Skip to main content
Sat April 6, 2024 Tombstone, AZ 85638 US Directions


501 Toughnut
Tombstone, AZ US 85638


Run with a donkey in the "Town Too Tough to Die!"  Please join us for the 5th Annual Tombstone Desert Donkey Dash on Saturday, April 6, 2024!

Runner must have personal donkey or have made arrangements for a donkey to register for this race.  Runners cannot participate in this race without a donkey (no other equine permitted).  Solo runners are NOT allowed to participate.  No riding allowed- this is an in hand trail race with a donkey.  Donkeys shall be in good health and sound condition.  Any runner mistreating their donkey will be disqualified.  

A brief history of the donkeys that now run Pack Burro Races

Donkeys first arrived on US soil in 1784 as a royal gift from King Charles III of Spain to George Washington. The donkeys first worked the plantations, but by the 1800s, were helping to build the American West. They were used by miners during the Gold Rush era, but by the turn of the century, many of these hearty little donkeys were abandoned. The donkeys found ways to survive the most unforgiving, yet extreme terrains around the American West. Resilient, they can feed on desert vegetation. While herds of wild burros now face the same threats today as wild horses, they are also being rounded up and domesticated. After being gentled and trained, many who run their donkeys find that the running activities are quite therapeutic and offer a great outlet for rehabilitating once wild and/or feral donkeys. 

“Burro” is the Spanish word for small donkey. However, many different sized donkeys from mini to mammoth can race in a Pack Burro Race and are interchangeably called “burro.” They only have chestnuts on the forelegs, while animals of the same equine family, such as mules (a hybrid cross between a donkey and horse) or horses, have these chestnuts on the hind and forelegs. The tail of a donkey has shorter hair, except on its lower part, which has a brush. Only a burro/donkey is allowed to run in a Pack Burro Race as we do nothing half-assed.

The Rules:

Pack Saddle & Paraphernalia Requirements 

There are 3 distances: 

The 13 mile long course- each donkey must be equipped with a pack saddle carrying prospector's paraphernalia, including a pick, gold pan, and shovel (no toys permitted). There is no minimum weight requirement for the paraphernalia. If any of these items are missing or get lost on the trail, the runner/donkey team will be disqualified (DQ).

6 mile short- pack saddle not mandatory

3 mile intro- pack saddle not mandatory

Lead Rope 

The donkey must be outfitted with a lead rope for handling that is attached to a halter (a flat-nosed halter is preferred for safer racing over rope halters which tend to get loose and shift on the donkey's face, yet rope halters are a better tool for groundwork training). The runner may only be attached to the donkey with a single lead rope that does not exceed 15 feet in length (measured from the end of the rope to the tip of the snap). The lead rope may only be connected to the halter. 

Control of Donkey 

Donkeys are controlled by way of the runner handling a lead rope that is attached to the halter of the donkey. All runners must keep their donkey under control on the course, and not cut switchbacks (except for a single-track trail, runner/donkey teams can pass as long as they remain near the course edge if slower teams are blocking the course or obstructing the advancement of another team). If the runner/donkey interferes with another runner/donkey team, the out-of-control team may be disqualified or given a warning.  If the runner loses control of their donkey, by way of dropping the lead rope, the team must return to the point where the lead rope was dropped to stay in the race in order to not obtain a DQ. We encourage you to take your donkey back and not give up on your donkey’s race to get an honorable finish. 

Jack/Stud Chains 

Jack/Stud chains may be used with a pressure-release technique, to safely control a higher-spirited donkey. (A jack/stud chain is a chain or strap which is used to apply pressure over the muzzle or under the chin.) Any racer coming across the finish line with any injuries on the donkey resulting from the jack/stud chain may be disqualified.

Team = 1 Runner & 1 Donkey

The runner and donkey starting this race must remain a team throughout the race. No assistants will be allowed to accompany any team. Spectators or anyone outside of the race are not allowed to assist the forward progress of any team. No swapping donkeys with another runner or both teams will be disqualified (“You gotta dance with the one that brung ya.” ~ Curtis Imrie). The winning combination consists of a runner and donkey, who must cross the finish line as a unit. The runner may be leading or following the donkey, but the donkey's nose crossing the finish line first, constitutes the winner. In the event of a tie, the prize money involved, if any, will be equally divided between the teams involved. However, this is ultimately up to the race director’s discretion. 

The runner may push, pull, apply pressure release, or carry their donkey across the finish line, but no riding is allowed!

