Running of the Donkeys — Bulls Ain’t Got Nothing on This

the the "Donkey Band" finishes the festival by playing... in the harbor waters
donkeys are famous for their obedience and training donkeys are famous for their obedience and training
Come on... tell me that you aren't already booking a ticket to see this next year. Come on... tell me that you aren't already booking a ticket to see this next year.
Push. Pull. Doesn't matter. Just get to the finish line. Push. Pull. Doesn't matter. Just get to the finish line.
The intensity. The concentration. The Will to Win. The intensity. The concentration. The Will to Win.
and they are off!! and they are off!!
the pre-race walk of the donkeys by the crowd... reminded me of the Kentucky Derby the pre-race walk of the donkeys by the crowd... reminded me of the Kentucky Derby
the crowd gathers on the race track, carefully marked off in white paint the crowd gathers on the race track, carefully marked off in white paint
the picturesque small Sali harbor the picturesque small Sali harbor
"sexy go-go dancers" ??!!
read carefully... read carefully... "go-go dancers" ??
Donkey races in Sali Croatia poster, donkey race croatia poster

"sexy go-go girls" ??!!

A few months ago, I had the chance to do the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. It is the most famous festival of its kind in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people show up to watch or participate. Hemingway wrote ‘Sun Also Rises’ which revolved around it.

The Running of the Bulls long ago reached iconic status. All you need to say are the words, “Running of the Bulls” and people know what you are talking about.

The Donkey Race at the Sali Summer Festival

Then, there is… The Running of the Donkeys. The poor, red-headed stepchild of the Running of the Bulls, but I believe destined in its own way to become world famous.

It is an event that can only happen in a small town. And one that I am exceedingly grateful that I stumbled upon, during my month in Croatia.

At the beginning of August, the sleepy little town of Sali (population 1,688), on the island of Dugi Otok holds its three day summer festival. Sali is easily accessible from the mainland by means of a hour-long ferry ride from Zadar.

Sali harbor in croatia

part of the picturesque, and rather tiny, harbor in Sali

 

The festival consists of three days of food, drink, music, and assorted sporting competitions, such as sack races, scooter races and a tug-of-war competition, but the whole thing culminates with the soon-to-be-famous Donkey Races late Sunday afternoon.

The Real Competition: Donkey’s Distain verses Rider’s Intensity 

The donkey races run a big U from one of side of the harbor to the other. I didn’t realize until I got this photos up on the computer what I enjoyed the most, which is the contrast of expressions and emotions you can feel from the donkeys and the riders.

crowd for donkey race in croatia

the crowd gathers on the race track, carefully marked off in white paint

 

Unlike the Running of the Bulls, the crowd in this particular endeavor can get much more up close and personal with the beasts. Just stand behind the white lines and get ready for all the high-speed racing excitement.

pre donkey race walk in sali

the pre-race walk of the donkeys by the crowd... reminded me of the Kentucky Derby

 

Before the race, the donkeys, their riders, the Donkey Band, and local dignitaries assemble on one side of the harbor for some speeches and merriment. They they march around to the starting line — donkeys, riders, and dozens of locals of all ages in costume.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91bfSqOFBuk

 

Sali Summer Festival Donkey Race in Croatia

and they are off!!

 

Donkey Race Sali Summer Festival  in Croatia

The intensity. The concentration. The Will to Win.

 

Donkey Racing in Croatia at Sali Summer Festival

Push. Pull. Doesn't matter. Just get to the finish line.

 

Sali Summer Festival Donkey Race in Croatia

Come on... tell me that you aren't already booking a ticket to see this next year.

 

Donkey Racing in Croatia on the islands

donkeys are famous for their obedience and training

 

Donkey Band playing in the harbor water at Sali Croatia

the "Donkey Band" finishes the festival by playing... in the harbor waters

 

The run a couple donkey races. The winners get a big prosciutto ham. Then, the Donkey Band takes a few tours around the harbor and everyone then gets back to the eating and drinking.

It was only a day trip, actually that turned into an unexpected overnight trip without my bag when I couldn’t get a ticket back on the return ferry, but it was one that I was happy to have stumbled across.

_________

Nobody ever lives their life all the way up, except bull-fighters.

The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

I’m sorry Ernest, my old pal, but you never meet the fearless donkey riders.

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I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all. Read more by Michael Hodson and connect on Google Plus.

35 Responses to “Running of the Donkeys — Bulls Ain’t Got Nothing on This” Subscribe

  1. nod 'n' smile August 22, 2011 at 8:53 am #

    The contrast between this and the Running of the Bulls makes me laugh. I love the quirkiness. I may need to go to Croatia just to see this- seems like quite the experience!

    • Michael Hodson August 22, 2011 at 11:55 am #

      it was such an odd afternoon. Make sure you book a room that night at least a few days in advance. Not many rooms there and you don’t want to rely on the ferry to take you back that night, since it leaves in the middle of the races.

  2. jill- Jack and JIll Travel August 22, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    OMG! that’s hilarious! I’d really honestly rather see this than the bull version.
    jill- Jack and JIll Travel recently posted..How Much Does It Cost to Travel Ecuador (and other tidbits)

    • Michael Hodson August 22, 2011 at 11:57 am #

      Both were fabulous. I have had a very lucky year, so far.

  3. Julia August 22, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    All I can say is poor donkeys! haha. Some of those guys are bigger than the donkeys themselves!
    Julia recently posted..And on the sixth day, God created MANchester

    • Michael Hodson August 22, 2011 at 11:59 am #

      I know, isn’t that great! And the expression on the donkey’s face. “Dude, what do you think you are doing up there, exactly??”

