Have you ever heard of goat racing? Goat racing originates from Buccoo, Tobago. Tobago is the smaller island of the twin island Republic Trinidad and Tobago.
Tobago Goat Races are annually held on the Tuesday after Easter. Called ‘Easter Tuesday’ in Tobago, goat races are held on Tuesday because on Easter Monday is when horse racing used to take place.
Goat racing was actually started by a Barbadian in 1925 in Buccoo. Goat races were developed as the ‘poor man’ or lower-class version of horse racing. As the colonial class’ pastime of racing thoroughbred horses was a luxury most could not afford. Horse racing has always been associated with the higher class and today is still popular among royal and higher-class societies. So, when Samuel Callendar came up with an alternative for the islanders, it was greeted with great success.
Since its inception, goat races have become one of the island’s most popular events and has taken place for nearly 100 years. Traditionally just a simple goat race, it developed into a full-on festival. It is now a huge family day with many activities with the main event being the goat race.
This event is one of Tobago’s most well-known festivals and turns out a huge crowd both locals and visitors love to attend. Tobago’s goat race is the earliest and longest running goat race in the world.
Tobago even had a specific goat racing arena built in Buccoo, Tobago.
To race a goat, preparation is obviously needed. If you think you can just put a goat on a rope and run the annual Buccoo race, you are mistaken. Goat racing takes preparation like any other sport. Persons who race goats are called ‘Jockeys’ just like in horse racing. Jockeys prepare months in advance for the goat race. Diet and practice are two important components in training your goat. Goats are trained on hills, mountains, beaches and are even taken to swim to help build their strength and speed.
Jockeys and their goats race on a 100-yard (300 feet) grass field. There are four different classes or categories that range from most experienced goat racers to least experienced and first-time racers. Speed and agility are important in this race but if a goat outruns its jockey, they become disqualified.
Following in the footsteps of horse racing, just like you would bet on a horse, you make your bets on a goat. Spectators can place bets on which goat they think will be the winner. A Facebook competition, ‘Vote for your goat,’ was also developed. The virtual jockey with the most likes would become the winner and win two tickets for a trip to Tobago.
Tobago’s goat racing is one of the most spectacular things you should see in this lifetime. Totally unique and totally fun. While it is a grand spectacle, the names of the goats are also very entertaining. With free will to name your goat whatever you want, many jockeys give their goats comedic names. Some goat names over the years are Fire Man, Don’t Touch Me, Isotope, Rock and Come In, Just for Fun and Rum Punch.
An event that has grown tremendously since its inception 96 years ago, the Tobago goat race is an important part of Tobagonian heritage. Goat races are now held more than once a year.
They are held in Mt. Pleasant on Easter Monday, traditionally in Buccoo on Easter Tuesday and at the Tobago Heritage Festival. Even though it is an Easter tradition, the Tobago Heritage Festival is a festival held to preserve Tobago’s unique cultural history and the goat race is definitely that.