Racehorse Runs Entire Race Without a Jockey, Wins Anyway

The Tokay Stakes 2023 horse race at the Chukyo Racecourse in Nagoya, Japan was technically won by a racehorse that ran the entire race without a jockey.

While it’s true that a jockey can’t really help a slow horse win a race, their role in professional horse racing is undeniable. The jockey plays many roles during a race. They control the pace of the animal, either pushing it from the beginning in a race where setting the pace for the rest of the pack is important or conserving its energy for a final push. They are also responsible for how fast the horse comes out of the gates at the start and tactical movement during the race. At least that’s what most horseracing enthusiasts will tell you, but one animal recently proved that they are just dead weight…

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Motorcycle Chariot Racing – An Exhilarating Mix of ‘Ben Hur’ and ‘Mad Max’

Motorcycle chariot racing is a modern take on one of the most popular sports in ancient Greece, Rome, and the Byzantine Empire.

We’ve featured our fair share of unusual sports here on Oddity Central, but motorcycle chariot racing is undoubtedly one of our most unique entries. Replacing the horses of old with some real horsepower in the form of two motorcycles, this unusual sport is making a comeback in the Land Down Under. Originally invented in the early 1900s in Australia, motorcycle chariot racing eventually spread to Europe and the USA before gradually being banned because of the danger to the riders. However, the adrenaline-fueled sport is currently making a comeback in Australia, thanks to a professional stunt rider.

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No One Does Giant Float Festivals Quite Like Japan

Float festivals take place all around the world, but you’ll have a hard time finding intricate, illuminated works of art quite like the ones paraded in Japan.

When it comes to designing and creating colorful, eye-catching floats that illuminate the night sky, no one does it better than the Japanese. The sheer size of these mesmerizing floats is impressive enough, but most times they also feature intricate designs inspired by Japanese history, mythology and culture. From the record-setting giant floats of the Tenkū no Fuyajō festival in the city of Noshiro, to the impressive works paraded during the world-famous Tachineputa Festival of Goshogawara, there are plenty of reasons why Japan is probably the best place to visit for giant illuminated floats.

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Mysterious Geyser in Japan Has Been Gushing Out Water for Two Weeks

A mysterious geyser that erupted in the middle of a forest on the Japanese island of Hokkaido has been shooting up columns of water up to 40-meters-high for the past couple of weeks.

Every year, on August 9, the small Japanese town of Oshamambe holds an annual summer festival complete with a traditional procession at the local Shinto shrine. However, this year’s festival has been overshadowed by an unusual occurrence a day before the event, when a huge geyser erupted in the middle of the shrine grounds’ forest. Locals woke up to a steady roar, a column of water shooting up above the tree canopy, and the unmistakable smell of sulfur in the air. The mysterious geyser has been shooting up water for the past couple of weeks and is showing no signs of slowing down.

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Lluvia de Peces – Honduras’ Yearly Rain of Fish

Every year, Yoro, a small town in northern Honduras, allegedly experiences a mysterious phenomenon known as “Lluvia de Peces”, a literal rain of fish.

The rain of fish phenomenon has been reported in many places around the world, but Honduras’ Yoro department is the only place where the bizarre rain reportedly occurs every year, sometimes several times per year. The now-famous Lluvia de Peces takes place sometime between May and June, usually after a very powerful storm. The weirdest thing about this unusual occurrence is that, despite it being a yearly event, no one has ever actually seen the fish fall from the sky. There is however photographic and video evidence of hundreds of fish covering entire areas following powerful storms, so it definitely can’t be dismissed as just a simple legend, and scientists have actually investigated the phenomenon in order to provide a plausible explanation.

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Las Luminarias – A fiery and Controversial Celebration

Every year, on January 17, the people of San Bartolome de Pinares, in Spain, celebrate St. Anthony by riding their horses, donkeys and mules through piles of burning tree branches in a celebration called Las Luminarias.

The unique tradition of leaping over and through flames dates back 500 years, but the men and women of San Bartolome de Pinares village still celebrate it religiously. They gather all the branches they find in the days leading up to the festivities, and when dusk falls on the eve of Saint Anthony’s, they light them ablaze. Riders lead their mounts through the burning piles of the village, accompanied by sounds of drums and Spanish bagpipes.

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Japanese Students Compete in Making Earthquake-Resistant Toothpick Towers

A Japanese engineering university in Kumamoto is famous for holding a unique competition, challenging students to build toothpick towers that can resist a simulated earthquake.

As you probably already know, because of its location in the Circum-Pacific Mobile Belt, where there is constant seismic and volcanic activity, Japan is the world’s most earthquake-prone country. Even though Japan takes up only 0.25% of the land area on our planet, 18.5% of earthquakes in the world occur here. So I guess you can say that building earthquake-resistant architecture is paramount for the Japanese nation. To that end, one engineering school has been challenging students to come up with toothpick tower designs that can resist a simulated earthquake.

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Da Shuhua – The Art of Spraying Melted Iron to Create Fireworks

Known as ‘the poor man’s fireworks’, Dashuhua is a 500-year-old pyrotechnic ritual used in Nuanquan, China, to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

The small town of Nuanquan, in northwestern China’s Hebei province, is home to one of the world’s most dangerous yet mesmerizing fireworks displays. Although fireworks have been a part of Chinese celebrations since around the year 800 A.D., they haven’t always been as widely available and affordable as they are today. So about half of a millennia ago, local blacksmiths came up with a viable alternative that was cheaper, but just as impressive as conventional pyrotechnics – throwing molten iron at cold walls to produce a waterfall of bright sparks that are at the same time beautiful and dangerous.

