By Mark McConville
STUNNING IMAGES and video footage have captured several buffaloes sprinting towards the finish line in an annual race in Thailand.
The action shots show rides with whips encouraging the buffaloes to race forward as they ride on their backs.
Other striking pictures show riders getting their buffalo ready for the race, organisers discussing the rules with the jockeys and fans eagerly awaiting the beginning.
The photographs were taken on Tuesday 23rd October by freelance photojournalist Julian King as he attended the week-long festival in Chonburi, Thailand.
The race is the highlight of the festival which is now into its 147th year. An estimated 10000 people attended the annual buffalo racing this Tuesday.
“The riders feed the gentle giants with a mixture of eggs and beer in order to enhance their performance,” said Julian.
“For centuries, buffalos were of immense practical importance in Thailand — ploughing the fields, providing transport, and even defending villages in war conflicts.”
A participating rider explained that not all buffaloes are used for the race.
“Only skinny legged buffalos are being used for the race,” said a rider.
“When they have fat legs, we use them for breeding.”
Thailand is an agricultural country – in the old days, local farmers were dependent on buffalo to help them in the paddy fields. Hence, Thailand has a festival dedicated to giving special attention and praise to this hard-working animal.
Apart from the buffalo dash, which is one of the main activities, there is usually a buffalo contest for winning breed, a farmer beauty pageant and other interesting activities focusing on the agricultural industry of Thailand.