According to legend, a statue of a golden goat was found in the northern Italian city of Cavriana inspiring a unique annual festival, the Golden Goat Race. (The town actually gets its name from the Italian word for “goat,” capra, and was formerly called Capriana.) The Golden Goat Race, or Palio della Capra d’Oro, is held every year on the first Saturday of July.
The whole town is decked in decorations ahead of the event. On the day of the race, more than 400 people dress in Renaissance-inspired costumes in honor of the town’s noble Gonzaga family, which had a summer residence nearby. Parade participants represent their district, wearing the colors of their contrada, a now unofficial subdivision of an Italian city or region.
The main event of the festival is the goat race which takes place after nightfall. Goats, each representing a contrada, compete around a small track. One district member called a cavrer, usually a child, is allowed to urge the goat toward the finish line. They cannot touch the animal and can only call its name to encourage the goat to cross the finish line. The winner of the event receives a golden goat trophy.
Legend has it the original golden goat statue was discovered under the hill where the Rocca Castle of Cavriana now stands in the city’s historic town center, and today the race takes place inside the castle walls. The castle was one of Mantua’s largest and likely dates back to the 11th century.