1637 November, Macao Horse Running



Running at the Ring, Racing as the Claim





1637, boarding on the first English trading voyage to China, a diarist Peter Mundy, who was the expedition’s commercial officer, went to the races in Macao on a Sunday in November.

Documentations from sources related to both MJC and HKJC hinted a similar saying as above.


1984-02-02,《China Races》was published to celebrate the centenary of HKJC.

On page 3, Austin Coates, the author commissioned by the Club claimed:

“On the first English trading voyage to China the diarist Peter Mundy, who was the expedition’s commercial officer, went to the races in Macao. It was a Sunday in November 1637. The races were held in a large open square, artificially levelled, in front of the church of Sao Domingos in the heart of the attractive little Portuguese city, which was then already eighty years old.”


2011-10-04,《Macau Jockey Club official website》both of their Chinese and English version of A History of Racing in Macau claimed:

“Horse racing has had a long and colourful history in Macau dating back several centuries.

It’s been established that horse racing was first staged in the then Portuguese Colony over 370 years ago.

If an account by famed English trader and writer Peter Mundy of his visit to Macau in 1637 is accepted, horse racing was already taking place on this small peninsula.

On his return to England, Mundy recorded in his memoirs how on a Sunday in November, he “went to the races in Macau”.

The race meeting was staged at a large levelled area in front St Domingo’s Church, which nowadays is the bustling San Malo commercial district.

In short, the tiny territory of Macau was the birthplace of horse racing in Asia.”


However, despite differences on the length and expression, both of the claims might miss a complete reading and research of the original wordings by Peter Mundy.





Peter Mundy (1596 – 1667) was a British trader, traveller and writer born at Penryn, the Southwest peninsula of Cornwall, Britain.

He was the first Briton to record, in his Itinerarium Mundi (‘Itinerary of the World’), tasting Chaa (Tea) in China and travelled extensively in Asia, Russia and Europe.

His insatiable appetite for information, his eye for detail, his desire for accuracy, would have made him in modern times a first-rate scientist.


Bodleian Library of Oxford University and a few institutions kept his manuscripts thus produced《The Travels of Peter Mundy, in Europe and Asia, 1608-­1667》.

Most of the MS (manuscripts) with charming original illustrations and insightful eye-witness accounts were the seventeenth-century life and times in all their barbarity and brilliance.

1608, Peter Mundy went to Rouen with his father when MS were found.

He began writing an account of his many travels in Europe and Asia as early as 1620, and continued his narrative at intervals thereafter up to 1667.

1914, a new print-on-demand hardback edition of the volume firstly published.

The author’s spelling, with his capitals, is strictly adhered to, but contractions have been written out in full and the punctuation has been altered where necessary for clearness.


The 3rd section of Peter Mundy‘s manuscript took the reader half-way round the world and provided unique and interesting information, especially as regards China and Madagascar.

The transcript, as before, is taken from MS. Rawl. A. 315, at the Bodleian Library.

The only other copies of this portion of the work that are known to exist are those at the British Museum and the India Office, both of which were made in the nineteenth century.

《Travels in England, India, China, etc. 1634-­1638》Volume III were published from Add. MSS. 19281, fol. 1 – 213, with only Relations XXI – XXVI.

《Travels in England, Western India, Achin, Macao, and the Canton River, 1634-­1637》Part 1 was named.

《China Voyage Homeward Bound》[rel. XXVI 1637] was the documentation by Peter Mundy made after his return from Japan.





1637-11-05, 1637-11-12, 1637-11-19, 1637-11-26 were the dates of Sundays.

On page 285 to 287《China Voyage Homeward Bound》[rel. XXVI 1637], there was a clue of “One Day of this Month, being Sunday”.

Peter Mundy recorded his business agenda or activities engaged but with nothing accounted on the second one.

1637-11-12, Sunday, should the Macau horses event by logical deduction.


On page 206 and 207《China Voyage Homeward Bound》[rel. XXVI 1637] Peter Mundy depicted:

Running at the Ring: Juego de Alcanzias

In this space there was running at the ring and Alcanzias in Macao, of which 2 or 3 words, as also of the place, inhabitants, etc., as Followed.

