Burro racer climbs hills and valleys with his 700lb. partner

By Ryan Ward | December 13, 2022


If you ever find yourself strolling through Vernon County, you’ll find a landscape packed full of twisty and curvy roads. Roger Pedretti, and his longtime running partner Samaritan, have been navigating this dusty terrain together for close to 17 years.

“When it comes to race time, he knows what it’s all about,” Pedretti says. “And he wants to, he wants to haul ass basically.”

Pedretti’s partner Samaritan is a 700 lb. racing burro. Pedretti and his family have traveled the country participating in races for the Western Pack Burro Association. Finishing top 10 in almost every race they’ve been in.

“People stop and say, what are you doing? I say we’re going to do a race. A race? You’re going to ride them?” says Pedretti. “And see a lot of people do think you ride these animals. We don’t ever ride them.”

Burro racing involves you being tethered to your burro and not riding them. The tether is a 15-foot lead rope and then you run alongside your burro for the length of the course, some of which are close to 30 miles long.

“I have gotten dragged down the mountain a little bit, cracked a rib, and still finished the race as well,” says Pedretti. “Our motto is kind of start them finish them, you know, but you never know what can happen in between.”

Roger’s brother Rick Pedretti started racing alongside his brother in 2011. Now, there are several different generations of Pedretti’s taking part in the sport. In his 60s, Pedretti doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. That’s because to him, there’s nothing quite like running with his old friend Samaritan.

“I always say after you run with a burro, everything else is just running,” says Pedretti. “It’s a lot more exciting and a lot more going on than just going out for a run by yourself.”

(A version of this story also aired on Wisconsin Public Radio on July 26, 2012.)

Ryan Ward

Ryan Ward

Ryan Ward is a producer for the “Wisconsin Life” project and can rest easy after he finally found the perfect jar of homemade dill pickles at the farmer’s market in Madison. … just like his Grandma Shirley use to make!

Sign Up Form

Sign Up for Our Bi-Weekly Newsletter

Get your favorite Wisconsin Life stories, meet the crew, and go behind the scenes.

Our Favorite Collections

Storyteller Rodney Lambright II's comic series about the rich relationship between a single father, his young daughter and his retirement-age parents.
For the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we discover how Wisconsinites experienced the war both at home and on the battlefield.
Ice, cold and winter are an integral part of what it means to live in Wisconsin. "Ice Week" explores the many ways that ice defines us.
Food plays a central part in many holiday traditions. This series honors the foods and meals that make the day.
Escape winter with a look at some of Wisconsin's favorite sports and games.
"Living the Wisconsin Life" is an online series exploring the little things that make living in Wisconsin fun, interesting and meaningful.