In Hokkaido, Japan, people have organized a slow horse race, where the slowest horse will be the winner. In horse racing around the world, speed is always the most important thing. But for Ban’ei, a form of horse racing in Hokkaido island of Japan, strength and endurance are considered first.
Ban’ei horses (also known as banba) are unlike other fast-moving purebred horses. They weigh up to 1,200 kilograms and are twice as large as the small-sized Dosanko horses, originating in Hokkaido. Banba is a hybrid breed from France and Belgium, appearing in Japan since the late 19th century to help farmers work in the fields. Currently, it is considered a Japanese horse breed and is capable of transporting and pulling large loads. It is also used in reverse horse race on the island called: World’s slowest horse race.
Participating in the game, Ban’ei racehorses have to pull 450 kg to 1-ton sleigh sleds on a sand track. They must also pass at least two steep paths. This unique racetrack is 200 meters long. The horse trainer also participated in the race. But they don’t have to push their animals to run fast. Simply, they just need to encourage horses to come forward. They could even ask the horse to stop for a rest when it had to overcome the obstacles. The winning animal does not depend on whether it goes fast or slow, but the one who managed to pull the sled to the finish line is the champion.
In 2012, Ban’ei slow horse racing was recognized as an important cultural heritage in Hokkaido. Large sponsors of many companies have invested money to preserve and develop this heritage. This game has become a unique feature of Japanese culture so far, attracting many visitors come and enjoy this interesting event.