Sunday, June 19, 2011

Okinawan Bullfights

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Two bulls head-butting.  Both are being goaded on by
their handlers.
Two friends and I drove north today to watch a series of Okinawan bullfights.  The bulls on Okinawa don't fight a matador, instead they fight each other - butting heads until the will of one bull is broken and he runs.  It is sort of like an animal equivalent of sumo wrestling where two monstrously huge human bulls struggle to push each other out of the ring.

I didn't expect two bulls butting heads to be a blood sport, but I was quickly disabused of that notion.  There were ten matches scheduled for the day, and we sat through four - which was plenty.  The first match went for about twenty minutes, and the bull that eventually won had a bloody forehead.  Matches two and four were routs in which the dominant bulls (alpha bulls?) quickly managed to stampede their opponents.

The fellows squatting to the left in the ring are other
handlers who "tag" in about every two minutes.
Bull on the ropes.  Victim bull is lying on the ground
next to the wall.
It was the third match that managed to satiate the spectator's blood lust.  The bulls locked horns and pushed each other around for about twenty minutes before one broke and ran.  But the dominant bull wouldn't let him get off that easy.  He chased him to the wall of the pit where they were fighting and somehow managed to get his horns under the two or three thousand pound opponent and raise him about three feet where he slammed him into the guard rails that were protecting the audience.  Eventually the victim bull fell to the ground, but the bull with the killer instinct would not let him get up.  It took several handlers fifteen or so minutes to separate the fighters.  The loser had a big gouge in his lower abdomen.  He managed to hobble out of the arena, and is undoubtedly enroute to a slaughter house as this is being typed.

It was Father's Day, and probably half of the people in attendance were American Dads (and moms) and their kids.

A victorious bull decked out in two victor's blankets
and ribbons on its horns.
I'm glad that I went because now I have a fuller understanding of the Okinawan culture, but I doubt that I will ever do it again.

Young ballplayers rake the arena between bouts.

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