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Getting oxen to fight




Every day, farmers in Kon village, Vinh Quang Commune, Kontum, in the Central Highlands, cross Dak Bla river, hundreds of metres wide, with sampans and bullock carts to get cassava
Photos:Thanh Trang


Vietnam Heritage, June-July 2011 -- The Hmong people in Mường Lống, Kỳ Sơn District, Central Vietnam, are among those in Vietnam who go in for bullfighting as a pastime. Whereas most bullfighting in Vietnam is done with buffaloes, the Hmong of Mường Lống train oxen.
Va Ba Di, of the Cultural Department of Kỳ Sơn District, said, ‘Fighting bulls are raised in most Hmong villages in Kỳ Sơn, and most are found in Mường Lống Ward. When it is time for big festivals, which often occur several times a year, hundreds of bulls from all corners of the villages are gathered.’
Every village has a bullfighting arena.
I went to Mường Lống during a bullfighting festival. Dozens of bulls were waiting. Thousands of villagers, dressed in colourful outfits, supported the fighting teams with drums and panpipes. A team of referees also acted as a security team to protect the audience.
Xenh Ba Gianh’s bull defeated Lau Giong Mua’s in less than 10 minutes.
The tournament lasted three days.
There was no reward for the champion, but a Chinese tourist bought the winning bull for $3,200.
Va Ba Ly, a fighting-bull-trader for 20 years’  said, ‘To become a fighter, the bull has to be strong and healthy. His horns have to be twice as long as a normal bull’s. His shoulders have to be large and muscular and his body has to be slim.’
Mua Sau Cho, a trader, said that although there were a couple of thousand bulls in Kỳ Sơn, it was not easy to find fighters. He had to go to Laos for them, sometimes finding nothing, after a month.
A bull cost VND10 million ($500) to VND25 million ($1,250).
Va Cha Xa, a bullfighting professional, said prospective fighters could not run free in the mountains like other bulls but had to be put in wooden cages with floors that protected them from the air coming from the ground. This promoted big, strong legs. Eventually the uncomfortable habitation annoyed the bulls and they turned belligerent.
In addition to the best grass from the forest, they had to be fed other special foods like rice soup, corn and potatoes.
Every few months they had training fights.

by Phan Sang
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