Guadeloupe - Racing with lots of Bull!
"A lot of them don’t make the distance within the time allowed," says Jean-Claude Jovial, president of the most prominent race club on Marie Galante. Despite the fact that the participants have a whole 10 minutes to cover about 150 m. A bull weighing a ton is not exactly a greyhound – especially going up-hill with a ton of ballast around its neck.
Extraordinary strength is a top requirement in the bull competition on Guadeloupe’s small sister island. Animals under 1400 pounds are light weights, the heavies weigh in at up to a ton. Each team consists of a well broken in pair: "One leftie and one right-sider, you can’t switch them," reveals Jovial.
"The bulls are athletes and they have to be kept in shape," explains the ox coach. "On Sundays, if there is no race, the club holds weight and tempo training sessions." After all, the club’s honor is at stake – and so is the prize money.
In Marie Galante, with a population of 13,000, four clubs rival for the championship in the extra-heavy-weight run. The bull races are a permanent fixture in every community fair. The prize money is paid out by the organizers. Jovial: "With 22 teams entered, 13 get a prize. For the victors this is about 350 Euro, progressively less for the teams placing later."
The competition is only a hobby for the bulls. They earn their keep pulling ploughs and carts during the sugar cane harvest. In Marie Galante to this day they are often substituted for tractors… they have one sure advantage over those – Jovial: "They serve up the best steaks in the world…"