Draft-horse Racing in Japan


In Japan, draft-horse racing is peculiar to the island of Hokkaido. Draft horses were first imported to the area for farm work from Europe in the 19th century, but it was in 1946 that jockeys began driving them for sport and draft-horse racing was officially established. Unlike regular horse racing, draft-horse racing in Japan isn’t fast. Horses are required to pull massive weight across a racetrack measuring 219 yards. The first horse and jockey team to cross the finish line is the winner.

In the 1980s, draft-horse racing in Japan saw a spike in popularity as four Japanese racetracks drew in huge gambling revenues. But the sport’s popularity has declined over the years, which has brought controversy to Hokkaido. Many traditionalists feel the sport is part of the island’s culture. Others view the tradition as nothing short of animal cruelty. According to one jockey, horses are ready to collapse by the time they reach the finish line.

While the debates continue, racetracks have closed, jobs have been lost and horses have been sold off for their meat. (Horsemeat is a delicacy in Japan.) In the end, it comes down to money: Nowadays, for draft horses in Hokkaido, their meat may be more valuable than their ability to draw gamblers.


  1. It is creul to make those poor animals pull and pull at the heavy weight. Talk about being heartless. One of those horses will eventually collaspe from pulling so much and it will be the owners fault. I hope this creul sport will be destroyed and that it is stopped before the draft horses start to die from exhaustion. I hope people will not stand for this cruelty to animals.

  2. I believe this sport should be band because humans become greedy and uncaring about the health of the animal. Horses have alot of heart and will kill themselves trying to what there “masters” want/

  3. The article states that some horses are ready to collaspe, not all. It’s like making a bunch of teenagers run the mile some are going to be on the verge of collaspe afterwards if they worked hard or are severly out of shape, but they can recover. You can’t say its cruel to hold these races, we americans have our own draft type races called draft pulls, where they do exactly the same thing. I beleive people should have look at where the horses would be going if they didn’t race, but it a little late now that the tracks are closed and the horses slaughtered. But maybe people will use their heads in the future.

  4. This is wrong both to make those poor draft horses run at their fastest while pulling all that weight, they arent made to run like throughbreds they were made to help on farms, and it’s wrong to just sell them off for meat, that’s desgusting anyway.

  5. The whole thing is rather sickening. It’s one thing for a horse to pull to earn a living or do something useful, but to make them work their hearts out so people can BET on them? And THEN thank them for their hard work by slaughtering them? It makes me shudder to picture it.

  6. Not nice to the horses,they might break a leg and have to be put to sleep or be shot by gun .Im a horse lover so dont want that to happen.


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