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Home » Bukittinggi » Pacu Jawi: West Sumatra’s Thrilling Bull Races across Muddy Ricefields

Pacu Jawi: West Sumatra’s Thrilling Bull Races across Muddy Ricefields

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  1. Bukittinggi

    Bukittinggi, West Sumatera.
  2. Jam Gadang

    Jam Gadang, Bukittinggi, West Sumatera.
  3. Kota Bukittinggi

  4. Kota Bukittingi

  5. Jam Gadang



No wheels, no engines, no pads, - only pure bull power speeding through muddy ricefields that gives spectators that unbelievable adrinaline rush: this is what Pacu Jawi is all about.  

Held every year to celebrate the end of the rice harvest, Pacu Jawi is a traditional Bull Race held in the Minangkabau highlands of West Sumatra. This extraordinary spectacle can be enjoyed only at the Limapuluh Kota Regency and several districts in the Tanah Datar Regency including: Sungai Tarab, Rambatan, Limo kaum, and Pariangan.

Bull Racing is an age-old tradition that can be found in many parts of the Indonesian Archipelago. In Bali, there is the Makepung, and on the island of Madura of East Java, there are the annual Karapan Sapi competitions. But unlike the Makepung or Karapan Sapi that are held on dry soil, the Pacu Jawi takes place in a more dramatic setting in knee-deep muddy tracks in flooded rice paddy fields. The splashing of mud as the bulls race through the field is the signature action of Pacu Jawi.

Part bull ride, part mud skiing, Pacu Jawi is truly a unique sport. Instead of using lashes or spiked wooden sticks  for the jockey to drive the bulls (as they do in Karapan Sapi), the Jockey of Pacu Jawi simply stands on the plow between two rushing bulls, biting the tails of booth bulls to goad and speed them on. At times this causes the animals to pull apart in opposite directions, leaving the jockey completely nonplussed.

In the Pacu Jawi competition, the teams of bulls and jockeys are not actually racing together all at the same time. Instead, each team - two bulls and their jockey - is required to run separately in a straight line at the fastest rate from start to finish in individual runs. The team that succeeds to run the track in the straightest and fastest run is crowned the champion, since bulls are indeed very difficult to control.

To rein in the bulls while the jockey gets into position and prepares for the race, no less than 6 to 8 men are needed. Once they let go of the animals, it will then be all up to the skills of the jockey to run the race alone. Meanwhile, spectators remain wary, prepared at any time to disperse should a bull suddenly decide to leave the track.

These exceptionally thrilling Bull Races are said to have originated from a small town called Batusangkar in the Tanah Datar Regency. Held as entertainment to celebrate the harvest, this is truly an exciting attraction that expresses the joy of the farmers.  It is an attraction started by farmers as a fun activity awating the next planting season.

These races also determine the price of the bulls when they are auctioned. The faster and the stronger the bulls, the higher the price they can fetch in the market later the next day.

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Oct 2015

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Pacu Jawi: West Sumatra’s Thrilling Bull Races across Muddy Ricefields

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