Pack Burro Racing is a sport indigenous to the state of Colorado. Next year marks its 70th anniversary. In the early days of the mining, miners would take burros, the Spanish word for donkey, through the mountains of Colorado to search for minerals and gold.
One evening over a few drinks a group of miners made a bet as to who could get to another town the quickest, leading their burro not riding them. The winner made $500 and from that Pack Burro Racing was born.
Their names are Cal, Pedro and Samaritan and they are part of an elite sport called Pack Burro Racing.
The sport has a rich history in mining so every burro in the race must carry a 33-pound pack…which is nothing for a burro and a mining pan and pick.
For even the best runners, staying in sync with your animal can be tricky.Rick Pedretti has been racing for seven years. Today he is running with Pedro, a former wild burro who use to live in California.
"If you have a really good well trained burro that likes to run and they can sometimes sense that you’re struggling and carry you through to the end of the race," said Rick Pedretti.
Pack Burro Racing takes place on steep, narrow paths with rocks and rough terrain.
"When you’re coming down a mountain from 13,000 feet and you got a 750 pound animal step for step next to you everything else is just running after that," said Roger Pedretti.
Roger has been racing for 13 years with his brother’s burro, Samaritan. Roger started racing with him in 2005, the year after his brother died.
"He was really an elite runner out in Colorado. Twice he finished 14th in the Pikes Peak Marathon. He was also a really good dog trainer so running and his ability to handle animals went good together. It was a natural fit for him in this sport." said Roger.
Every year the Pedretti family heads out to Colorado for the Pack Burro Races and since the loss of their brother, it’s become a family tradition.
"It’s pretty impressive. I say I’m gonna do it once and that will be good enough," said Hunter Pedretti.
"I think it’s pretty cool. I want to do it someday. It’s cool how you get to work with the animals and train them throughout their lives to get up to that point," said Tanner Pedretti.
The Pedretti’s were avid runners before Pack Burro Racing and while they admit it’s an unusual sport they say running with these powerful creatures makes running that much better.
"If you don’t have a good relationship with the animal you’re not gonna have a good run," said Roger.
"If you don’t have a good burro you’re not gonna win any races." said Rick.
On May 29, 2012 the Colorado Legislature designated Pack Burro Racing as a summer heritage sport in that state.
A veterinarian checks every animal before the race and any mistreatment of the burros automatically disqualifies a runner.
The Pedretti’s say they plan to run next year in the World Championship Pack Burro Race the last week in July in Fairplay, Colorado.