Buffalo-fighting in Hai Luu commune, Lap Thach district
In the spring sunlight, the buffalo-fighting yard in Hai Luu commune looks like a giant pan of fire. The buffaloes, which from afar resemble dark tanks, crash into one another to the sound of martial drums and the frenzied shouts of more than 20,000 people. Onlookers climb the nearby hills to watch the commotion as this patch of land in Vinh Phuc province is transformed into a battleground.
Each buffalo has a distinct method of attack: charging headlong into an opponent; lifting an adversary onto its hind legs, exposing the vulnerable underbelly; or jabbing the eyes, ears or neck with its horns. Determining the loser its simple – it’s the buffalo that dies or runs away first.
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In one of the fights, a buffalo is killed by a ho lao strike, prompting festival organisers to remove the carcass in a truck. Some of the fights get out of control.
Some buffaloes visibly despise the violence. When they are supposed to charge one another, the more docile opponents just nuzzle. But this is rare – more often than not, the green grass of the field is covered in blood by the end of a fight. The fiercer the clash, the louder the applause from the crowd.
A good fighting buffalo must not be castrated and must have one or all of the following: big horns, a large neck, short legs, red eyes, thick cilia, strong and good-looking teeth, and a strong and red scrotum (affectionately dubbed the “gear box”).
It used to be that each hamlet in a village had to have two to six fighting buffaloes to join the festival, but since 2002 when the festival was revived , Hai Luu started entering contenders in a new way: as ‘joint stock’ fighting buffaloes. Households and individuals will pool resources to buy a buffalo, with the largest shareholder considered the owner. The shareholders will elect a council to find and buy a hearty beast and choose a happy, wealthy family to raise and train it. This family has to promise to take good care of the animal and not use it to plough. It is fed with good grass, sugar cane and cassava. Every month, the shareholders will convene to check the development of the buffalo. When festival time comes around, the buffalo is even fed rice gruel, tonics and given massages.
Unfortunately for the buffalo, this good treatment is short-lived. At the end of the festival, all of the contenders – regardless of whether they win or lose – are slaughtered and fed to the crowd. Although it may seem strange to eat the entertainment, village residents say the meat is some of the best they’ve ever tasted.
TRUNG TÂM THÔNG TIN - XÚC TIẾN DU LỊCH VĨNH PHÚC
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