Pacu Jawi (Indonesia)

Pacu Jawi (Indonesia)

Name of sport (game)

Pacu Jawi

Name in native language

Place of practice (continent, state, nation)

Pacu Jawi is the cultural tradition of Tanah Datar Nagari in West Sumatra, Pacu Jawi can only be seen in the Tanah Datar District.
Place of the race is changeable and takes place within several villages (nagari) of Tanah Datar. Traditionally, the tournament hosts are the villages of four Tanah Datar districts: Sungai Tarab, Pariangan, Lima Kaum and Rambatan. These four districts consist of 26 nagari (2014) at altitude between 550-700 meters (1800-2300 feet), having rice fields of 96.16 square kilometers (37.13 square miles) and more than 12,000 cattle (data from 2012).


The Pacu Jawi culture was initiated hundreds of years ago as a form of gratitude to people after the rice harvest.
Traditionally, the race can only take place where the altitude is 2,891 m where Marapi mountain is visible - allegedly the place of origin of the Minangkabau people living in West Sumatra. The local population is mainly engaged in agriculture, hence the race takes place on the rice fields when are empty after harvest, and are not yet used before the next crop.


Despite the name Pacu Jawi (literally 'bull race' or 'cow race' in Minangkabau), this is not a direct competition between animals. Each rider chooses his two best cows for the "team". Then he puts on a harness (ropes) and stands on a wooden plow connecting them, which has two functions. First of all, it creates a platform, unstable and not very comfortable, for a daredevil participating in the race. Secondly, it prevents animals from separating on the route. Animals are usually bulls between the ages of 2 and 13 whose run in pairs.

Before the start signal sounds, the animals are held by several men so that the rider can be sure that at least for the first few meters they will run straight. The START command for bulls is to pull the tails by a player or bite those tails. Players do not use lashes.
The animals cross a muddy track on the rice field. Races take place at various track lengths, including about 60 meters (200 feet), 100 meters (330 feet) or 250 meters (820 feet). The track can be covered up to 30 centimeters (12 inches) of mud.
The man behind them must cling to their tails to stay in the race and not fall off the team. Some animals run straight, others go off the track. So if the audience is not fast enough, then it comes in contact with cows or at least exposed to mud splashes.

Not everyone is able to take part in the competition because participants need continuous training, in Pacu not only the condition of the bulls is important, but also the fitness of the player himself. It is not easy to control running animals, although the team makes steering a little easier, even with high skills, from time to time the athlete falls into a mud puddle. In order to facilitate the control of two speeding animals, the competitor should assume a position similar to packthread. It is not difficult to guess that in the face of mud spurting everywhere, high speed, angry animals kept by the tails and unstable skids this task is extremely difficult.

Although it is called a "race", the bulls do not compete directly with each other and no formal winner is announced. Instead, viewers rate bulls based on their running (mainly speed and ability to run straight).
The biggest reward for the winner, in addition to recognition from the audience, is that the value of his animal's increases. A strong cow costs 5 to 7 million Indonesian rupees in Sumatra. For a racing cow that was successful in Pacu Jawi, its owner can demand up to six times more.

During the event, cattle that do not compete are kept in a separate area, often near the finish line. It is said that their presence encourages racing bulls to run faster into the herd.

Current status

Jawi Pacu competitions take place on the watery (muddy) rice fields, this tradition is still maintained and nurtured by the Tanah Datar community until now.
In the past, the event took place only twice a year, but the shortening of the rice harvest cycle allowed more frequent organization of Pacu Jawi competitions. Until 2013, one of the nagari hosted the competition every two months, each of which consisted of four events on Wednesdays or Saturdays. Currently Pacu Jawi races are a major attraction for local communities. They are so popular that individual provinces must fight for the rights to organize these races. The occupations themselves are often accompanied by fairs and ethnic music concerts.

The race takes place in parallel with the village festival (Minangkabau: alek nagari) called Alek Pacu Jawi ("bull racing festival"). Over the years, the festivities included processions of cattle dressed in suntiangi (traditional Minangkabau headgear), performances of traditional music such as Gendang tasa and talempong pacik, fairs and traditional games such as panjat pinang (fat pole) and kite competitions. In the past, all the costs were borne by the villagers, but now the organization of the competition and the festival is handled by the Tourism Office of Tanah Datar.


Every time the harvest season ends, the local people organize this cultural attraction. The main goal is entertainment and relaxation until the fields are ready to be sown again.
Currently, Pacu Jawi racing is a major tourist attraction of the region, and not only villages organizing competitions are involved in its organization, but also public and private organizations.

Sources of information



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