Pacu Jawi -Bull Races | West Sumatra / by Debra Wallace

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Pacu - Jawi | Pure bull power speeding through muddy rice fields

For generations the Minangkabau people, in the highlands of West Sumatra, have concluded their rice harvest with a celebration Pacu Jawi – Bull Races,  a competition pitting jockey’s and bull’s in a race across a muddy rice paddy. What a thrill (and challenge) to photograph!  

A festive atmosphere surrounds the races. Local farmers gather with their bulls to demonstrate their strength, good health and training. There were no prizes, but the best performing bulls demanded a higher price for the owner.  It felt like everyone in the surrounding communities was there for a day at the races.

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The jockey stands on a wooden frame and holds onto the bull’s tails. Since the bulls are only loosely tied it is up to the jockey to keep them together as they speed across the muddy paddy. If the bulls move in different directions the jockey needs extreme strength to hold them together or ends up in the mud to the cheers of the crowd.

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At the close of the races everyone needs a washing off: bulls, jockeys, spectators. And one muddy photographer!

 ©Sue Hewett

©Sue Hewett

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Debra