The unique sport of goat racing began in 1925 as the poor man’s horse races. Tuesday was chosen for the goat race and declared “Easter Tuesday” while the “posh” horse racing happened on Easter Monday.
Thoroughbred goats come thundering down the goat race turf, hauling along their sprinting “jockeys” at the end of nine feet of rope.
The races started on a village road in Bucco Tobago, where rails were built out of bamboo and swamp wood.
10-goat starting gate
The modern track has a flash manually operated 10-goat starting gate.
The course is 120 meters of carefully tended grass, with the finishing stretch flanked by a long grandstand and a VIP Pavilion.
The goats are trained for at least two months prior to racing, including a swimming routine and a special diet.
In the early morning, down on the beaches of Tobago, you may well see a man taking his goat for a swim.
Not exactly normal behavior but it won’t be a normal man and his goat: it’ll be a champion and his trainer.
Like horse racing, goats are classified.
The Buccoo Goat Race Festival Committee uses these classifications: C2 – First-time runners, C1 – Runners from the previous year, B – Running for the past two years, A – Most experienced runners.
Jockeys need to be as fit as their animals as a goat is disqualified for outrunning their jockey.
A truly keen goat (and they are!) is well capable of pulling his jockey over.
Each race unfailingly has one or two animals, which arrive at the finishing line like a riderless horse.
Goat runner Darren Matthews who took the biggest prize ($10, 000) in 2016, said:
“It is very strenuous. I had to change my diet. I ate more veggies, greens, meat, exercised and went to bed early.”
Secondary to the goat races are the crab races.
Crabs are attached to string held by the jockeys and urged forward with thin bamboo rods.
(Poking and prodding are also legitimate techniques).
Some races involve a straight course. In others, a large circle is drawn around jockeys and their race crabs.
The first crab out wins with their owner pocketing the prize.
The losing crabs probably wind up on a bed of dumplings!
Crabs don’t exactly take to training.
Crab catchers do the hard work of rounding them up and then anyone can sign up for the race.
You get your own crab, tied to a piece of string, and it’s your job to coax a winning performance out of it.
Siobhan is a freelance writer, research addict and lover of twisted history. If you like horrible but amazing history, check out her website www.interesly.com or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/interesly. Or you can reach her through www.siobhanoshea.com.