efe-epaJohannesburg/Cape Town/Harare/Nairobi

The onset of online betting and a need to address workers' rights have begun to change the nature of horse racing in some African countries, as seen in images captured by epa-efe journalists.

A three-day strike by black grooms in June over low wages and poor labor conditions at South Africa's North Rand Training Center in Randjesfontein, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Johannesburg, which ended up canceling races before a deal was struck with trainers to improve the circumstances, prompted epa-efe journalists to begin a photo-reportage on the state of the sport in several African nations.

"Racing is a hobby and a sport for many. When it becomes unpleasant‚ people will simply turn elsewhere," trainer Mike de Kock warned in comments to South African daily Times Live at the time.

The trainer said he recognized the right to protest and was committed to fixing what was wrong, "but not under the threat of violence."

Horse racing has a long history in South Africa and can be traced as far back as 1795 when it came to the Cape along with the British Empire.

It provides thousands of jobs and contributes to the country’s economy, but in recent years the sport has seen a decline in the number of spectators.

Turffontein Racecourse in Johannesburg, which was built in 1887, was losing punters, according to an epa-efe journalist, with conventional racing now competing with online betting sites.

However, in Kenya, the sport has gained popularity among a new generation of youths who enjoy live-betting and consider they can win more immediately in the world of horse racing, rather than having to wait 90 minutes or more for a soccer match to play out.

Whereas horse racing was in the past considered a leisure hobby of the elites, online betting has opened up the sport to a new concept: an opportunity to bet in other African countries.

Meanwhile, far from the world of big money bets and fashionable outfits of professional race meets, local tribesmen in Lesotho, a landlocked country high up in a mountain range and surrounded by South Africa, staged their annual horse race in July as part of a tradition that marks their king’s birthday.

At some 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) high above sea level, they took to open ground in freezing cold mid-winter temperatures for a day of betting, racing and drinking.

Horses are commonplace in Lesotho, where they are relied on for getting around and owned by most families.

Nearby Zimbabwe has over 75 years of racing history, where many of the horses used in competitions like the "OK Grand Challenge" and "Castle Tankard" are imported from South Africa.

The availability of racehorses took a hit almost 20 years ago when fields belonging to thousands of white farmers were seized during land reform under then President Robert Mugabe, an epa-efe journalist said.

Besides bringing entertainment and employment in the form of grooming or betting shop work to Zimbabwe, horse racing has also presented charitable opportunities.

The proceeds of the recently-held "Commander Zimbabwe National Army Charities" horse race in Harare went towards helping underprivileged members of the armed forces and their dependents.