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Elephant racing

Vietnam tours, though unusual as a sporting event, is held in many parts of the world but mostly in Asia. The earliest known such racing event as a tradition is reported from Vietnam. In the 20th century this became a major event (though it generated protests) in Germany in 1920, and an organized International Elephant Race in Nepal from tourism interests in 1982.

The Buon Don Elephant Races are held as a traditional event in the Central Highlands of the Buon Don district of Vietnam, which is well known for its elephant trainers. The skills of elephant trainers are used to perpetuate the heritage of holding elephant races every year during the third lunar month (generally in March) of the year. The race course, in the forests of the banks of the Sevepoi River, is a mile long track wide enough to accommodate nine participating elephants.

Elephants are entered into the races from many villages. Two mahuts or jockeys ride on each elephant – one to steer it and another to goad it to race fast. A musical instrument made of horns of the elephants is blown first to assemble the elephants at the starting gate, then another sound is blown to signal the elephants to take the starting line and be set for the race, and with the third blow of the horn, the race is signaled.

The elephants generally race at a speed of 25 mph with the public cheering for their favourite elephants. The first elephant crossing the winning post is given a wreath as an award, and also fed with bananas and sugar cane. After the event, the elephants celebrate by taking a swim in the river.

A major festival is held at Wat Phou, every year in March, when elephant racing is a traditional popular sport event

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