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Megavalanche – Probably the World’s Craziest Downhill Mountain Biking Race

Megavalanche is a unique enduro race that sees thousands of participants riding downhill on a glacier, 8,530 feet above sea level while trying to stay on their bikes and not get run over by the pack.

Downhill enduro racing usually involves a series of stages where competitors ride individually against the clock, trying to get the best time possible. The contestant with the fastest time on average wins. But Megavalanche, a monster of a race that has been taking place every year – except 2020 – since 1995, is different. It is the only endura downhill race with a mass start on a glacier, a detail that creates the ideal condition for the chaos and mayhem that Megavalanche is famous for. Imagine 2,000 bike riders setting off on a snowy track, reaching speeds of around 75mph, losing control of their mountain bikes, and trying not to get swept away by the human avalanche forming all around them. That’s the starting portion of Megavalanche in a nutshell.

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Traditional Stone-Pelting Battle Leaves 77 People Injured in Just 7 Minutes

Every year, hundreds of people from India’s Uttarakhand state engage in Bagwal, a brutal stone-pelting battle that often leaves dozens with severe injuries that require medical attention.

Bagwal literally means “fight with stones”, so it’s a pretty fitting name for a celebration that’s all about hurling big stones at the opposing side. Four clans gather in the Champawat district of Uttarakhand to take part in the unique event, despite the danger of getting seriously injured by the stones flying through the air. In fact, bloody wounds are the whole point of Bagwal as legend has it that the Hindu deity Barahi struck a deal with humans to rid them of demon invaders in exchange for a sacrifice in the form of blood.

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In This New Zealand Town, Easter Is All About Wiping Out Bunnies

In Christian countries around the world, the Easter Bunny is a beloved symbol of one of the world’s most popular holidays, but in one New Zealand town, bunnies are such a plague for farmers that locals spend Easter wiping them out.

In New Zealand, rabbits are an introduced species that threatens both the country’s biodiversity and its agriculture. They are essentially pests that have to be culled in order to minimize the damage they cause. The town of Alexandra, in Central Otago, has turned the mass culling of rabbits into an event known as The Great Easter Bunny Hunt, which attracts hundreds of hunters from all over the country. The local Alexandra Lions club has organized the event for the last 25 years, which has become popular both with hunters and the local population, including kids, many of whom take part in the “celebration”.

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Indian Village Ends Diwali With Massive Cow Dung Battle

The small Indian village of Gummatapura is famous all over the world for its unique way of ending the annual Diwali celebrations – a massive cow dung battle called “Gorehabba”.

Spain has La Tomatina, a famous battle with tomatoes, Italy has the traditional Ivrea Battle of Oranges, and India has Gorehabba, a cow dung battle to end the important Diwali festivities. That may seem like an insult to Indian festivities, but only to those ignorant to the importance and significance of cow dung in Indian culture. It’s held in such high regard that companies use it as an ingredient for beauty products, handcrafted art, and even radiation repelling devices. Some claim it can even ward off the coronavirus… So yes, hurling cow dung at each other is far from disgusting for the dozens who participate in Gorehabba.

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Only in Japan: Burning a Mountain as a Celebration

On the fourth Saturday of each January, the dead grass of Mount Wakakusa is set ablaze as part of a unique and impressive festival called Wakakusa Yamayaki (‘Wakakusa Burning Mountain’).

No one known exactly how the tradition of burning an entire 342-metre-high hill in Japan’s Nara Prefecture actually started, but one thing is for certain – it has been around for hundreds of years. Some say it began as a boundary dispute between the two greatest temples of Nara, Tōdai-ji and Kōfuku-ji, sometime during the 18th century. When mediation failed, the entire hill was burned to the ground, although no one quite remembers how that solved anything. Another theory claims that the annual fire originated as a way to eliminate pests and drive away wild boars. Today, it’s just an impressive sight to behold that attracts tourists from all over the world.

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Finch Sitting – The Controversial Sport Where You Sit on a Chair And Count Bird Calls

Sports are usually associated with skill and effort, be they physical or mental, but in Vinkensport or vinkenzetting (literally ‘Finch Sitting), a traditional animal sport practiced in the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders, it’s all about sitting down and listening to birds singing.

In Vinkensport, small cages are lined up in a row about six feet apart on the street. Inside each box is a single male chaffinch whose job is to produce as many bird calls as possible in one hour. Sitting in front of the wooden cages are their owners, the vinkeniers (“finchers”) who tally the bird songs with chalk on a large wooden rod. Each chalk line represents one complete bird call which ends in a characteristic flourish known as a susk-e-wiet. Judges walk along the row of cages to make sure no one cheats. The chaffinch with the most bird calls in an hour is declared the winner. Vinkensport is a very passive sport, some would even call it boring, but it is also a very controversial one.

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Board Shoe Racing – China’s Bizarre Traditional Sport

Board shoe racing is the traditional sport of the Zhuang people of China’s Gunaxi province, a unique discipline that has three people sharing the same “shoes”, which requires perfect coordination and concentration.

Board shoe racing can be traced back to the Ming Dynasty, when legend has it that a famous heroine of the Xhuang people used it as a way to train soldiers against invading Japanese pirates. The legendary Mrs. Wa used long pieces of wood to teach the men to march together in perfect synchronization, which greatly improved their combat qualities and boosted their fighting spirit, helping them repel the invaders. The traditional sport has been passed on from generation to generation since then.

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