West Bali is famous for its thrilling water buffalo races, known as Makepung, introduced by Madurese migrants to celebrate the end of the rice harvest. The competitive races take place outside Negara in the regency of Jembrana, on make-shift circuits laid out on dry dirt tracks in the harvested rice fields. Here the skilled jockeys race each other on 2-wheeled carts made from modified wooden ploughs, or cikar, and pulled by pair of water buffaloes. Makepung is derived from the word kepung, meaning “chase”, and is a festive event for the locals with usually two rivalling villages competing and sometimes more than a hundred pair of buffaloes racing each other, in usually 3 different divisions.
For my favourite photo selection of the Makepung bull races click here.
Teams are divided into two clubs, the eastern division (east of the Ijo Gading River) in red, and the western division (west of the river) in green. In each heat of the race usually three pairs of buffaloes race each other. It is almost impossible to overtake and during pre-race heats judges determine who can start first, second and third.
To gain speed, the jockeys twist the bull’s tails and lash their backs with whips full of nails, a rather cruel and painful tool. Under this beating the heavy, normally docile buffaloes can reach spectacular speeds of up to 60 kph.
The buffaloes are also competing in a “best-dressed” competition and are beautifully decorated with colourful ornaments from “horn to hoof”, adding to an already colourful event.
Although there isn’t much price money to make, winning a race increases the value of the buffaloes to sometimes hundreds of million rupiah (tens of thousands dollar).
Most races are either trials or local competitions leading up to the most prestigious races of the year, such as the annual Regent’s Cup and the season-closing Governor’s Cup.
Makepung Calendar 2019
Note: all circuits are around Negara in the Jembrana regency, West Bali. Circuits can be changed depending on field conditions.
- Sunday, 14 July: Samblong Circuit (Governor Cup)
- Sunday, 28 July: Kaliakah Village Circuit
- Sunday, 11 August: Mertasari. Loloan Timur Circuit
- Sunday, 25 August: Sanghyang Cerik, Tuwed Village Circuit
- Sunday, 8 September: Delodberawah Village Circuit
- Sunday, 22 September: Kaliakah Village Circuit (Bupati Cup)
- Sunday, 6 October: Samblong Circuit
- Sunday, 20 October: Kaliakah Village Circuit
- Sunday, 3 November: Mertasari. Loloan Timur Circuit
- Sunday, 17 November: Sanghyang Cerik, Tuwed Village Circuit (Jembrana Cup - FINALS)
For my favourite photo selection of the Makepung bull races in Bali click here.