Thai farmers race their buffaloes in show of gratitude

A Thai farmer controlling a pair of buffaloes competes in the flooded field during the annual Wooden Plow Buffalo Race in Chonburi Province, southeast of Bangkok, Thailand, Saturday, July 13, 2019. The farmers are celebrating the start of the sowing The Associated Press
A Thai farmer controlling a pair of buffaloes competes in the flooded field during the annual Wooden Plow Buffalo Race in Chonburi Province, southeast of Bangkok, Thailand, Saturday, July 13, 2019. The farmers are celebrating the start of the sowing season by racing the buffaloes whose usual duty is to plow field. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Farmers in eastern Thailand on Saturday celebrated the start of the sowing season by racing their buffaloes, whose usual duty is to plow the fields.

The annual Wooden Plow Buffalo Race in Chonburi, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) southeast of Bangkok, is held to express gratitude to the buffaloes for working for the farmers all year long.

"It's a long-inherited tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation," said Supanee Saengue, one of the race organizers.

Around 60 buffaloes were registered for the race, with the farmers coaxing and goading the animals to the finish line.

"You have to whip them as much as you could to make them go fast, otherwise you could lose. The more you whip them, the faster they go," said race competitor Suchai Saengdee.

Another competitor, Apichart Kongtrupjareon, said his two buffaloes had to be trained from the ground up, starting by slowly walking them abreast 10 times a day until their rhythm matches.

"They're just like humans — if they don't exercise, their muscles get sore," Apichart said.