OX CART RACING
Every year, on 22nd April, an ox cart race takes place in Chieuti, Italy. Four carts are pulled at great speed through the town by pairs of overworked oxen. The animals undergo 'training' throughout the year in preparation for the event and on the day before the race a rehearsal is held.
The oxen are then shut in their stables to protect them from any interference by members of opposing teams.
The next morning, the day of the race, the oxen are washed and decorated.
Before the start of the ordeal the teams are blessed outside the church by the village priest (below left).
The oxen are raced for almost three miles, through the town, out into the country, up and down hills, then back down the main street to the church. They are watched by large crowds of spectators, and chased by riders on horseback, who spur on the oxen using lances with sharp spikes. Both the horses (below centre) and the oxen can be severly injured by these lances and the oxen often collapse from exhaustion during the race (below right).
The next day, St. George's Day, the winner of the race gets to wear a multicoloured hat during the procession, and carry an effigy of St. George.
It is clear that the oxen and horses are subjected to enormous stress.