July 02, 2011

Kerapan Sapi Races (Madura Island)

Kerapan Sapi Races: The World kerapan sapi stems from an old Madurese word 'to work the soil'. The idea caught on from racing plowing teams. Like something out of Ben Hur, these thriling high speed spectacles of sleek racing bulls are held during the dry season at the time of the annual harvests, Aug-October.
The first rounds are small friendly village events (Kerapan Desa) with no requirements about the size and strenght of the bulls, or the skill of the handiers. These Elimination trials could run for months. Next are the subdistrict races held under government supervision. For these, the bulls are fed special foods like raw eggs (up to 50 a day), honey, medicinal herbs and beer. The winner may take part in the district races and then, if he wins, becomes eligible for more important regency races (Kerapan Kabupaten). The first races usually begin in April and the runoffs in May. Then comes the Grand Final (Kerapan Besar), this great fair is held in the town squere of the island's capital. Pamekasan. During the week prior to Kerapan Besar, Traditional games, ceremonies, parades of decorated bulls gamelan orchestras and nigth bazaars take place in all of the provincial towns. The night before the big race cattle raisers choose their best bulls and sing them to sleep. The next morning these animals are bathed, bushed, dand tenderly massaged. Their goat get like shiny burnished copper. Magificently adorned with ornaments, flowers, ribbons, and elaborate headresses, they are paraded throught the town under ceremonial parasols to the accompaniment of drums , gongs, flutes dan bells.There are often up to 200 participants. Around 9 or 10 am the field is cleared and a signal given for the first race to start. The bulls look heavy and awkward, but watch. On the glassy strightaway, 24 pairs of bulls are matched up. Ornament is then stripped off the bulls and they're lined up with their brightly dressed jockeys. Each is given a huge tot of rum from a bamboo tube. Gamelan music is played to excite the bulls. A 3-man judging panel takes its place. Dead silence before the race begins. Then the starters drops his flag and teams charge forward, the riders straddling skids slung between two yoked bulls, the rear of the skid trailing along the ground. Jockeys prod bulls with wooden sticks or flog them mercilessly with thorns and spiked rods. They can cover 100 m in 9 second flat, faster than the world's track record. Animals win by getting front legs, not noses or heads, across the line first. The triumphal team then parades around the stadium. After, the bulls are rubbed down and soothed to quiet gamelan. Those with the finest performances are used as stud. The owners of the winning bulls are held in quite high esteem in their villages. (Dalton,1978:175)

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