Veterinary Checks 

Donkey owners may consider getting a veterinary check on their donkey before every race. Sick or injured donkeys should not race. Out-of-state donkeys will be required to obtain a negative Coggins test and health certificate before entering the state as required by state law.


Any runner mistreating their donkey will be disqualified. No needles, electric prods, drugging, clubs, or whips, other than the lead rope, may be used. 

Should a runner be disqualified by a race official, he/she may continue the race and appeal his/her grievance to the race director. The decisions of the race director will be final.

No Firearms 

Carrying and use of firearms while running is not permitted.

Participant Waivers/Release of Liability

No town, county, or private property owners along the course, sponsoring businesses, governmental agencies, persons, volunteers, race officials, or organizations will be liable in case of accident or injury to the runner or donkey. Each runner must sign a waiver and/or release of responsibility before the race.

Arizona Equine Limited Liability Statute

”Arizona, as well as many other states, have enacted legislation to protect those in the equine industry from liability if a participant suffers an injury or death from an inherent risk of an equine-related activity. Arizona’s Equine Limited Liability statute provides an equine owner is not liable for injury or death if: (1) the participant took control of the equine prior to injury or death; (2) if the participant or the parent or legal guardian of a minor participant signed a release before taking control of the equine; (3) if the owner or agent has properly installed suitable tack or the participant personally tacked the equine with tack provided by the owner or agent of the equine; or (4) the owner or agent assigns a suitable equine based on a reasonable interpretation of the participant’s representation of his or her skills, health and experience with and knowledge of equines. A.R.S. § 12-553(A).”

Rules revised Feb 2023 


Clear Creek County Pack Burro Race Series (Georgetown and Idaho Springs)

Creede Donkey Dash

Buena Vista Pack Burro Race 

South Fork Alder Ass Race

Victor’s Gold Rush Challenge Pack Burro Race 

Frederick Miners Day Pack Burro Race 

Rollinsville Pack Burro Race

Tombstone, AZ- Tombstone Desert Donkey Dash 

Inyokern, CA- Run with the Burros 

Topsfield, MA- Run with the Burros  


Additional Information ~ (for the new-to-pack burro racing runners)

Supply Suggestions: 

Comfortable running clothes

Trail shoes with good tread 

Gloves (sports type full or fingerless weight lifting style, to prevent rope burn from lead rope)

It is strongly recommended that all runners or donkeys carry the following, for the runner:

At least one quart of water

Food (energy bar or snacks)

A few other optional items you may want to have with you on your journey:

Gallon baggies to keep your phone or items clean and dry in the saddle bags

Rain jacket or windbreaker




Lip balm

Gaiters (over shoes to keep the rocks out)

Tweezer/comb (to remove cactus, etc)

Hoof pick (in case the donkey gets a rock in their hoof)

Donkey treats are best saved for after the race, as allowing a donkey to eat during a race can slow them down. Do not let children feed donkeys out of their hands to prevent a finger from being mistaken as a treat! Do not feed anyone else’s donkey unless you have permission from the owner.

Handling Suggestions:

For runners renting donkeys, you should be getting all your racing lessons through that operation, but for those who are new to Pack Burro Racing with your own new donkey, here are some handling suggestions you may want to know, so your first race is successful and safe:

Study the course maps before any race.

Know that the super fast, super competitive athletes start on and near the starting line. The average paced runners will start in the middle of the starting line area (between the front and the back) and slower runners or those needing to start out slowly to have better control over their donkeys start near the back of the pack. If it is your donkey's first-time racing and they have never experienced a group training run with multiple donkeys, it is highly advisable to start in the back, as donkeys can get excited about running in a herd.  They will surprise you with how excited and fast they will get for the first time until they get used to the pace of racing.

Since donkeyss are right-brain thinkers, most runners start and race on the left side of the donkey. 

It is advised to hold the halter down low next to  the nose to keep your donkey under control at the start of the race (especially when the blank gun goes off).  This will not only prevent your donkey from getting away from you too fast, but control them from kicking others in tight quarters as the field takes off and spreads out. 

We know that donkeys do not always run in a straight line and can often zig-zag on a wider road or jeep trail, or cut-off other teams, as it is not polite that a runner extends their lead rope across the trail blocking other teams from passing.

If your donkey becomes too hard to handle and you are close to the nose, you can grab the halter low at the nose and turn the donkey toward you to the left in a circle until they calm down. To control the nose is to control the donkey.

