Pacu Jawi Bull Races of Sumatra

Photo below was shot in 2013 at the extraordinary Bull Races at Pacu Jawi. These races are held by farmers after the paddy fields have been harvested. It's an adrenalin inducing event which is not for the faint hearted. To shoot the best photos, you'll have to stand directly in front of the stampeding bulls, hold your bladder, and step aside at the very last moment, a-la-matador style. Although several photographers have been hurt shoting this event, some have won prestigious international photography awards with photos shot at Pacu Jawi.  The 2013 World Press Photography Award for Sports Action, was won by my good friend Dr WS Chen,  with a photo shot at Pacu Jawi.

The Excitement of the Pacu Jawi Bull Races


Pachu  Jawi Bull Races


Pacu Jawi 1

Pacu Jawi literally means cow racing . Pacu is Race and Jawi is cow in the local Minangkabau Lingo. Its not really a race but a run of two bulls pulling a light sled each, on which the jockey places each leg. The jockey holds on to the  bulls tails with each hand.  To make the bulls go faster in the muddy field, he simply bites on the tails.

Its to demonstrates the strength of the owner's bulls, and  of course, for the jockeys, its a macho thingy to participate in such a dangerous sport. Dangerous for the bulls, the jockeys and the spectators too, as the bulls are virtually uncontrollable and frightened, and they run in any and every direction, and many times, over locals and photographers, brave and foolish enough to stand directly in their tracks to get the best view and the best pictures. Several people have been seriously hurt shooting Pacu Jawi, and those are really mean horns to get into your gut.

Here's a photographer trying to get out of harm's way as I fired a few more shots before simply stepping aside at the last moment, a-la-matador style. Actually, not quite, really. I didn't get to be this old by being bravely foolish. Being older and wiser, I was using a long lens, specifically a 70-200mm with a 2X multiplier, so I was at a reasonably safe distance. Only the  very  brave and the very, very foolish would use a 50 mm and stand directly in the path of the bulls. And the absolute nut cases are the ones chimping after each shot. You need to be alert all the time, shoot with both eyes open, and always have an escape route to run to, to avoid serious injury. To be absolutely honest with you, if the bulls are running straight at you, you should simply hold your ground and stand still. All bulls have eyes, and they want to  avoud you as much as you want to get out of their way.


 Pacu Jawi 2

Here's another shot of a couple of charging bulls at 20 meters. The jockey has completely lost control as he is flung off his flimsy ride yoke, and the bulls are simply running loose. It's the signal to run out of the way.

Charging Bulls

It's no fun being a jockey when your two bulls try to split you apart as they run in different directions.

Pacu Jawi 04

A jockey trying desperately to hang on after he lost his grip of the tail of one of his bulls. At this point he will normally fall off and thats when the bulls start running completely out of control.

Pacu Jawi 05

Here's another shot at 15 meters. And I think its probably getting a bit boring now so I'll stop  here.

Pacu Jawi 06

We are going back to Pacu Jawi to shoot the Pacu Jawi Bull Races from 5th to 7th April 2013. Please contact me if you'd like to shoot the Bull Races with me. Check out my full PhotoSafari program for 2013 HERE