalo boys who was cooling his buffalo down with a bucket of water. He told me that these buffalo had been raised just for racing. None of them had ever worked in the fields, which surprised me. Though, I suppose many farmers these days used tractors instead of buffaloes.

I really had a fun day today. It was worth getting up early in the morning and coming all the way to Chonburi. I experienced a few more things that I haven’t done or seen before. And, now I know that buffaloes are not only strong but fast too!