If you lose your donkey, please yell out to others ahead, “LOOSE DONKEY!” for safety reasons, as an uncontrolled donkey can startle other teams. If someone else’s donkey ends up loose, but you can keep control of your donkey, it is a courtesy to catch that loose donkey and tie it to a tree (or stationary object like a road sign) rather than have that donkey and its lead rope interfere with your race. It is about safety for the donkey and others.

If your donkey stalls out, instead of pulling with constant pressure, consider the pressure-release technique, while you are looking forward to where you want the donkey to go. As a face-to-face stand-off playing tug-of-war will not get you moving in the right direction. Jiggling the lead rope and saying “hup-hup” from behind works at times.

Also, if you are a vocal runner or need to say “hee-yaw, hup-hup,” or something like it to keep your donkey motivated, just know being too vocal will not only desensitize your donkey and become too much pressure sending your donkey off course, but it could also annoy the other donkeys and runners around you. So, when your donkey is running well and moving forward, quiet your voice and hold the lead rope steady (which is a nice release of pressure for the donkey), and the occasional “good boy or good girl” in a positive tone is nice, too.

When holding your lead rope, make sure it is not wound tight around your hand. You could use big loose loops that do not drag the ground so you or the donkey do not trip or get a leg entangled. We do not advise anyone to tie or knot the lead rope around their body.  Runners may hold the lead rope around them in a way that if they trip & fall the lead rope will not be attached, as we do not want runners to get drug. Some donkey owners do wear belt-in systems that they have trained with that feature a quick-release button. If the entire system does not exceed 15 feet and the runner has signed a waiver, they do this at their own risk.

On an out-and-back course, give the leaders who will be racing fast the right of way, but hang onto your donkey's halter at the nose, so they do not turn to follow the leaders.

It is best to drive donkeys uphill with the runner behind, instead of dragging donkeys uphill if possible. For the first-time racer, it is best to be in front of your donkey on the downhill, holding your arms out to not let them pass you, as donkeys can pick up speed and you do not want to trip or lose your donkey. 

Be mindful of your saddle getting loose and potentially sliding to the side before it goes completely underneath, as the donkey can lose belly size from gas or pooping on the course. You might have to step off the course to adjust the saddle. If your saddle pad has a tendency to slip or shift while racing, you may consider tying or attaching the pad to the saddle if you do not have stay on pads. It is ok for participants to help other participants with each other’s saddles if they choose. If the courtesy of a spectator is all you have for safety reasons, they may help hold your donkey if you are readjusting your saddle, as long as they do not assist the team with forward progress.

Once the race is over, please do not backtrack on the course, so you do not interfere with others who may be racing in.

If you do not take your donkey back to their trailer right away, please do not leave it unattended in town.

If it’s your first pack burro race, and you have questions, reach out to the race directors for additional information if you would like.

If you DNF = “Did Not Finish,” and do not cross the finish line, please make sure you inform the race officials of your status (before leaving town), so you are accounted for.

We look forward to seeing everyone and having a fun and safe pack burro racing season for all involved!!!

The courses are challenging and rocky.  Boots for donkeys are highly recommended, but not mandatory.  

There are 3 distances: 3 mile intro (pack saddle not required), 6 mile short (pack saddle not required), and the 13 mile long course (pack saddle and traditional mining gear of gold pan, pick, and shovel required).  Courses will be marked by color. 

3 Mile intro course YELLOW RIBBONS, 6 mile short BLUE RIBBONS, and 13 mile long ORANGE RIBBONS.  There will be water stations at the break off of the three courses. Water stations will be near the Charleston Road crossing for the 6 and 13 mile courses and at Monument Guest Ranch for 13 mile course. First aid supplies will be at each station with emergency crew on stand by.

Top three finishers for 3 mile and 6 mile course will receive trophies.  

Trophies and prize money will be awarded to the top three finishers of the 13 mile course.  

1st- $500

2nd- $300

3rd- $200


$20 dry camping per night and a few pens available at Good Enough Mine.  Limited space available if you bring your own corral panels.  For reservations, please contact Robert Davenport at 520-335-4255 or by email

*Banner Photo- Mark Levy HERALD/REVIEW

Race Contact Info

If you have any questions about this race, click the button below.


Race Participant Survey

Please complete the following survey to help us better understand your race experience.

Did you participate in the race?

Would you recommend this race to a friend?

If you continue to use this site, you consent to use all cookies. We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. Read how we use cookies and how you can control them by visiting our Privacy Policy.

If you continue to use this site, you consent to use all cookies.