Pack Burro Racing Celebrates 70 Years

Unless you live in Colorado or you were raised in a mining town, chances are you have never heard of pack burro racing. For the initiated, pack burro racing is a Colorado that combines ultra-running and leading a donkey.

Pack burro racing is sort of like the redneck version of the biathlon, a sport that combines two seemingly unrelated activities into one discipline.

In this case, there are two theories for how pack burro racing came about. One involves two drunkards in a bar who bet each other to a race up a nearby mountain with their donkeys in tow. The rule was they couldn’t ride the mule and they couldn’t lose control of the animal either.

The other theory is that it derives from the traditional gold miners. Two miners struck gold and the race was on to strike the claim. In reality, pack burro racing when it began in 1949 was a way for the Colorado mountain towns to attract more tourism.

Either way, this year pack burro racing celebrates 70 years. In 2012 it became the official sport of Colorado.

There is now a Pack Burro Racing Association with an annual series of races starting in May including the 29-mile Pack Burro Racing Championship tin Fairplay, Colo., in July. Other races are anywhere from four miles long to 21 miles.

While ultra-runners are attracted to pack burro racing as a unique endurance challenge, they quickly find out the sport is about more than training and cross country running, as trail runners Max King and Ryan Sanders recently found out in a video by Solomon TV.

It takes a certain amount of training with the donkey, and as anyone who’s worked with a mule can tell you, they are ornery animals that often do what they please.

“If you’ve ever heard the saying, ‘You start assuming things you make an ass out of you and me,'” said Max King. “I think that’s particularly applicable here.”

Sanders said he came into the event with little knowledge of what pack burro racing was all about, and he finished with a new found appreciation.

“It was a lot harder than I expected,” he said.

“The one’s you see with a lot of problems with their donkey’s are normally the one’s starting out,” said equine trainer Meredith Hodges. “They think pack burro racing looks really easy. All you have to do is run next to it. Umm, maybe, maybe not, depends on what the donkey thinks that day.”

Photo credit: Wikipedia