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Colorado Burro Racing – Haulin’ Ass

By Bennett Owen

It’s said that burro racing is the only sport indigenous to Colorado and there’s even a movement a-hoof there to make it the official state sport. Here's a video of the 2008 burro race.

There are two legends on its origins. The first harkens back to two miners striking gold and racing back to the claims office. Because their burros were too small and loaded down with supplies the miners were forced to run, leading the pack animals.


The Desert Prospector, Frederic Remington. Credit:

Credit: Utah State Historical Society

The second legend is somewhat vague but concerns a few drunken miners at a bar in Leadville, Colorado.

Charlie Russell image. Credit:

Actually, number two sounds more plausible. But in actual fact, this is not a sport for the faint of heart. The event in Fairplay, for instance covers 29 miles over rough terrain and an elevation gain to the 13-thousand foot summit of Mosquito pass. No ass-phalt, folks.

Photo Credit: Hal Walter

Fairplay will host its 63rd annual burro race in late July, under the logo, “get your ass up the pass.” They expect to attract 10-thousand spectators.

Now with an acronym like WPBA – you might think Women’s Professional Bowling Association – and you’d be wrong.  Welcome to the Western Pack Burro Ass-ociation… (sic) with its WPBA racing season…its WPBA Triple Crown…and its WPBA rules, including:

  • A donkey is defined as being an ass
  • A burro may be pushed, pulled, dragged or carried…just not ridden
  • Each burro must be equipped with a regulation pack saddle packed with prospector's paraphernalia including a pick, shovel, and gold pan. These items must weigh at least 33 pounds
  • No clubs or whips may be used…other than the halter rope

And to all newcomers, the WPBA offers some sage advice: “An educated ass is valuable.” Words to live by.

Photo Credit: Ed Kosmickl

For more information and a schedule of events, go to

And finally, a big hat tip to My-West fan Taryn Toro who clued us in on this amazing slice of Americana.

Photo Credit: Ross Keller 

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