Buffalo fighting: An ancient tradition preserved

06:00 | 28/03/2021 Culture & Tourism

(VEN) - The buffalo has long been a close friend of Vietnam’s farmers, as reflected in the saying, “buffalo goes first, plow follows”. In many villages, however, buffalo are also known for their powerful fighting performances and the luck they are believed to bring spectators.

buffalo fighting an ancient tradition preserved

Buffalo owners have their own ways of training

The people of Hai Luu Commune in Vinh Phuc Province’s Song Lo District always remind each other that “No matter where anyone goes, they should return to the locality on the 17th day of the lunar calendar to enjoy the buffalo fighting festival and obtain luck for their trading business for the whole year.”

buffalo fighting an ancient tradition preserved

Special care

The buffalo fighting tradition dates to the second century BC when a local military leader, Lu Gia, decided to organize buffalo fights to encourage his soldiers to fight as powerfully as the buffaloes against the Chinese enemies.

The festival lasted with few interruptions until 1947 when residents joined the resistance war against the French colonialists. By 2002, the local buffalo fighting festival was restored, annually attracting tens of thousands of visitors from all over the country who come to enjoy themselves and seek luck.

In accordance with tradition, all losing buffaloes are slaughtered right after the end of the tournament while the winner is killed the next day as a tribute to the gods.

Do Thi Mai, Vice Chair of the Hai Luu Commune People’s Committee said that after each festival season, in February or March, buffalo owners “pack up their luggage” and go searching for new buffaloes to prepare for next year’s festival, Mai explained.

Lining up quality buffaloes for competition is a time and money-consuming effort. Buffalo owners say they have to search far and wide for satisfactory animals, from the northern mountainous provinces of Ha Giang, Tuyen Quang, Yen Bai, Lao Cai to the central and Central Highlands provinces of Thanh Hoa, Nghe An and Dak Lak.

buffalo fighting an ancient tradition preserved

Ha Huu Duyet is training fighting buffaloes

According to the village buffalo training veterans, the fighting buffalo must have a tough appearance. The minimum criteria required by organizers are age - at least nine years old, weight – 700 kg or more, and chest measurement – at least 2.05 meters. High quality fighting buffaloes are also required to have wide necks, balanced horns facing the front, small eyes, thick eyelashes and big legs.

Ha Huu Duyet from Dua Ca Village in Hai Luu Commune, who is a regular competitor said it is not a simple process to select and care for buffaloes until the fight date. He likened it to raising a child - always keeping the barns clean, bathing the buffalo in summer, and carefully shielding barns from the wind in winter. “I also grow corn, clean grass and make molasses for him. Every day I talk to him, scratch, rub his head and ears. This is called the ‘fattening’ stage, when the owner and the buffalo create a relationship, after which it is time for training sessions,” Duyet said.

Fighting techniques

Nguyen Van Quy, one of the buffalo training veterans in Hai Luu said that buffaloes have four basic fighting techniques. These include “Bo đao” or rushing at the opponent often right from the start, used by buffaloes with a ferocious streak; hooking eyes, often used by buffaloes with short horns that are flexible in advancing and retreating; tripping up the opponent; and locking horns to bring opponents down, used by buffalo with long horns. All fighting buffaloes have different advantages and shortcomings and owners must know how to promote their strength and limit their weaknesses.

Do Thi Mai said as this is a traditional festival, every buffalo owner wants his warrior to win. The prize is not as important as the honor since owners of winning buffalo are often admired for their selection and training methods. In 2020 and 2021, because of the Covid-19 outbreaks, the locality postponed this festival and focused instead on caring for the buffaloes and training them for upcoming competitions.

Hoang Lan