(Dubois, Wyo.) – Originating in Star Valley, Wyoming in the 1950s and 60s, chariot races were used to pass the time in the cold winters. Farmers would race down main street in chariots to the “Cheese Factory” for their milk. Today, this event is still organized to pass the time in the winter, but now it takes place in Dubois, WY just for fun.
“Farmers used to come to town, and they’d sit around drinking coffee and start to challenge each other,” explains All-American Cutter Racing Association Secretary Connie Wright. “They’d race their wagons with their work horses, and cutter racing originated.”
“They started bringing their saddle horses and lighter wagons so they could go faster,” she continues. “There is quite a history.” “Chariot racing involves running two horses abreast with a chariot, that weighs about 65 pounds,” explains former racer Bill Johnson. “They run for 440 yards or one-quarter of a mile from the gates. It’s quite a rigorous activity.”
According to Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Roundup, Cutter racing is one of the oldest equine sports, believed to have its beginnings with the first Olympic games in ancient times. The 1959 epic film Ben-Hur gave the sport its modern fame.
This chariot racing sport grew to around 80-100 teams in Wyoming in the 1970s and 80s. There are only about 20 teams running today in Wyoming and 50-60 teams still running in Idaho and Utah.
Throughout Wyoming there are seven to eight, 2-day race meets in Gillette, Glendo, Saratoga, Dubois, Jackson, Afton, and Rock Springs. All teams must race in six races, (or three, 2-day meets) in the season to qualify to race at the State Championships, which is being held in Gillette this year.
This weekend teams are expected from Saratoga, Lander, Thayne, Freedom, Rock Springs and possibly Gillette. The races will take place on January 11 & 12, around “Noonish” at the Dubois Scenic Overlook Chariot Track on McKinley Drive. Each fast-paced 1/4 mile drag race takes about 23-24 seconds.
Dubois will host a summer race the 2nd weekend of August during the Dubois Fire Department’s Buffalo Barbeque, and another around Christmas.
To learn more about these Calcutta races visit Wyoming Livestock Roundup.
–Wind River Visitors Council