Fast and furious in the mud as Thai buffalo racers mark end of monsoon

CHONBURI, Thailand (Reuters) - Scores of Thais took to their water buffaloes for muddy annual races on Tuesday, marking the end of the monsoon season and the beginning of the rice harvest in a tradition that dates back more than 140 years.

Locals and tourists flock to the races around the 200 meter-long dirt track in the seaside province of Chonburi, some 80 km (50 miles) southeast of the capital, Bangkok.

The races date back to the 1800s when rice farmers wanted to give thanks to their beasts of burden.

“There are about eight to 12 races throughout the year, but this is by far the most important event in Thai buffalo racing,” Anan Chalermlarb, 63, the owner of this year’s lightweight division winner, told Reuters.

Anan has been involved in water buffalo racing for 45 years, first as a rider and now as trainer.

“I have to continue with this sport and my son will take over after I’m gone,” he said. “If we don’t do this, then there is a chance that these races may disappear.”

Reporting by Jiraporn Kuhakan and Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Nick Macfie