A dragon boat or "dragonboat" is a very long and narrow human-powered boat now used in the team paddling sport of dragon boat racing which originated in China in pre-Christian times. While competition has taken place annually for more than 20 centuries as part of folk ritual, it emerged in modern times as an international "sport" in Hong Kong in 1976. Like running, horse racing and marksmanship, the racing of dragon boats is among mankind's oldest organized competitions.
For competition events, dragon boats are generally rigged with decorative Chinese dragon heads and tails. At other times the decorative regalia is usually removed, although the drum often remains aboard for training purposes. In some areas of China, the boats are raced without dragon adornments.
Dragon boat races are traditionally held as part of the annual Duanwu Jie festival observance in China. 19th century European observers of the racing ritual, not understanding the significance of Duan Wu, referred to the spectacle as a "dragon boat festival" (literally, "long zhou jie" which is not the expression used in China to refer to this activity.) So this is the term that has become known in the west, even though it is not very authentic.