Last updated
Ban-ei obihiro070716 08r.jpg
Highest governing body National Association of Racing
First playedc.1900
Type Horse driving
EquipmentWeighted sleds
VenueDirt racetrack
Country or region Tokachi, Japan

Ban'ei kyōsō(ばんえい競走, lit. "pull race") is a form of Japanese horse racing in which draft horses pull heavy sleds up sand ramps, urged-on by jockeys balancing on the sleds. The horses used in the races are often either purebred or crosses of Percheron, Breton, and Belgian breeds. [1] [2]

Horse racing Equestrian sport

Horse racing is an equestrian performance sport, typically involving two or more horses ridden by jockeys over a set distance for competition. It is one of the most ancient of all sports, as its basic premise – to identify which of two or more horses is the fastest over a set course or distance – has been unchanged since at least classical antiquity.

Draft horse A type of horse or a horse breed bred to be a working animal doing heavy labor

A draft horse (US), draught horse or dray horse, less often called a carthorse, work horse or heavy horse, is a large horse bred to be a working animal doing hard tasks such as plowing and other farm labor. There are a number of breeds, with varying characteristics, but all share common traits of strength, patience, and a docile temperament which made them indispensable to generations of pre-industrial farmers.

Percheron A breed of draft horse from France

The Percheron is a breed of draft horse that originated in the Huisne river valley in western France, part of the former Perche province from which the breed takes its name. Usually gray or black in color, Percherons are well muscled, and known for their intelligence and willingness to work. Although their exact origins are unknown, the ancestors of the breed were present in the valley by the 17th century. They were originally bred for use as war horses. Over time, they began to be used for pulling stagecoaches and later for agriculture and hauling heavy goods. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Arabian blood was added to the breed. Exports of Percherons from France to the United States and other countries rose exponentially in the late 19th century, and the first purely Percheron stud book was created in France in 1883.


As the popularity of the races has waned in recent years, regular ban'ei races are only held at the Obihiro, Hokkaido racecourse. [3] [4]

Obihiro, Hokkaido City in Hokkaido, Japan

Obihiro is a city in Tokachi Subprefecture, Hokkaido, Japan. Obihiro is the only designated city in the Tokachi area. The next most populous municipality in Tokachi is the adjacent town of Otofuke, with less than a third of Obihiro's population. The city had approximately 500 foreign residents in 2008. The city contains the headquarters of the Fifth Division of the Northern Army of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. It also hosts the Rally Japan World Rally Championship-event.


Ban'ei racing has its probable origin in agricultural work, when horses were used to pull farming machinery and sleds of wood. Eventually, the horses were tested for speed and strength in festivals of the late Meiji Era (c.1900). [5]

The popularity grew; in 1953, Hokkaido's four cities (Kitami, Asahikawa, Iwamizawa, and Obihiro) began to manage races. The former three closed operations in 2007 due to declining revenues. Obihiro racecourse is now the only one currently active, hosting races most Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays. Races are also held on more days to mark special occasions, such as New Year's Day, [6] and there are many regional races known as ban'ei koshien.

Asahikawa Core city in Hokkaido, Japan

Asahikawa is a city in Kamikawa Subprefecture, Hokkaido, Japan. It is the capital of the subprefecture, and the second-largest city in Hokkaido, after Sapporo. It has been a core city since April 1, 2000. The city is currently well known for the Asahiyama Zoo and Asahikawa ramen.

The Obihiro racecourse nearly closed in 2006 before Softbank, a Japanese mobile phone company, provided funds for the races to continue. [7] Odds Park Cup race, named after the internet-betting subsidiary of Softbank, was established in 2007 as an expression of gratitude. [8] Other companies, such as Rakuten [9] [10] and Sapporo Breweries [11] have added their sponsorship and several support schemes have been initiated, including a race-sponsoring scheme for individuals. [12]

Rakuten electronic commerce and Internet company in Japan

Rakuten, Inc. is a Japanese electronic commerce and online retailing company based in Tokyo and was founded in 1997 by Japanese businessman Hiroshi Mikitani. Its B2B2C e-commerce platform Rakuten Ichiba is the largest e-commerce site in Japan and among the world's largest by sales. The company operates Japan's biggest Internet bank and number one credit card company by transaction value. It also offers e-commerce, fintech, digital content and communications services to over one billion members around the world, and operates in 29 countries and regions. It is often referred to as "the Amazon of Japan".

