Looking to learn about an authentic experience you will not see anywhere els in the world? Pacu Jawi is a unique tradition every traveler should add to their bucket list!
- Bull race
- Mud splashes
- Photography opportunities
- Jockeys expressions
- Local people
- Crowd emotions
- Culture and festival area
- Welcoming locals
- Local cuisine
- Loose running bulls
The Pacu Jawi (Minangkabau people locally translates it as “bull race”) is a traditional bull race at Tanah Datar region in West Sumatra, Indonesia.
2 strong bulls are loosely tied at the front and jockey stands between and holds on to bulls tails. In the single race the bulls cover about 60–250 meter of wet and muddy track in a recently harvested rice field. Bulls (male cows ) commonly are between 2-13 years old, and run in pairs. Outside of the races bulls are just regular help in local agriculture. However Local people believe in breeding bulls and giving them correct attention will result in bull performing better in races.
Although it is called a”race”, the bulls do not directly compete against each other. There is no formal winner or rewards as medals or cups. As an alternative, audiences judge the bulls by their operation (mostly their rate and their ability to run straight and fast). Best performing bulls increase their value well above their normal price, and could be bought off by spectators or other jockeys.
You may hear a lot of cheering and loudly emotion once audiences have detected unpredictable bull behaviour or jockeys capacity to maintain them together. As well as there might be curious moments jockeys splashing in to mud or getting split between two bulls.
The people of Tanah Datar, notably the nagaris (village people) in a few of its own districts have already been running the festival for years and years to celebrate the finish of the rice harvest.
The race is held simultaneously with a village festival of culture called `”Alek Pacu Jawi”. Recently it is has become a tourist attraction encouraged by the government and the groups of multiple award winning photographers.
The Pacu Jawi is performed in Tanah Datar, one of the central regencies of West Sumatra. As per old tradition, the races can only be held where the local volcano(Mount Marapi) has previously erupted. That place is to be called and acknowledged as the origin of the Minangkabau people who cover West Sumatra’s land.
Festival is hosted by the region’s agrarian inhabitants. Races takes places when the rice field areas are vacant. Starting after harvest as celebration and until the next planting. The race originated as post-harvest entertainment and a celebration party for the villagers and has been taking place for years and years, predating the Indonesian independence.
In the past, the celebration had been held just twice per year, but the shortening of rice harvest cycle has allowed more common instalments of Pacu Jawi. Nowadays there’s a event almost every week in different locations. Shorter rice harvest windows and fame from overseas and local people contributes to regular events.
Traditionally, the organisers are the local nagaris in four of Tanah Datar’s devisions: Sungai Tarab, Pariangan, Lima Kaum and Rambatan. Together, these four communities combine of 26 nagaris and covers over 95 square kilometres of actively used rice fields. All the communities has over 10000 bulls and cows.
Various examples of this race, clarify various lengths of the course, for example around 60 metres (200 feet ), 100 metres (330 ft),along with 250 meters (820 ft).
The bulls are trained to start running when the plough is grounded on the rice field and somebody steps on it. The jockey controls both the animals and remains standing and holding to the tails of the bulls. Then is up to jockey to handle bulls behaviour, keep them straight and fast as well as deal with all the coming mud splashes.
The jockey does not carry any gloves or whip. The rope connecting the animals is loose, the animals are likely to attempt to run into different directions, and here comes the jockey’s talent and ability to keep them running together while also struggling to remain upright him self.
Spectators, including international tourists, watch the race, usually out of a much cleaner and drier patch of field higher than the trail. Part of the fascination is the bulls’ abrupt behaviour, frequently evoking the jockey to fall or to perform manoeuvres like biting a bull’s tail to make it run faster.
Mud splashes anywhere, for example on local spectators, taht watch race from close. Bulls may also run off the track in to the audiences direction. Injuries, notably for the jockeys, can be common. No winner is announced, but spectators judge the bulls. As a measure using bulls speed, strength, and their capacity to stay straight on the track.
Pride and motivation
Traditionally, the ability to keep straight is important, and it’s intended to show people who individuals who follow the right course deserve the maximum respect and honour. Owning a well-performing pair of bulls may be source of pride for the locals. Therefore spectators could buy such bulls up to 2-3 times their usual price. This possible benefit is one of the main motives among participants.
Hundreds of cattle participate in a Pacu Jawi. Many participants comes from all the villages close by
Recently Tanah Datar’s Tourism Office provides funding and trucks for hauling the animals. Before the government involvement, cattle used to travel up to 50 kilometres by foot (often during the night).
Arriving at the event, the cows which aren’t currently racing are retained in a separate area, frequently close to the finish line. Their presence is believed to encourage the racing bulls to run faster as recognising resting area.
Pacu Jawi has drawn national and global photographers and has become a subject of several award-winning photographs. Aesthetic factors associated with the big event include its dramatic high speed action, mud splashing, and also the distinguishing jockey facial expression and posture.
Adding to the attraction, Tanah Datar is popularly famous because of its natural views, for example Mount Marapi sceneries, green tropical plants, and endless rice fields. In order to take fantastic photographs, photographers often have to come closer to the track comparing to the overall spectator area. This gives them a risk getting soaked by mud and one must be careful about bulls going off track.
Awards won by photographs of Pacu Jawi include the World Press Photo of the Year, Hamdan International Photography Award and The Daily Telegraph’s Digital Camera Photographer of the Year.
Prepare to get a little muddy if you want to get close to the action! We recommend:
- Have an extra pair of clothes.
- Don,t wear your fancy clothes.
- Have proper shoes for muddy ground.
- Sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sun cream, etc.)
- Fully charged camera and extra batteries, memory cards.
- pocket towel, for you and camera.
- Sandals to replace your muddy boots afterwards.
- Covers for the camera/camera lense to protect it from the mud
- Know exactly where is happening the race as it might be one of 14 regencies.
- Know some basic local language or have a guide with you.
It is possible to order specially located seats and podiums for photographers as well as arrange shooting before after and during the race with bulls.
Note that province has 14 regencies be sure you know the right village the bull race is held . make sure to be in time as the festival is popular among locals. race tracks are typically located away from accessible roads and parking spots, taht could mean that you have to walk for 1-2 km to the actual track.
When visiting Pacu Jawi festival you will be able to not only see the bull races but come close to natural villages, nature and rice fields. This is a great way to see all classes of Minangkabau people coming together. Traditional music playing in the background, local food and crafts accessible on the place. Don’t be surprised to receive invite to wedding or request for a selfie.
Calendar of PACU JAwi in 2019
November: 2- 9- 16- 23. Located: KEC .Rambatan
Decemeber: 7- 14- 21- 28 Located KEC. Pariangan
Check the Map of next Pacu Jawi events. Note that it is not precise location, you will need to refer to locals or local tour agency to find precise directions as fields might change due to seasonality.
You can get there easily together with us and make sure to get the best spot and be there on time with no hustle. It is also possible to drive there with motorbike or car or even public transport( make sure to research it right as the locations and schedules change quite often ).
Need help ? Contact us and let know how can we make your trip amazing!