Last year, the Colorado town of Fairplay celebrated its 70th anniversary of pack burro racing - an ultramarathon event where runners run with their burros. It's an "ass-kicking" event that has become a hometown Colorado tradition.


Running of the Burrosby Edmund Arellano

 Every day, ultramarathon runners are logging in double-digit miles in prepration of their next long-distance event.  Some of them train for 50 kilometers, 50 miles, or even 100 miles or further.  But in the Western Frontier, runners are training with their burros for the annual Pack Burro Race.  In 2018, they celebrated their 70th anniversary.

So, who puts on these events?  The Western Pack Burro Ass-ociation (WPBA) is responsible for not just one pack burro race, but several across Colorado. Their 2018 schedule on their website boasted EIGHT burro races! But it all started in Fairplay, Colorado, in 1949 when the "challenge went out to anyone with the fortitude to race from Leadville to Fairplay for a $500 prize money". 1

How did it start?

Burro RacingThere have been other rumors with regards to how it really started.  According to the WPBA, miners used their burros to carry their mining tools and supplies through the Rocky Mountains. Because of this, they had to walk next to their burros as they prospected for gold, silver and other valuable ores. When two miners found gold in the same location, they raced back to town in an effort to be the first to claim their right for the gold, and since their burros were packed, they had to run.

Till this day, that basic rule remains. Runners aren't allowed to ride their burros.  In fact, they must also pack their burros with a minimum of 33lbs that includes a saddle, pick, shovel, and gold pan.

Is this animal cruelty?

No. The WPBA has very strict rules on how handlers care for their donkeys, and recommend that every one of them be screened through a veterinarian before the race. According to the WPBA, "Any contestant mistreating his animal may be disqualified. No needles, electric prods, narcotics, clubs or whips, other than the halter rope, may be used."

The donkey and it's handler form a bond together during training.  Just like a marathon runner trains for a race, so do the animals, helping to condition them for an enjoyable adventure. Donkeys that train year-round tend to do the best during a race.

Sheri L. Thompson, a doctor in veterinarian medicine, describes the conditions of caring for the donkey in her article Humane Donkey Care and Training.

When is it?

This event is held every summer in July. Check their website for specific dates, and the next time you visit Colorado, be sure to watch the start of the "ass-tounding" Pack Burro Race. Don't forget to watch the video below!

Salomon TV | Burro
Salomon TV | Burro
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