Wednesday, 8 October 2014

What a load of bull

The distance echoed with a sound like thunder. As we turned the final corner aboard our rickety rickshaw the roar of the stadium filled our ears!

It wasn't even nine in the morning yet but it was already in the mid-thirties and everyone seemed oblivious to this apart from us. Paying our 5000 rupia (25p) at the ticket booth we emerged alongside a rough grass and sand track stretching off through the heat haze for 100m into the distance.

The atmosphere was like a county show but much much busier, with tuned tannoys blaring, large groups shouting and stalls and hawkers proffering their wares.

We were here to see the stars of the show, but we quickly became famous as the locals turned into paparazzi. After a few dozen obliged poses with our new friends we meandered our way through the crowds along the side of the track. We were invited to sit with the VIPs, but we wanted to be in the thick of the action so we politely declined.

Suddenly a roar went up, we turned to the track just in time to see the action we'd been searching for. A bridled pair of chestnut bulls, nostrils flaring and flanks pounding charged down the track, the rider screamed at them as dust boiled in their wake.

We had obviously read about the kerapan sapi or bull racing, that Madura is famous for, but nothing quite prepared us for the intensity, raw power, noise and above all speed. Young teenage boys fight to control the beasts harnessed in a bamboo plough. The young lad is perched on the beam of the plough (long rod in the middle, and the plough is without its digging part).

These bulls were bred especially for racing and fetched a high price, thousands of dollars for a champion stud. The bull duos, with rider in tow, can cover 100m in under 9 seconds, no slow cooked beef here!

We found a seat high up in the grandstand, next to what looked like serious pundits. Wizened, leather faced cowboys huddled around race cards. They were at times hard to see through the smog of cigarette smoke that billowed forth from them. They were a friendly, if toothless, bunch and we developed sign language for indicating the success of a race bull team.

After watching the races from the stands we braved a turn at the end of the track, where groups of men waited to observe the rampaging bulls hurtling towards the finish line. As the bulls cross the finish line in a cloud of dust, their brave rider throws himself onto the top of the central beam to slow them down, whilst the entourage wave to halt the beefy mass.

It was a great position to get some good photo shots, and Chris liked playing 'chicken' with the impending chariot. Sarah, being the only woman hanging around the finish line attracted significant (and highly justified) attention with many admirers requesting photos and finding the fair haired beauty far more interesting than the races.

The races continued until around 5pm but with temperatures soaring we were literally half baked by early afternoon. Plus, how much fun can you have at the races when there's no drinking or gambling?!

(click on the pictures below to get a closer look)

There appeared to be different age categories for the bulls, some looked no more than a few years old

Up in the stand you get a grand view of the races

... the wins and losses...

....but down at the finish is where the real action is

Mind you some don't always finish well

The start is just as chaotic

You still get pundits as with any sport

Competition is fierce with teams, towns and villagers from all over Madura competing during August and September to try and get to the grand final

 They bring their supporters and Gamelan bands

 But ultimately...'s not about the taking part....'s all about....


Please feel free to leave comments or feedback using the link below. Thanks.


  1. Looks great, good work on the photos!

    1. Thanks mate, definitely an adrenalin filled experience!

  2. Gosh reminds me of the camel racing I used to watch in Dubai!! They even blinker some of the bulls, just like horseracing! Awesome photos!!xxx