The Forager has been to Bonsall, Derbyshire recently, to view what is a perfect example of English eccentricity: The World Championship Hen Races.
It’s no flash in the pan either. Hen racing has gone on in the area for more than 100 years, according to organiser David Wragg, and the current incarnation is now in its 25th year. Its longevity has led to some beginning to take it extremely seriously.
“Chickens are raced over a track of 30 feet, and they are given 3 minutes in each heat to cross the finish line,” explains Mr Wragg. “It’s fast and furious, although any fighting or pecking between hens is strictly forbidden and can result in disqualification.”
He adds that anyone can turn up on the day and enter a hen, but competitors are known to train birds year-round for the annual event.
“Some of our competitors spend months in training, going through rigorous exercises to ensure their hen is in tip top shape.
“This year we had some hen trainers going to great lengths to ensure their hen was first over the finishing line, including wearing brightly coloured clothing and hats, rattling food tins.
“One man even claimed he was willing the hen forward using telepathy.”
The hard work paid off for eventual winner Road Runner, who stormed the course and set a new record in the process, taking just 3.8 seconds to finish. All finalists this year were in under 10 seconds, added Mr Wragg.