Subscribe Search

Search form

Buffalo racing attracts crowd for Pchum Ben

Buffalo racing attracts crowd for Pchum Ben

A jockey races a buffalo at last year’s Pchum Ben festival.

Every year, the Pchum Ben festival empties cities around the kingdom – especially Phnom Penh – as Cambodians flock to their home towns to pay their respects to deceased relatives. The festival emerged from the Pali canon, which specified that once every year the gates of hell would be opened and the barriers between this world and the next would be eased, allowing people to make offerings to loved ones who have passed away.

The religious festival starts today and will last until Tuesday; but what will you do if you’re left in a big city that’s turned into a ghost town?
One option, if you don’t mind a trip, is the water buffalo race.

Roughly 40 kilometres from Phnom Penh, in Vihear Sour Cheung village, Ksach Kandal district, Kandal province, water buffalos are raced every year as part of the Pchum Ben festivities.

The race, called Bamboal Krobei in Khmer, is held at 6:00am, and draws spectators from all over Kandal province, as well as people from Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham and Kampong Chhnang.

Tha Thang, a member of the committee that organises the race, told 7Days that a dozen water buffalos and several horses have already been registered for the race, and plans have been made to expand the occasion.

“This year, we will make the event a bit bigger. We will not just race the buffalos but also have demonstrations of strength,” he said. The race will also be followed by wrestling and Bokkator matches.

But while more acts are on the ticket, the number of buffalos entered has sadly been dwindling over the years – in 2009, there were about 30 buffalos in the contest, but last year the number dropped to 14.   

“Some buffalos in our village got sick. I hope they will recover before September 27, the most important day of Pchum Ben, so they can join the race,” said Tha Thang.

The race is ostensibly organised for the entertainment of the spirits who have come to Earth, who are required to remain inside a Buddhist pagoda for the duration of the festival. That’s why, before the race begins, the jockeys go to the pagoda to pray.

“When I asked my parents about the race, they said that they hold it to keep the tradition alive,” said Tha Thang. “And also to show devotion to the spirits.”


  • Kak Channthy, Cambodian Space Project frontwoman, killed in crash at 38 [Updated]

    Updated 5:05pm, Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Kak Channthy, frontwoman of popular The Cambodian Space Project, was killed Tuesday morning in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh. She was 38. Channthy, the internationally recognised singer-songwriter also known as “Srey Thy”, was reportedly travelling in a tuk-tuk on the city's

  • Australian police investigating death threat against Kem Ley's widow

    Updated: 10:17am, Friday March 23, 2018 Australian authorities on Thursday confirmed they have launched an investigation into a crudely written death threat sent tothe family of slain political analyst Kem Ley and Victoria state MP Hong Lim. The typed letter, reported to Victoria police last week, is

  • Apparel groups including H&M and Gap urge Cambodia garment industry reform, seek meeting with Hun Sen

    A group representing some of the largest apparel brands in the US and Europe – including Gap, H&M and ASOS – expressed “growing concern” on Tuesday over several controversial labour laws and ongoing court cases against unionists described as restrictive and unjust. In an open letter

  • Hun Sen says Montagnards don’t exist in Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen once again attacked ex-opposition leader Sam Rainsy for pledging “autonomy” to Montagnards, claiming – seemingly incorrectly – the ethnic minority does not exist in Cambodia. “We respect all minorities such as Jarai, Steang, Phnong, but we have never had Montagnards,” the premier said