The donkey is a symbol of Dalmatia. This stubborn, but valuable animal has stumbled for hundreds of years under the burden on the rocks and boulders of the coastal part of Croatia, helping people in transport, pulling heavy loads and even plowing. Prior to the invention of vehicles and heavy machinery, the lives of people in this unhospitable area were unimaginable without donkeys and it’s milk is widely known as incredibly healing, rare and expensive nutrient. The real Dalmatian donkey is gray, with white muzzle and stomach, long ears, thin but firm legs and very bad character. For instance, if a donkey decides not to work, there is no nice way to get him to do, so that the only means of persuasion is a good stick.
Tribunj is a place in Dalmatia near Šibenik and the National Park Kornati. The first settlement in this area was built on the hill of Sv. Mikula where was the medieval fort of Jurjevgrad (Georgtown). Todays Tribunj was built on an islet connected to the mainland by a stone bridge. The name was derived from Trebunj, the old Slavic god of the autumn sun.
To honor this irreplaceable friend and national treasure, every year on the first Sunday of August in Tribunj, a donkey race takes place. It’s proverbial stubbornness gives a special appeal to the whole manifestation. Sometimes competitors stand firm at the start without any hope of starting the race or even start to run in a completely unpredictable direction. On the other hand, it is known to happen that due to sudden inspiration, donkey started to run as fast as bullet and wipes out competition.
As far as the track is concerned, its start and end are at the Tribunj main square, then leads across the old stone bridge and the road around the peninsula.
Before every race there is a parade of competitors who are all dressed in ttraditional clothing of that area as the rules demand. Also, only the people who have at least one parent from that area have the right to compete.
A total of 12 riders and donkeys compete. The race is held in three rounds. First there are three qualifying races with four competitors. The two fastest in each group go directly to the finals. Then there is an additional race for the losers from which one more fastest comes to the finals, which will fill the number of nine competitors. The peak of the day is the final race where the fastest donkey in Tribunj is decided.
Past and future
At the initiative of several students, the first Tribunj Donkey Race was held in 1952. Soon it became the tradition, and since 1957 it has been held regularly. At the fiftieth anniversary, the women’s as well as the intercity race were introduced, making the spectacle perfected.