Sapporo Breweries company

Sapporo Breweries Ltd. is a Japanese beer brewing company founded in 1876. Sapporo is the oldest brand of beer in Japan. It was first brewed in Sapporo, Japan, in 1876 by brewer Seibei Nakagawa. The world headquarters of Sapporo Breweries is in Ebisu, Shibuya, Tokyo. The company purchased the Canadian company Sleeman Breweries in 2006.


Course separated by lanes Ban'eicourse.JPG
Course separated by lanes

The ban'ei course consists of a 200 metres (660 ft) dirt track with lanes separated by ropes laid in the sand. This creates ten lanes, each incorporating a starting gate and two hill-shaped obstacles. The second and steeper obstacle is called the Ban'ei Point. Horses haul sleds across this track, with the weight of each sled ranging from 450 kilograms (990 lb) to 1 ton, as seen in the Ban'ei Kinen event. [13]

Banei Kinen Japanese horse race

The Ban'ei Kinen (ばんえい記念) is a Grade 1 Ban'ei horse race, held in Obihiro, Hokkaido, Japan for four-year-olds and up. The full name is Nōrin Suisan Daijin Shōten Ban'ei Kinen.

Jockeys stand and balance on the sled, using long reins as a whip and weight slabs under the feet of the jockey in place of a saddle. Each jockey must weigh at least 75 kilograms (165 lb); if the jockey is underweight, slabs are added to meet the smallest weight. [13] Horses are often deliberately stopped after the first obstacle, and given a chance to rest before being ushered to climb the second. A horse has not finished until the entire sled is behind finish line.

After the race completes, racehorses are freed from the sleds and led to the back yard, while the sleds are returned to the starting gate with the aid of a trolley. [13] The amount of weight a horse must pull is determined by several factors, with younger horses and mares pulling less than older horses and stallions. A horse's group and rating—which further determines the required weight—depends upon the amount of money the horse has previously earned. Horses compete in groups labeled 1–26, and groups are rated with Open, A1, A2, B1, B2, B3, B4, C1, C2 or D (in order of decreasing winnings). [14] This is like system used in Japanese thoroughbred racing. The weight allowance of jockeys is either 10 or 20 kilograms (22 or 44 lb), based on the number of wins. [14]

Because ban'ei racing is about strength and not speed, the winning time of major races is often slower than lower-class races, where even a small overtime can have a horse disqualified. [15] [16] With suitable ground conditions, horses pulling lightly loaded sleds can clock speeds under 50 seconds. [17] [18] The condition of the track is described using measured-moisture percentage. [19] The track is repaired manually during or between races. Watering is used to prevent excess dust from irritating horses and people. [20] Heating systems allow racing during the winter months. [21]


Ban'ei horse on paddock Ban'ei Horse.jpg
Ban'ei horse on paddock

Horses in ban'ei are often either purebred or crossbred variations of Belgian, Breton, or Percheron draft horses. [2] Their weight can surpass one ton, twice the weight of a thoroughbred.


Potential stock is chosen from draft horses raised for meat. [22] [23] Most ban'ei horses start official racing as two-year-olds after passing inspection held between April and August. [24] Regional races ("ban'ei koshien") with finals for yearlings are held in October. [25] [26] Horses that do not pass inspection are either sent back to a breeder as they can be used in events or tourism, [27] or to feedlot. [13]

Competing horses are mainly solid-coloured, but there have also been pinto ban'ei horses [28] [29] [30] and two dominant whites. [31] [32] [33] [34]

Former racehorses not eligible for breeding are usually [35] sold for meat. [7] At the close of every fiscal year during the end of March, prolific retiring racehorses are honoured at their own ceremony. The National Association of Racing (NAR) annually awards the best horse. [36]