One Day of this Month, being Sunday, Some of us were on shore in the place de Santo Domingo, a spacious piece of ground leveled by art, where about 15 of 16 Cavaliers on Horseback ran at the Ring. It was 5 times carried away. This pastime hitherto I Never saw.

After this there was Jego de Alcanzias, much used in Spain. Alcanzias in Spanish is the name of those little round hollow empty earthen half baked balls with which they played, being like to such as are made For servants to gather Money at Christmas etc. Festivals, used also in Spain, the former taking the Name From the latter. Every Cavalier was bravely appareled, with an adarga, which is a great past board or leather buckler on his arm; One half of them like Moors of Barbary and the other half like Christians, each having their Negroes or Caphers [Kufir], Cladd in Damask, an ordinary wear here For slaves and Servants. These carried lances with pendants, whereon were painted their Masters Arms, but when they came to the game of Alcanzias, each Negro served his Master with the said earthen balls. This and Juego de Cannas performed after one Manner, only there canes are used instead of balls.

It resembles the play at Base used in our Country, viz, First comes out one in Defiance; another comes from the Contrary side to meet him; then the first flies, the 2d pursues and Flings his ball at him, the other carrying his adarga behind to guard his back; a third comes out to rescue the first; then the 2nd returns and Flies; a 4th scours him, and a 5th makes him retire, Flying always their balls on the Flight, And thus they continue until their horses and selves are weary. Their Horses are very small, but quick and Courageous (like our Cornish nagges), being of this country breed. There were among the rest 2 or 3 of a far larger size, but those are brought From Manila

In what the Portugals at Macao Do take delight in, with their recreations.


Footnotes on page 206:

1. From a remark in the Continuation of the China Voyage (Marine Records, vol. lXiii.), it seems that Peter Mundy was in charge of the house and business at Macao at this period.

2. The place de Santo Domingom, in the centre of the city.

3. Cavaliers, cavalleros, Portuguese as cavalleiros.

4. Mundy does not mean that the pastime was peculiar to Spain, but only that he had not hitherto witnessed it. Running or Tilting at the Ring, a variation of Running at the Quintain, was a popular sport in England and on the Continent in the 17th century.

5. Mundy‘s title is confusing. Juego is Spanish and Alcanzia is Portuguese. Lacerda, Portuguese Dictionary defines Alcanzia as “a thin pot full of ashes or flowers” and “Jogo de cavallo em que se faz tiro com alcanzias ” as “a sport used in Portugal where they had thin pots made, and riding, they throw them at one another, where they break on the armour.”


Footnotes on page 207:

1. little round hollow empty earthen half baked balls, special earthen boxes were used in Mundy‘s day by apprentices and servants for collecting Christmas doles.

2. Portuguese Adarga, from Perso-Arabic darga, a leather buckles or perkin.

3. Here again Mandy mixes up Spanish and Portuguese. He should have written Juego de Canas or Jugo de Cannas.

4. The Cantonese horses, which is not much larger than a Shetland pony, is bony, strong and surefooted. De Merga (p 276) described the horses brought from N. China to the Philippines as “small, very sturdy, of long step, vicious, quarrelsome, and ill-natured.”





Back to the original, these might be a vivid visualization by Peter Mundy, the famous merchant-adventurer:

‘…all the face of the earth, so far as we could see, was covered with people, troops of horses, elephants, etc., with innumerable flags small and great, which made a most gallant show.

Nevertheless, according to the full description by Peter Mundy, the possibility of horse racing, particularly thoroughbred flat racing could be ruled out.





Chairman P G Williams once said correctly that whereas Hongkong racing scene is famous throughout the sporting world, very few people today realize that Hongkong’s racing traditions stem from nearly 200 years of racing, in Macao, Peking, Shanghai, Tientsin, Hankow, Amoy.

1829-04-21, the earliest meeting covered by the English newspaper《Canton Register》was held, with an off-day following.

The newspaper commented that the races ‘have afforded so much rational amusement’ and were ‘a source of great gratification to the surrounding society’, meaning the Portuguese and the Chinese.





Macau Racing – 《RacingMemories.HK》



Acknowledgment to Museu de Macau for relevant data.





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