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Published on 06 Feb 2014 | over 4 years ago

Fast and furious donkeys carrying their riders in small carts behind them compete in a traditional donkey cart race in Karachi.

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A traditional donkey cart race, called 'Donkey Derby', grabbed the attention of spectators when it was held as part of an ongoing cultural festival in Pakistan's biggest city of Karachi on Tuesday (February 4).

The 15-day Sindh festival aims at promoting and celebrating the culture and art of the southern province of Sindh.

It opened on Sunday (February 2) at the ruins of the ancient Indus Valley civilisation at Moen Jo Daro.

A unique race, as many as 50 donkey jockeys from across the city -- and from the Lyari neighbourhood in particular -- took part and brought their talent to show to the world on the track.

Ten sets of five donkey carts took part in races over four hours, with the winners progressing in a knock-out competition.

Wearing white trousers, colourful shirts and green helmets, each rider was assigned a number, while special referees were also called to monitor the race.

The donkey cart jockeys and their supporters danced to drum beats as they brought the carts to the race venue in the affluent neighbourhood of Defence in the southern part of the city.

Jockey No 7, Asghar Shah, won his race, and told Reuters it was just the beginning.

"I am delighted that my efforts with my donkey were not in vain," he said.

"To me this victory is the first step, and I have a long way to go. I have successfully taken the first step, but I have to climb the many more that lie ahead," he added.

Generally used to transport luggage and other things from one place to another, the donkeys are usually a neglected part of society.

But in the race they had interesting names, from Computer, Memory, Rambo to the Bollywood inspired Raja.

The position holders were awarded with cash prize and shields.

Spectator Hifza said organising such programmes was providing an opportunity to poor donkey cart owners to reveal their talent to the world.

"A lot of other sports in places like Spain and Rome and all these places they have their own indigenous sports of bull-riding and all these kinds of different sports," she told Reuters.

"But in Pakistan we have other lots of other sports which are not really appreciated or taken from that level," Hifza said.

"This is very good for our indigenous sports and through this platform I think that a lot of indigenous sport players, a lot of donkey derby racers, they will get chance to get some recognition and appreciation," she added.

Occasionally referred to by some as 'The Wacky Races', the traditional donkey cart derbies are one of the few that see donkey carts racing through Karachi.

Many gamble on the races, while the donkeys themselves are followed down the road on which the race takes place by some cars and motorcycles as it is monitored by local sports officials.

Many of the cart drivers are poor, with some of the racers entering not just for fun but also to make money, with a win earning anything between 3,000 and 40,000 Pakistani rupees.

The drivers say they raise the racer donkeys like their children, and to ensure top performance from their animals feed them milk, honey, peanuts and other food.

Donkey cart races are usually organised by the Karachi South Donkey-Cart Association (KSDCA) which has over 800 owners registered with them.

The association mainly deals with the trading and business aspect of the community but organises the races to maintain the tradition that said to began in the colonial era sometime in 18th century.

Most of the fishermen would race on their carts when Karachi was a British colony.

The tradition is still taken seriously, especially by the people of Lyari and the fishermen living in the surrounding areas.

The minor races take place every alternate weekend in the afternoon covering a distance of seven kilometers.

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