Buffalo Racing Festival
Wing Kwai, or the Buffalo Racing Festival, is one of the most exciting events of the calendar in Chonburi province. The annual race is held in celebration of the water buffalo as an icon of Thailand’s agrarian way of life, giving locals a chance to get together, compete in thrilling competitions, and enjoy delicious, local cuisine.
Dating back to 150 years ago, the event is perfect for anyone looking for a unique Thai experience that cannot be found elsewhere. While some are disappointed at the cancellation of this year’s main event, authorities have decided to limit the festivities to the buffalo cart parade and local product fairs due to public health concerns.
An icon of Thai agriculture
Historically, the water buffalo was one of the most important animals to Thai agriculture. The all-purpose beast of burden was capable of plowing, sowing, and mowing the rice fields, as well as threshing the rice and transporting the sheaves during harvest season, so it’s not a stretch to say that they kept Thailand’s rice bowl overflowing.
Nowadays, the buffalo have been replaced with modern machinery that offer superior speed and efficiency. Nonetheless, they are considered a cultural icon often associated with Thai farmers, and this tradition ensures that the animals are given the appropriate exercise in lieu of their traditional workload.
The buffalo race
Weighing around 400 to 900 kilogram, water buffalo have been stereotyped as slow, lumbering beasts, and first-time festival-goers are often surprised at their speed. These normally passive creatures are capable of sprinting down the track at more than 48 kmph (30 mph).
The competition is divided into five classes based on size, from “super junior” to “jumbo,” with some of the beasts weighing in at over a ton. Trainers spend the majority of their time preparing strict exercise and diet plans months prior to the competition.
The race itself is not only a test of the buffalo’s speed, but also of the riders’ balance and agility, and it’s important to take into account the jockeys’ ability to guide their beloved beasts through the muddy 100-metre track.
No Thai festival is complete without food and a cavalcade of entertainment. The Buffalo Racing Festival offers a multitude of food stalls, concerts, other traditional sporting events, as well as rides and activities for children. There even is a beauty pageant that crowns that year’s “Miss Buffalo.” Despite the title, the Miss Buffalo beauty pageant is prestigious in Chonburi, with local women taking part in fierce competitions.
However, there are other contests for buffalo that are not agile enough to compete in the races, including the buffalo beauty contests, buffalo costume contests, and healthy buffalo contests.
COVID-19 Disclaimer: The activities described here may be suspended due to movement and gathering restrictions as prescribed by COVID-19 health precautions.