Japan tuning in to crazy Kiwi race

Last updated 05:00 27/10/2012

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Bobbing for eels, swallowing raw eggs and sliding down a muddy hill, all with your loyal huntaway by your side: this is New Zealand's most unique festival.

The Hunterville Huntaway Festival is in its 14th year and is set to entertain crowds today with the Shepherd's Shemozzle Race: an endurance race with a series of challenging, bizarre, and at times disgusting obstacles.

This year's race is getting several million extra viewers thanks to Japanese television presenter Daisuke Miyagawa taking part for the popular Japanese show Sekai no Hate Made – ItteQ, which loosely translates to "The ends of the earth – go and find out!".

A Japanese film crew will capture the carnage of the event for a regular item on the show, Matsuri, or festival. Past segments have included running with the bulls in Pamplona, throwing tomatoes in Bunol and being part of a human pyramid in Catalonia.

Organiser Andrew Stewart says having 15 million to 20m people watching Shemozzle in Japan is great exposure.

"[These events] have real novelty factor and something unique to that part of the world, and Shemozzle ticks that box."

The festival began as a way to celebrate rural life in Hunterville. It has grown in size each year and includes children's, women's and masters races.

Entrants race over a steep three-kilometre course alongside their huntaway dogs while 15 obstacles test them along the way.

Past obstacles have included a mudslide into a dam, running through a working sheep dip, and pushing their dog over the finish line in a wheelbarrow.

Each year the obstacles are a secret, and this year there will be a special Japanese-themed distraction, Mr Stewart says.

Miyagawa arrived yesterday and has only 24 hours to bond with his huntaway, loaned by local farmer Sam Horrocks, in the hope that he can make it to the finish line.

"He'll need to coax it to follow him around so it's going to make for pretty entertaining viewing," Mr Stewart says.



Events start at midday today and finish with a band and dance in a marquee in the Hunterville town centre. For more information, see shemozzle.co.nz


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- The Dominion Post


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