Japanese draft horse

The Japanese draft horse is a breed with open studbook created by crossing purebred and half bred horses together for five consecutive generations. Horses that don't meet this requirement have been registered since 2003 as half-blood draft horses. [37]

Eight draft breeds have been listed as eligible for the breeding program: Ardennes, Clydesdale, Shire, Brabançon, Breton, Boulonnais, Belgian and Percheron. [38] This is not directly comparable to breeding stock available. As of 2015, purebred stallions in stud are Bretons and Percherons, [39] while data about new registrations of broodmares from 2014 indicates that from purebreds, three form most: Bretons, Percherons, and Belgians. [40]

Japanese drafts are used mainly in ban'ei and horse meat production. [39] [41] The ideal horse has draft phenotype and "hybrid vigour".

The breed doesn't have any colour or marking specifications. Colours of bay, chestnut, flaxen chestnut, black, gray and variety of roans have been recorded since they also exist in purebreds. [42] In extreme cases, a horse may have multiple facial markings and all legs marked with white. Open studbook policy has led to pinto (piebald) pattern; one female family [43] used in ban'ei can be traced to single stallion born in 1967, [44] while dominant white seen in two horses was spontaneous, manifesting in 2010. Prevalence of hereditary diseases is unknown, since at least one Western scientific source lists breed as "ban-ei" without hereditary diseases. [45]

Related Research Articles

Warmblood group of horse types and breeds

Warmbloods are a group of middle-weight horse types and breeds primarily originating in Europe and registered with organizations that are characterized by open studbook policy, studbook selection, and the aim of breeding for equestrian sport. The term distinguishes these horses from both heavy draft horses and refined light saddle horses such as the Thoroughbred, Arabian, and Akhal-Teke. Although modern warmbloods are descended from heavier agricultural types systematically upgraded by hotblood influence, the term does not imply that warmbloods are direct crosses of "cold" and "hot".

Shetland pony Scottish breed of traditional pony

The Shetland pony is a Scottish breed of pony originating in the Shetland Isles in the north of Scotland. The ponies range in height at the withers from approximately 70 cm (28 in) to a permitted maximum of 107 cm (42 in). They have a heavy coat and short legs, and are considered quite intelligent. They are strong for their size, and are used for riding, driving, and pack purposes.

Eurohound Dog breed

A Eurohound is a type of dog bred for sled dog racing. The Eurohound is typically crossbred from the Alaskan husky group and any of a number of pointing breeds ("pointers").

Canadian horse strong well-muscled breed of horse from Canada

The Canadian horse is a horse breed from Canada. It is a strong, well-muscled breed of horse, usually dark in colour. The horses are generally used for riding and driving. Descended from draft and light riding horses imported to Canada in the late 1600s, it was later crossed with other British and American breeds. During the 18th century the Canadian horse spread throughout the northeastern US, where it contributed to the development of several horse breeds. During the peak popularity of the breed, three subtypes could be distinguished, a draft horse type, a trotting type and a pacing type. Thousands of horses were exported in the 19th century, many of whom were subsequently killed while acting as cavalry horses in the American Civil War. These exports decreased the purebred Canadian population almost to the point of extinction, prompting the formation of a studbook and the passage of a law against further export.

Dølehest horse breed

The Dole Gudbrandsdal, Dølahest or Dole is a draft- and harness-type horse from Norway. The Dole Trotter is alternately considered a subtype of the Dole Gudbrandsdal and a separate breed; it is also considered a part of the Coldblood trotter type. The Dole Gudbrandsdal is a small draft horse, known for its pulling power and agility, while the Dole Trotter is a smaller, faster horse used for harness racing; the two types are commonly interbred. Both types are strictly critiqued before entry into the studbook, which has over time resulted in an improvement in the breed type. The Dole is originally from the Gudbrandsdal Valley, and is probably descended in part from the Friesian horse. Over time the breed has had Thoroughbred, Arabian and other blood added in, especially during the creation of the Dole Trotter in the 19th century. The first studbook was created in 1941, and the current breed association was formed in 1947. Although originally used mainly as a pack horse, today the heavier Dole type is used mainly for agricultural purposes. The Dole Gudbrandsdal been crossed with other breeds to develop horses for harness racing and riding.

