The area around Madura, in East Java and now part of Indonesia used to be famous for its pirates.
The area around Madura, in East Java and now part of Indonesia used to be famous for its pirates. The days of plundering have gone, and the Madurese have discovered another way of making money -- on the race track. But, unusually, the bets are not placed on horses, but bulls.
SYNOPSIS: Madura is a very barren island. Unlike the mainland of Java, the soil can't support intensive agriculture. But it provides reasonable grazing and cattle breeding is a major enterprise. On race days, it's the cattle that go under starter's orders.
Hundreds of visitors come to the island for the bull racing, or Kerapan Sapi as it is called in Madura. It has a long history, but unlike horse racing in Indonesia, it is a sport for masses, rather than the elite.
Tourists from Europe and America mix with visitors from the mainland for an event which began in the countryside, when plough teams raced each other across muddy rice paddies. Now things are much more sophisticated, and race days are an excuse for lots of ceremonial dancing and general merrymaking.
There are only two teams in each race. Any more could lead to Chaos, Because some of the bulls run wild and wide. The jockey rides on a wooden framed between the two bulls. And the accompanying belting is a s exciting as the racing. Gambling is officially illegal, but the authorities seem to allow it at the bull races.
It takes little more than ten seconds for the bulls to cover the course, so there is not much opportunity for tactics. The betting odds are not very spectacular, but the punters don't seem to mind. The trick is to pick an overall winner of the day, and there are plenty of hazards to contend with.
With no photo-finish equipment on Madura, a special jury decides the winner in a close race. It is a very partisan sport, with racegoers not just supporting a fancied pair of bulls, but representatives from their district or area. For the winning jockey, great honour, a cash prize and a silver trophy. A moment of glory and then back to the rice paddies until the next meeting.