In horse races around the world, speed is always the most important thing. But for Banei, a form of horse racing on Hokkaido Island, Japan, strength and endurance are considered above all, according to odd.
Ban’ei race horses (also known as banba) unlike other fast-running thoroughbred horses. They weigh up to 1,200 kg and are twice as big as the small Dosanko horses, originating from Hokkaidō. Banba is a crossbreed horse 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 and is capable of carrying, pulling large loads. It is also used in paradoxical horse races on the island called: The slowest horse race in the world.
To participate in the game, Ban’ei race horses have to pull sleds weighing 450 kg to one ton on the sand race. They must also cross at least two steep ramps.
The horse trainer also participates in the race. But they don’t have to push their animals to run fast. Simply, they just encourage the horse to come forward. They can even ask the horse to stop to rest when having to overcome two obstacles. The winning animal does not depend on how fast or slow it is, but whoever has the strength to pull the sled to the finish is the champion.
The competition dates back to 1887 but it was not until the 20th century that the sport became popular throughout Hokkaido. During the heyday of 1991, the slow horse race was held in the cities of Obihiro, Asahikawa, Kitami, and Iwamizawa. Ticket sales amounted to more than 32 billion yen. However, shortly thereafter, the Japanese economy entered a recession and by 2006, there was only one horse race in Obihiro.
In 2012, the Banei slow horse race was recognized as an important cultural heritage in Hokkaido. Large sponsors of many companies have invested and spent money to preserve and develop this heritage.