  4. Amanda August 22, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    Hahaha, this is awesome! That photo of the guy lying on top of his donkey is great! Looks like a really fun thing to have stumbled upon.
    Amanda recently posted..Road Trip Day 13 – Sweating My Face Off at Arches National Park

    • Michael Hodson August 23, 2011 at 7:20 am #

      I wish I could have followed that particular guy all the way around the course.

  5. ciki August 22, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

    LOL how cute! Had no idea this sport existed.. the poor donkeys look bewildered;)

    • Michael Hodson August 23, 2011 at 7:19 am #

      the expression on the donkey’s faces, admittedly from a human’s point of view, makes me laugh. If you ascribe human emotions to those looks, they so clearly are saying “what the hell are you doing??!!”

  6. Devon August 22, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

    This is re-donk-ulous :-)

    • Michael Hodson August 23, 2011 at 7:21 am #

      Touche!

  7. Caz Makepeace August 22, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    That will to win photo is priceless. I love finding random things like this when travelling. Makes me want to jump on a donkey and get the hell out of Dodge!
    Caz Makepeace recently posted..Bulletproof Your Vacation

    • Michael Hodson August 23, 2011 at 7:22 am #

      The Will to Win is my favorite also.

  8. Raymond @ Man On The Lam August 23, 2011 at 4:42 am #

    That dude riding the donkey is making an ass of himself… :)
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..Why, yes Mr. Border Guard…I do believe I would like a beer and some contraband cigarettes please

    • Michael Hodson August 23, 2011 at 7:22 am #

      Well played, Sir.

  9. Kelsey August 23, 2011 at 7:33 am #

    That looks amazing. I would much rather see this than Pamplona!

  10. Don Faust August 23, 2011 at 10:37 pm #

    Man, those are small donkeys! Nice picture of the harbor in Sali – great reflections of the buildings.
    Don Faust recently posted..Alaska’s Inside Passage: Salmon in Alaska

  11. Sheila August 24, 2011 at 3:13 am #

    Great shots! Your photos on the donkey race are very compelling. So much so that I badly want to see this festival next year! It looks so much fun.
    Sheila recently posted..CNA Certification

  12. Sebastian August 24, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    Looks like a really fun festival! I like the pictures of the guy on his donkey :)
    Sebastian recently posted..Photo of the Week: Over the roofs of Salzburg

  13. Cailin August 24, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

    I wanted to see you riding a donkey!!!
    Cailin recently posted..Top ten tips for attending & surviving La Tomatina Tomato fight

  14. dtravelsround August 25, 2011 at 12:03 am #

    So cute!! I wish I could have come across this when I was in Croatia. Great pics!!
    dtravelsround recently posted..Escape of the Week: Juxtaposition in Sarajevo

  15. The Travel Chica August 25, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    It looks like that guy is hanging onto that donkey as if his life depends on it. And he’s bigger than that donkey!
    The Travel Chica recently posted..Gallery Nights in Buenos Aires

  16. Mica August 27, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

    The photos are brilliant, but your captions are hilarious. And I love the expression on that one guy’s face who is on the donkey…”Today’s the day we get this over with” (that’s what I imagine him thinking in his head) The donkeys are mini donkeys!
    These are the best trips. When you go somewhere and what happens is completely unexpected. Why was the band in the water?
    Mica recently posted..A photo story: Butterfly & Insect Farm, Malaysia

  17. Margo August 27, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    That’s completely adorable. I can’t believe I’ve never heard about this. I love the parading the horses like at the Kentucky derby.
    Margo recently posted..A Belle’s Guide to Boston: Part 1

  18. Julie August 29, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    Your donkey race may win for its band standing in water, but I think mine still may take the cake with its donkey costume parade that precedes the actual race… :) http://www.midwesternerinmexico.com/2010/05/01/what-is-the-best-festival-ever-in-mexico-ask-the-burros/
    Julie recently posted..Sparkling Wineries in Querétaro: Viva Freixenet!

  19. hogga August 30, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    I would totally rather watch Donkeys race. Mostly for the humor in it.

  20. Erica September 1, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    Shaun brings up a good point. Can you pick them up and carry them across the finish line?
    Erica recently posted..How To: Break Into a Utilian House Like a Pro

  21. Simon Lee September 2, 2011 at 12:59 am #

    Everyone enjoy except the donkey:) I will be having a business trip to Croatia end of this year, hope to experience something special there:)

    Simon
    Simon Lee recently posted..Buy 1. Karntner Erlebnispark Ticket

  22. Dora Farmer December 3, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    I wish I could have followed that particular guy all the way around the course. Make sure you book a room that night at least a few days in advance. Not many rooms there and you don’t want to rely on the ferry to take you back that night, since it leaves in the middle of the races. Great pics!!
    Dora Farmer recently posted..Cancer Tips

  23. Dorothea Parker December 8, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    OMG! These are the best trips. I love the quirkiness.
    Dorothea Parker recently posted..Acne Tips

  24. Sherry Ott July 12, 2012 at 3:48 am #

    I love this MIchael – and would totally go to see this! Great story!

  25. Gretchen Carroll March 15, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    Not many rooms there and you don’t want to rely on the ferry to take you back that night, since it leaves in the middle of the races. That looks amazing.
    Gretchen Carroll recently posted..Horse Ranches in Murrieta CA

  26. ivana April 22, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    fabulous post!

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