Cow/buffalo racing in Bali, Indonesia 20 Nov 2016
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Cow or buffalo racing (the animals are interchangeable) is an exhilarating and eccentric sport, and a great way to experience some local colour. Before racing, the cows or buffalos are colourfully decorated with elaborate headdresses, ribbons and flags. Each driver stands on a small cart pulled by a pair of animals. Racers don’t start side by side, but race in a line. In this way, no overtaking is necessary (which may prove dangerous). Instead, the winner is announced based on the distance between the carts at the start compared to the finish of the race – ie if the gap has widened, the first cart wins; but if the gap has reduced, then the second cart has effectively made ground, and will be deemed the winner.
In Bali, the most famous buffalo and cow-racing festival is Makepung (which literally means ‘buffalo-racing festival’ in Balinese). It takes place annually in Jembrana, West Bali, and can last for more than a month. Animals are fed well and trained in advance; cow racing preserves traditions of the past but has also become a matter of pride.
Visit magical Bali on Insight Guides’ Indonesia Island Hop trip; our local experts can time your trip to coincide with these festivities.