INDONESIA- Cow Racing Pacu Jawi Style!

INDONESIA- COW RACING PACU JAWI STYLE is a weekend event not to be missed!

Story by Mina Thevenin & Photography by Sis Jimbo

Pacu Jawi is a weekend event in West Sumatra, Indonesia. It is sporting, community-minded and can bring a financial gain for those fortunate to sell a winning team!

(Click on any image to view photography as a slideshow.)

One hand in PACU JAWI shows the jockey’s strength and balance as he steers his oxen in unison and demonstrates their might and teamwork.

PACU JAWI   Hmm, the weekend is fast approaching and what are we going to do in West Sumatra, Indonesia…anyone for Indonesia Cow Racing-Pacu Jawi Style?  

For hundreds of years(1), many farmers and neighbors like to get together on the weekends and have fun.  Don’t we all? But only in Indonesia can you have Pacu Jawi fun! Not just an annul event, but every Saturday and Sunday of every month there is Pacu Jawi. It is INDONESIA- COW RACING PACU JAWI STYLE!

©ARENA PACU JAWI. Photograph by Sis Jimbo, Indonesia.

What is this Indonesian craze? Pacu means “fast” and Jawi means “cow” or “ox” in Indonesia. The Cow race. Local farmers and cow or ox breeders race the big creatures in muddy paddy fields for the simple spirit of fun and happiness and possibly for bringing a higher price of sale for their bovine- especially if the pair of jawi and jockey can run as a team from point A to point B- a straight line run of approximately 20 to 30 meters, 75 to 100 feet, (90 feet is the distance between home plate and first base in baseball) and if they can run within the boundaries of the muddy paddy field without the jockey falling down!

The muddier the better! The spectators go wild with the thrill! In an often hilarious, but focused race, the farmer-turned-jockey rides on the tethered jawi by standing on the curved wooden rails of the plow that loosely bind the two animals together and offer the jockey a place to stand and steer with his feet and hands during the, hopefully, straight in-line run. Unlike horse racing where all the horses and their jockeys compete against each other by running the same race at the same time, Pacu Jawi racing is the focus of one oxen team and its jockey at a time. Once the race begins the jockey bites the tail of one ox to get it a fast start, knowing that the other  will follow its lead (even though the animals are side by side) and so the jawi pair take off in a run! Sometimes the jockey bites the tail again during the race for another burst of speed, similar to a thoroughbred horse race jockey using a whip.

Moving Jawi to the starting line in the Pacu Jawi arena.

The jawi often want to separate and run wide apart from each other. This results in the jockey attempting to straddle, the now, wide wooden runners as best he can without, hopefully, falling into the mud. However, many times the jockey bites the dust, or in this case the mud, and the race is over. The winning jawi pair can bring several hundred to several thousand dollars if they prove to show their strength, speed and ability to swiftly run the straight line.

So if you are in West Sumatra, Indonesia and watch the mid-day Pacu Jawi, do watch out in case a jawi team runs off the paddy field and through the crowd! But know that they are not being aggressive cows, they are just fast running bovine- it is, after all, INDONESIA- COW RACING PACU JAWI STYLE!

(1) Paku Jawi History and Events,



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