Burro races

Get your ass over the pass! Pack burro racing has been called the official summer heritage sport in Colorado. In the early days of mining in the Rocky Mountain west, miners used burros to carry their supplies. They couldn’t ride since the animals would be laden down with goods, so they would walk, leading their donkeys, climbing steep hillsides.

In Georgetown, my little mountain town, dubbed The Silver Queen of the Rockies because silver mining was booming back in its formative years, the race has been a Memorial Day weekend tradition. Starting in historic downtown Georgetown, about fifty runners cover about eight to nine miles to the neighboring town of Empire and back. Once out of town, the path is unpaved and runs up over Empire Pass.  There are prizes for the winners, a prize for the one who picks up the most trash, and lots of spectators. The runners line up and finish in front of the beautifully restored Hotel de Paris, now a museum.

Gathering before the race

And they’re off! It’s great fun to watch them head out, hoofing it down Sixth Street, the main drag in town, some pulling their reluctant beasts, some jogging to keep up. You can hear the gold pans clanging and the runners shouting encouragements.

Pushing…
and pulling…

And back again for the finish

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Published by rkrontheroad

Writer, photographer, traveler

33 thoughts on “Burro races

    1. Leadville’s not far from here and yes, they have a regular burro race too. There are probably the same group of folks, and burros, in a number of these races around the high country. One of our weird Colorado things!

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  1. Love burros! We have been to Oatman. AZ a few times to see the “wild” donkeys that roam the town. That race sure looks like good time and the pictures were cool. Love the one with the long white haired guy and the donkey.

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    1. The guy with the long white hair and beard is a regular every year with his burro. I picture him as an old-time miner! I didn’t know about the wild donkeys, very interesting. Thanks for your comment!

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  2. I lived in Georgetown and Silver Plume for a few years and never even knew about this. Learn something new every day. Love the photo of the woman ” coaxing” the reluctant burro. Assuming they did not win.

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    1. I don’t know how far she got, but can’t imagine she made it to the finish line in time, if at all. A spectator I talked to, whose wife was a runner, pointed out a man with a smaller burro as one who often wins. I was surprised, but apparently they keep a good pace.

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  3. Looks like a super fun tradition! Donkeys must prefer this over the heavy weight they used to carry around day in, day out. I love how some donkeys resemble their owners: the donkey belonging to the guy with the long white beard looks a bit weathered and unkempt, while the athletic lady in one the pictures above is sporting a similarly lean and elegant beast.

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  4. Burros in all shapes ans sizes, some of them small 🙂 🙂 I especially like that photo of the little girl striding along beside one. And the much older girl, dragging hers. What a great day out! Looks strenuous if you’re a competitor.

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    1. The trash award is relatively new. I imagine those concentrating on speed wouldn’t stop, but there are some that aren’t trying to win and care about the environment. And we do have some volunteer pooper-scoopers that clean up the streets after. Thank you!

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    1. It is a hoot! And kind of a kick-off to the summer months. The trash pick-up is a recent addition. There is a spot at the foot of the pass that tends to collect trash blown by the wind, so it’s much appreciated to add that incentive.

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  5. I blogged about this topic a while back while reading about activities unique to Colorado. Blew my mind (like the coffin races in Manitou, or the Pikes Peak Marathon). I’m sure the runners make this competition look so much easier than it is. Love all the pictures, and wondered if the burros make it the entire way without stopping? I mean, this is essentially a marathon at serious elevation! Those beasts are in better shape than they look (and no Nikes on their hooves… 🙂 )

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  6. Too funny. Nothing like burro racing with reluctant or enthusiastic burros. I can only imagine what chaos this muct have been for the humans leading them. Thanks for sharing Ruth. Allan

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  7. Normally I would have quit scrolling after the first few shots, but this posting had me going all the way through. I especially like the shot of the little girl running alongside a burro, like, “Hey, I can run with the burros!” I know so little about the animals so I wonder if the burros enjoy the run…or just put up with another “goofy human game” so they can get down to eating their treats.

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    1. I don’t imagine pack animals are there for the fun… We make animals do such sad things for our own entertainment (circus, rodeo). At least this is not painful for them. I think that little girl was just entranced by a burro as small as she!

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  8. Ahh, this looks like a fun day! All sizes and ages … that young girl brought a smile pulling her burro and the old man (or maybe it’s just his grey beard that now made me think he’s old 😉).
    I was thinking what the difference is between a burro and a donkey … had to google … and learned that a burro is just a small donkey. Something new I’ve learned today 😊.

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    1. The guy with the long white beard runs every year, he’s a regular (perhaps a miner, too). I read that burro is Spanish for donkey. I don’t think there’s a difference in the terms. It’s always a fun time! Thanks for coming along.

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