SUMMARY: Draft horse racing, called Banei Keiba in Japanese, only exists in Obihiro City, Hokkaido, a northern island of Japan. Draft horses are twice as big as thoroughbreds and drag 1,100-pound sleighs along a 218-yard dirt course. This unique form of racing started about 100 years ago while the horses were used primarily for farming, but over the years the draft horses have been developed exclusively for racing. Recent changes in people’s leisure time and the decline in the rural population almost led draft-horse racing to close, but large opposition from dedicated fans saved the draft-horse racing, at least for now.
CAPTION: Most of the jockeys, trainers and stable keepers co-habit in the barns with the draft horses. Here, a draft horse rests in front of an Obihiro Racetrack barn in Obihiro City, Hokkaido, Japan.