Christophe Lemaire French jockey

Christophe Patrice Lemaire(Japanese:クリストフ・ルメール) is a French-born jockey. He takes his middle name from his father, who made a name for himself in the world of French handicap racing.

Breton horse horse breed

The Breton is a breed of draft horse. It was developed in Brittany, a province in northwest France, from native ancestral stock dating back thousands of years. The Breton was created through the crossbreeding of many different European and Oriental breeds. In 1909, a stud book was created, and in 1951 it was officially closed. The breed is often chestnut in color, and is strong and muscular. There are three distinct subtypes of the Breton, each coming from a different area of Brittany. The Corlay Breton is the smallest type, and is generally used for light draft and under saddle work. The Postier Breton is used for harness and light farm work. The Heavy Draft Breton is the largest subtype, and is generally used for the hardest draft work. This horse breed has been used in military, draft and agricultural capacities. It also has been used to improve and create many other draft breeds, and to produce mules.

Auxois horse breed

The Auxois is a horse breed from eastern France. It is a large breed, with some individuals weighing over 910 kilograms (2,010 lb), bred for horse meat, agricultural work and leisure pursuits. Overall, members of the breed are solid and muscular in appearance. They are usually bay or bay roan in color, although some other colors are accepted by the breed registry, and are known for their power and docility.

The National Association of Racing is the authority for horse races operated by local governments in Japan. NAR itself does not operate horse races.

Poitevin horse A breed of draft horse from the Poitou area of France

The Poitevin or Poitou is a French breed of draft horse. It is named for its area of origin, the former province of Poitou in west-central France, now a part of the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. It was formed in the seventeenth century when horses of Flemish or Dutch origin, brought to the area by engineers working to drain the Marais Poitevin, interbred with local horses. Although it has the size and conformation of a draft horse, the Poitevin has never been bred for draft abilities, and has been little used for draft work. Its principal traditional use was the production of mules. Poitevin mares were put to jacks of the large Baudet du Poitou breed of donkey; the resulting Poitevin mules were in demand for agricultural and other work in many parts of the world, including Russia and the United States. In the early twentieth century there were some 50,000 brood mares producing between 18,000 and 20,000 mules per year.

Horse racing in Japan

Horse racing in Japan is a popular equestrian sport, with more than 21,000 horse races held each year. There are three types of racing that take place in Japan - flat racing, jump racing, and Ban'ei Racing.

Thoroughbred Horse breed developed for racing

The Thoroughbred is a horse breed best known for its use in horse racing. Although the word thoroughbred is sometimes used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, it technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed. Thoroughbreds are considered "hot-blooded" horses that are known for their agility, speed, and spirit.

Mejiro McQueen Japanese-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Mejiro McQueen was a Japanese Thoroughbred racehorse and sire. He was a late-maturing horse who did not emerge as a top-class performer until the autumn of his three-year-old season when he won the Kikuka Sho. Over the next three years he proved himself one of the best stayers in Japan with wins in the Tenno Sho (twice), Takarazuka Kinen, Osaka Hai, Kyōto Daishōten (twice) and Hanshin Daishoten (twice). He won the JRA Award for Best Older Male Horse in 1991 and was inducted into the Japan Racing Association Hall of Fame shortly after his retirement from racing. He was not a great success as a breeding stallion.

The Horse Racing Hall of Fame is a Japanese horse racing memorial hall which was installed on September 2, 1985 at the JRA Horse Racing Museum, Fuchu, Tokyo. It was founded by Japan Racing Association to honor the achievements of race horses, jockeys and trainers.

Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes

The Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes (朝日杯フューチュリティステークス) is a one mile turf stakes race for thoroughbred colts two years old. It is considered the de facto year-end championship for Japanese thoroughbred racing in the two-year-olds division.

Kousei Miura Japanese jockey

Kousei Miura is a Japanese jockey who is represented by the Japan Racing Association. He won the 2008 JRA Award for Newcomer Jockey with the Most Victories and the 2014 Hokkaido Horse Racing Press Club Award.


