Buffalo Races Draw Crowds on Last Day of Pchum Ben

khsach kandal district, Kandal province – The thunder of hooves on hard-packed dirt and the sound of whips cracking through the air filled the sleepy village of Vihear Sour as residents flocked to a brightly decorated pagoda yesterday morning to watch the annual Pchum Ben buffalo races.

After dawn, villagers led their animals—sturdy black beasts with barrel-round bellies—to a small temple, where they lit in­cense and prayed for success in the day’s competition.

Man and beast were then prepped for the event, the riders donning brightly colored waistcoats and headbands, and the buf­falo fitted out in ornate embroidered headgear. Their horns were bandaged in fu­schia, yellow and matador red, and their faces were clad in masks covered with doz­ens of tiny mirrors that twinkled in the early morning light.

“I’ve taken part in this race for 10 years,” said Chhay Sophea, 34, who rode in yesterday’s race. “I would never miss it; it’s very im­portant for Vihear Sour commune. My family came to see the race today and egged me on.”

By about 7:30 am, villagers of all ages lined the 450-meter-long dirt track leading to the pagoda, as children climbed onto their parents’ shoulders for a better view.

Several hundred people attended and some came from as far as Battambang and Prey Veng prov­inces to see the races, said Thai Thang, chairman of the racing committee.

Mr Thang added that there was no clear winner or loser, and each of the 32 participants was given $5 after the race.

It was not clear exactly when the race started, with buffalo lumbering down the track at various intervals, but winning or losing seemed im­material to the crowd, who reveled in the comedy of the spectacle.

There were cries of mirth from spectators as some buffalos re­belled, refusing to move at more than a nonchalant saunter, and roars of laughter when riders, perched jockey-style on their animals’ backs, slid off their buffalo and scrambled down the track after them trying to remount.

Interspersed with the buffalo races were horse races and other events, including bouts of traditional wrestling and ox-cart races.


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