Spectacular ! Each year, in Guadeloupe and in Marie-Galante, at the end of the sugar season, the farmers enter their strongest oxen into races along the coast where the yokes pull unbelievable weights under the encouragement of an enthusiastic crowd.
The sugar cane cup causes intense activity, particularly for the oxen pulling the carriages packed with canes to the distilleries or sugar refineries. Once this period is over towards the end of June at the latest, animals turn into athletes and are entered into competitions of weight drawing oxen which are in full swing in November in the communities of Grande Terre and Marie-Galante.
From morning until night, always on a sunday, these races are an opportunity for a big popular get together and for a real party where the boucans smoke and punch is served. Harnassed in pairs, the oxen must pull weights going by their category, between 1300 and1700 kilos of rocks over 90 m of hill of a good percentage. The race is timed. The track is materialised by poles of which the crew must be careful not to stray away from because otherwise they will be disqualified. The referee counts carefully the number of times the whip is used because no more than 12 times is allowed.
These competitions are a surprising sight because these lovely island beasts participate and are impressive by their strength. These animals are well cared for and are trained like world class athletes : cleaning in the morning, a galop on the sandy beaches, swimming in the sea, frictions and massages, running on roads harnassed to light carts and a balanced and controlled diet.
No need to add that for the West Indians who are betting enthusiasts, it is a pretext to place a few euros on their champions. So it is under rounds of applause and encouraging shouts from supporters, that every sunday these Sisyphes on four legs leave loaded up to attack the hillsides for the greatest pleasure of the many enthusiasts and tourists fascinated by this sight from another era.