  1. "English -Banei Tokachi WebSite". Archived from the original on 2014-02-27.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  2. 1 2 JEAA Stallion Registration Regulations Secretary bylaws JEAA lists eight breeds that can be used to breed horses for ban-ei: Ardennes, Clydesdale, Shire, Brabançon, Breton, Boulonnais, Belgian and Percheron. ("アルデンネ、クライズデール、シャイヤー、ブラバンソン、ブルトン、ブーロンネ、ベルジアン、ペルシュロン")
  3. Racing Statistics 2005–2015 (Racing by Local Governments)(in English)
  4. Archived 2017-04-19 at the Wayback Machine Racing by Local Governments in Japan 2016 – Ban-ei (Draft Horse Racing)(in English)
  5. ばんえい競馬の歴史
  6. 年間開催日程
  7. 1 2 A Horse-Racing Tradition Lumbers Into Its Final Stretch New York Times article on Ban'ei racing published 25 December 2006, accessed 24 October 2011
  8. ばんえい十勝オッズパーク杯
  9. 第49回楽天競馬ばんえい応援賞B4-2
  10. "ばんえい十勝応援企画2016第2弾:おトク情報:楽天競馬".
  11. サッポロビール賞シルバーカップA1・A2混合
  12. 個人協賛について
  13. 1 2 3 4 ばんえい競馬コラム(Archived from the original on May 11, 2009. Retrieved September 4, 2016)
  14. 1 2 平成28年度 帯広市ばんえい競馬番組編成要領
  15. Disqualification in normal race – weight 480kg, time 3:57:5, winner's time 1:50:6
  16. Winning times of Ban'ei Kinen(since 1973) – several times over four minutes
  17. Hokushou Battle: 490kg in 0:44:3
  18. Oidon: 490kg in 0:47:6
  19. Example record of scale used (after horse is retired, scale rating is changed to one used in thoroughbred racing)
  20. 【お知らせ】走路散水について(5/23)
  21. 【お知らせ】本走路のヒーティング稼動および砂障害の撤去
  22. 88% percent of this industry is concentrated to Hokkaido and trend is decreasing.(pg. 2, classification "農用馬")(Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries)
  23. 馬の改良増殖等をめぐる情勢 平成26年6月(pg. 2, 8.)(Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries)
  24. "【平成28年度 能力検査について】ばんえい十勝オフィシャルホームページ". Archived from the original on 2016-06-01. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  25. "【お知らせ】10/25~26全道祭典ばんば1歳馬決勝大会-ばんえい十勝オフィシャルホームページ". 22 March 2015. Archived from the original on 22 March 2015.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  26. [ permanent dead link ]
  27. 馬 – 2006
  28. "駁毛(ぶちげ)のエンジェルガガ デビュー – ばんえい十勝スタッフブログ".
  29. "異色対決 – ばんえい十勝スタッフブログ".
  30. "ガンバレ、がんばる! – ばんえい十勝スタッフブログ".
  31. "704kg ハクバビューティー – ばんえい十勝スタッフブログ".
  32. "ハクバビューティー、負けん気爆発! – ばんえい十勝スタッフブログ".
  33. "7月3日(日) ハクバボーイ – ばんえい十勝スタッフブログ".
  34. JEAA journal issue 6 from 2011 where Hakuba Beauty (then known as "Hakubahime") is gene-tested for W17. (pg. 6)
  35. Ban-ei horse with second career as carriage horse
  36. (in English)
  37. 輓系馬の部(pg. 3)
  38. 輓系馬の部(pg 2.)
  39. 1 2
  40. 繁殖登録雌馬の品種構成
  41. 輓系馬等の交配に伴う品種名一覧 They are also used in breeding of heavy crossbreds(輓交種) and Japanese Horse
  42. 実馬審査体型標準 – 輓系馬
  43. Pedigree of Almond Madonna, dam of Angel Gaga
  44. Hanuma
  45. UFAW Electronic Supplementary Material – Appendices Horse breeds with inherited disorders