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Jakarta Post

The muddy cow race of Tanah Datar

Fri, April 17, 2020   /   12:12 pm
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    A boy holds a bamboo frame that will be fitted to cows for a Pacu Jawi race. JP/Ramadhani

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    Jockeys prepare their cows prior to the race in a paddy field in Nagari Sungai Tarab, Tanah Datar, West Sumatra, on Jan. 4. 2020. JP/Ramadhani

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    Da Yus, a jockey, is covered in mud after completing his race. JP/Ramadhani

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    A jockey bites a cow’s tail to make it run faster. JP/Ramadhani

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    The Pacu Jawi competition attracts hundreds of spectators. JP/Ramadhani

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    Jockeys nibble some fruit prior to the race. JP/Ramadhani

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    Jockeys prepare to put bamboo frames on their cows. JP/Ramadhani

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    Jockeys bath their cows after the muddy race. JP/Ramadhani


A line of trucks carrying hundreds of cows descended to a muddy paddy field in Nagari Sungai Tarab, Tanah Datar, West Sumatra, on Jan. 4.

On the side of the paddy field, jockeys started to unload and prepare their cows for a race, locally known as Pacu Jawi.

In Pacu Jawi, two cows are fitted with a bamboo frame that a jockey attempts to balance during the race.

For more than 400 years, Pacu Jawi has been held to mark the end of the rice harvest season.

“Before I reached my school age, I followed my father to take our cattle to such competitions,” Kalis, a 75-year-old jockey, said.

Pacu Jawi, Kalis said, provided a chance for the locals to gather and enjoy the race together.

Another jockey, Asril, said that the fastest cows were not always the winners in Pacu Jawi.

“We’re looking for the ones that can run straight with good balance,” he said.

The Pacu Jawi race moves from one subdistrict to another every week. And anywhere it is held, Pacu Jawi always attracts a huge crowd. [yps]