Think of famous sports arenas around the world: Lords and cricket, Twickenham and rugby, Henley and rowing and the name of Buccoo doesn’t loom large. But Buccoo is the goat-racing centre of the world. The Buccoo Goat Race Festival was started in 1925 by Samuel Callendar and has had several venues around the village before the current purpose built track behind the beach facilities at Buccoo was constructed in1985.
Easter Tuesday was chosen because Good Friday and Easter Saturday were already taken for marble pitching, Easter Sunday for the Moravian Love Feast and Easter Monday for horse racing.
The course is about 100 metres long and there is a maximum of 10 goats per race. Each jockey has to wear the silk of the goat’s owner, white shorts and bare feet. Jockey and goat proudly walk around the ring with Mr Patterson giving the crowd helpful guidance on the form before walking down to the start (highly amusing and more so as the afternoon goes on and the rum flows). There is betting but it is all rather discreet. The goats are then loaded into the starting stall (accompanied by much banter from the commentators perched precariously in the judges’ box). A yellow flashing light signifies that they are under starters orders, the gates flip open and the race is on. Goats lead with the jockey running behind holding the goat on a short length of rope. This is no gentle jog, the goats are very fast and the jockeys give Linford Christie a good run for his money. Of course the jockey has little control over his goat and the best fun is had when the goat suddenly veers across the other runners. The finish is often chaotic with all 10 runners nearly ending in the grandstand at the end of the course. This may be one reason why the race was moved from the Battery. The closeness of the cliffs overhanging the sea made it unpopular. The races are often very close and the judges may be called on to study video evidence before declaring the winner.
The afternoon is interspersed with various cultural events and the occasional crab race. Huge sound rigs on the street above the course compete with each other and sometimes drown the commentators. If you are lucky the Prime Minister will attend. Rum and beer flow and the whole day is topped off by an enormous jump up until late into the night.