Donkey Racing in Lumbarda

The start line for donkey racing in LumbardaMonday night in Lumbarda means one thing: donkey racing.

Back in the States on a Monday night, I’m usually snuggled up on the sofa, glass of wine in hand, watching The Bachelor. Here in Lumbarda, the Monday night competition is a different sort. On three occasions in the summer, tourists and locals alike throng together for donkey racing.

Spectators preparing for donkey racing action

Donkey racing in Lumbarda started long ago as a way for bored locals to entertain themselves. Now, it’s a full-blown tourist attraction, timed perfectly for sunset. It’s also a great excuse for a party in the town center, complete with entertainment and an impressive BBQ.

A brass band plays prior to the donkey race

BBQ goat (at least I think it's goat)

This man can wield a butcher's knife!

Competitions of any kind are my jam. Last night, though, I opted out of the donkey racing action. I’m still recovering from a cracked rib, the result of tripping over my own feet. With my luck, I’d be that person—the one thrown from an otherwise docile donkey.

Instead I decided to cheer, shoot photos, and strategize for the final event of the donkey racing season on August 27th.

Donkey Racing Facts

In just one evening of donkey racing, I quickly absorbed a few key facts:

In nearly every race, an early winner emerges

1) Donkey selection is everything. I don’t know whether each competitor is assigned a steed or gets to choose their own. But it’s obvious that the donkey you ride will make or break your race. In all but one of last night’s heats, as well as in the grand final, a single donkey bolted ahead of the pack, the clear winner. That’s the donkey I want.

The donkeys receive medical inspections before the race

2) Humor is compulsory in donkey racing. The competition cannot start until the donkeys are carefully inspected by a team of doctors—the youngest of whom is around three years old. One donkey last night was deemed slightly intoxicated, yet still fit to race. Another was rumored to be fighting a cold, resulting from the air-conditioning in the team truck. He, too, was cleared to race.

The course is clearly marked, even though some donkeys want to go the opposite way

Cilj means finish or goal in Croatian

3) The Lumbarda donkey racing organizers are legit. In my entire athletic experience, I don’t think I’ve seen a more clearly marked course. This one has the start and cilj (finish, or goal) lines painted at either end of the roughly 100-meter stretch. And while the finish is visible from the start, you’ll also find arrows painted every few feet. You’d have to turn around and head the opposite direction to go off course—which some of the donkeys seemed inclined to do.

A race tee I hope to earn

4) The race shirts rock. I’ll be honest—most of my race shirts go to Goodwill. They’re just not my thing. But you can bet your ass (pun intended) that I’ll cherish my donkey racing shirt forever, once I earn one of my own. Fifty kuna (about $8 USD) gets you entry to the race and a competitor’s tee.

More donkey racing action

Some donkeys need encouragement to move forward

5) It’s on. One night of watching was all it took—you can count me in for the final August race.

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