July 12, 2020

The Jembrana region is known for its competitive water buffalo races (Makepung), introduced by Madurese migrants to celebrate the end of the rice harvest. Makepung is derived from the local Balinese word ‘kepung’ which translates as ‘chasing’.

The thrilling races take place on tracks outside Negara, beginning early in the morning before the heat make the big bulls sluggish. Many locals attend this festive event, the most popular bull races on the island, with much cheering and frenetic betting occurring.

On the day of the finals, enthusiastic visitors will gather to cheer on the racing bullocks. In addition to the racing, visitors also get treated to a unique show known as the ‘buffalo fashion show’. During this show, these beautiful animals are dressed in animal clothing embellished with ornaments before been allowed to compete.

Prior to the race, the bull’s horns are painted and decorated harnesses and silk ribbons are placed around their necks. After teams are paraded before the crowds of spectators, their ornaments are stripped off and brightly clad jockeys mount the bulls. Each pair of bulls pulls a small two-wheeled cart manned by a jockey over a 2 km stretch of racecourse. Entrants are judged not only for speed, but are also awarded for strength, colour, and style. The farmers and their buffalos come to race for honour, pride and the trophy, rather than just for money. These heavy, normally docile animals can reach speeds of up to 60 km/h. The winning bull are used as studs and fetch up to twice market value when sold.

Due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, it is likely that the Bali government may cancel the Makepung Race this year. Please check ahead of time if you plan on travelling to the area.

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