Charging buffalos star at Nongprue racing festival

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Cheering crowds, pounding hooves and flaying bamboo whips, with the occasional spectacular tumble thrown in for good measure, were all part and parcel of the annual Nongprue buffalo racing festival, held Sunday, August 17 at the shoreline of Lake Mabprachan.

The all day tournament, which was divided into 5 age and weight related categories, has been held traditionally for the past 100 years, originally as a way to pay respect to the buffalos for their hard work pulling ploughs on the local farms but also in more recent years as a way to promote tourism.

Junior riders attempt to keep their steeds on course at the annual Nongprue buffalo racing festival, held Sunday, August 17 at Lake Mabprachan on the outskirts of Pattaya.Junior riders attempt to keep their steeds on course at the annual Nongprue buffalo racing festival, held Sunday, August 17 at Lake Mabprachan on the outskirts of Pattaya.

With the competitive juices flowing and the owners taking the tournament very seriously, the animals were all looking their resplendent best for the event, some of them even brilliantly and ornamentally decorated to take part in a buffalo beauty contest that ran alongside the racing.  There was also an equally popular human beauty pageant “Nong Na Banna” which was won by Benjamarth Bunming who received a winner’s cup and 3,000 baht in prize money.

After the day-long stampede had ended and the dust had settled (quite literally), the results of the racing were all tabulated by the panel of judges and it was announced that Wai Ban Mabphai had won the main ‘Big’ level competition, beating out the challenge of the Chief Preecha Team for the 6,000 baht top prize.  The ‘Big Junior’ level racing class meanwhile was won by the Team Village chief Suvit Khusree while the ‘Super Junior’ level honours went to the J Nhongsak Team.

Champion owners, riders and beauty contestants pose for the cameras.Champion owners, riders and beauty contestants pose for the cameras.

Aneak Pattanangarm, Nongprue municipal deputy mayor, Anyamanee Khumjan, permanent secretary of Nongprue municipality, and Rear Admiral Pramote Thapthim, vice permanent secretary of Nongprue municipality were on hand to present trophies and cash awards to the winners and runners-up in each category.

A post-race cool down is always welcome.A post-race cool down is always welcome.

Buffalos & riders charge down the track with only victory in mind.Buffalos & riders charge down the track with only victory in mind.

A competitor shows off his riding skills between races.A competitor shows off his riding skills between races.

Hanging on for dear life – man and beast head for the finish line.Hanging on for dear life – man and beast head for the finish line.

A junior jockey takes the lead on his albino buffalo.A junior jockey takes the lead on his albino buffalo.

Great care goes into preparing the animals for the beauty pageant.Great care goes into preparing the animals for the beauty pageant.

Anyamanee Khumjan, permanent secretary of Nongprue municipality (left) hands the trophy and 6,000 prize money to 14-year old N’ Wai Ban Mabphai, the winner of the ‘Big’ level.Anyamanee Khumjan, permanent secretary of Nongprue municipality (left) hands the trophy and 6,000 prize money to 14-year old N’ Wai Ban Mabphai, the winner of the ‘Big’ level.

Spray-on ‘go faster’ stripes - always worth a try.Spray-on ‘go faster’ stripes – always worth a try.

“Nong Na Banna” contestants steal some of the limelight from the animals.“Nong Na Banna” contestants steal some of the limelight from the animals.