“Kumoterki”, tradition, sport and cultural heritage


horse-drawn sleigh races

How to Cite

Baraniak, M. . (2021). “Kumoterki”, tradition, sport and cultural heritage. Sport and Tourism Central European Journal, 4(1), 75–86. https://doi.org/10.16926/sit.2021.04.04


In the dialect of Polish Tatra highlanders the word “kumoterki” indicates a small two-person sleigh traditionally harnessed to one horse. It is derived from the word “kumotrzy” which is godparents who used the horse team to get with a newborn baby to church to have the child baptised.

Since the mid-19th-century horse-drawn sleighs used by Tatra highlanders have been the masterpieces of woodcarving art. A lot of attention has been paid to the precision of workmanship, the choice of material and ornamentation. Initially, they were used as the means of transport during snowy winters in the Polish Tatra region. During the Interwar period, due to the development of mass motorization, horse-drawn sleighs lost their utilitarian character and people started to use them in racing events. The first horse-drawn sleigh race took place in Zakopane in 1929. It was an annual event until 1939. After World War 2, horse-drawn sleigh races were reactivated in 1962 in Zakopane and after that, after a few-year break, in 1972 in Bukowina Tatrzańska.

In the 1970s horse-drawn sleigh races were treated mostly as social events and folk festivities rather than sports competitions. Horses that took part in the races at that time were used to work mainly on the farmland and were not specially prepared for the races. This situation changed completely at the beginning of the 1990s after sport horses had been brought to Podhale. Since then horse-drawn sleigh races have become typical sports competitions; older highlanders started to resign from speed racing leaving the place for young contestants. Sports rivalry and willingness to achieve the best time of a ride displaced the fun and entertainment factor of this event.