The Palio degli Asini – not just a donkey race

Do not be fooled into thinking this is a mere donkey race. This is THE Palio degli Asini in Alba and it’s a lot of serious fun.

After parades and re-enactments we finally get down to the business end of the day of the actual race itself.

I’m going to be a total dag and say I love donkeys. I know nothing about them but I find them quite beautiful. They give me a sense of peace, with their long ears or the way they keep horses company in lonely fields.

Until they start racing bare back around a dirt pitch marked out with a few hay bales. Then they become very competitive….or dreamy….or distracted…or even spiteful as in the case of this particular fellow who would not carry his Borgo de Brichet jockey at any cost.

It’s a kind of strange study in donkey behaviour and human-animal interaction. Standing room near the track you can hear the noises the jockeys make to the donkeys. To my ignorant ear, they sound made up compared to the more established communication with the nobler horse.

It’s fascinating this attempt to bend the will of the donkey, their shy beauty in contrast to the awkwardness of their riders (we are a ridiculous species in the end).

If you’ve never been and are curious to go, I recommend the Palio degli Asini of Alba as a bit of fun that is taken most seriously. I haven’t openly giggled like that in a long time.

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