'World hen racing championship' to be held in Bonsall

The world hen racing championship in Bonsall
Image caption Competitors are not allowed any physical contact with the birds after releasing them

A pub in Derbyshire is preparing to host the 20th annual "world hen racing championship".

The event, held at the Barley Mow in Bonsall, involves birds being released at a start line and encouraged along a track by their human "coaches".

Held on the first Saturday of every August, the tournament is expected to attract hundreds of competitors and spectators.

People can bring their own hens or "rent" one for the day.

The competition was first devised by the pub's former landlord Alan Webster in 1991 after he learned villages would compete with each other to race hens in the early 20th Century.

Current landlord David Wragg said the event was more popular than ever and had previously attracted entrants from Spain, Finland and the US.

'Not natural racers'

Image caption Hens race across several heats before the final

He said: "They didn't bring their own hens but there are some enterprising young individuals who rent them out for the day."

The human coaches are banned from touching the hens after releasing them at the start line but can encourage them along the 20m (65ft) track in any way they see fit.

Mr Wragg said although hens were not the most natural of racing animals, the event was still very competitive.

"People have their own training techniques and there's a lot of shaking tins, cheering, even wearing strange head gear. It's all good fun," he said.

"But I won't be entering a hen myself this year. That could be seen as foul - or should that be fowl - play."

Entry to the event is free but Mr Wragg said there would be a collection for an animal welfare charity.

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