The purpose of Cow Racing Festival is to celebrate the last day of the year-according to Khmer calendar. It is celebrated together with Sene Dolta, a festival similar to Vu Lan-an occasion for people to show respects towards their family members or friends who departed from life, from the 29th day of the 8th month to the 2nd day of the 9th month in Lunar calendar.
Overview of Cow Racing Festival
The festival takes place within the region of Bay Nui (seven mountains), An Giang province. The event of Cow Racing is so unique that there seems to be no other ones that could be muddier, more chaotic or more energetic. Before the competition, from several villages of An Giang province, best pairs of cows chosen for joining the activity go under special treatment for months—they are well fed and traditionally taught. On the racing day, pairs of cows are determined to compete with one another by drawing. They perform their skills on a rice field which must be really muddy and in a length of 120 meters.
When the race starts, with each pair of cows, the rider, holding a tow, will make them run as fast as possible by slashing. However, within a pair, the cows must maintain a same speed. The race is a circular track, including two laps. In the first round, pairs of cow are under control; meanwhile, in the second one, there is no holding back. Pairs which remain until the end of the event are those that manage to reach the finish line before their competitors. The one leading their cows to the first position will be awarded the greatest honor—being the bravest rider in the region.
To prepare for Cow Racing Festival, Khmer people choose a flat and wet rice-field with 200 meter long and 100 meter wide. To become a perfect area for cow racing, his rice-field must be muddy, surrounded by fence and safe stop. Racing course is about 120 meters long along the fence with the starting point also the ending point marked by a blue flag and a red flag.
Before the race, people choose pairs of cows to compete with each other by drawing. According to the rule, pair of cows running out of the racing course must get out of the competition. During the race, pair of cows trampling on the rake of the front pair will be the winner. Interestingly, the driver must stand steadily on the rake because falling out of the rake will be considered loser.
The unique and interesting point of cow racing is two cows are tied by a special rake. After the signal whistle of referee, the driver will hit into the cows’ asses with a tow. However, this driver must be very skillful in hitting two cows with the same energy to make them run with the same speed.
On the festive day, locals gather around the arena since the early. From the start to the end of the race, pairs of cows are always encouraged and urged by the inspiring and exciting atmosphere of simmering cheers and applause.
Coming to Cow Racing Festival, tourists will experience unique cultural festival of a characterized village in Mekong Delta. You will live in frenetic atmosphere, witness a oner race that you have never known before and get unforgettable memories about a new culture.
Some important information
From the very beginning until its end, the festival goes into rhapsodies with the sounds of clapping, cheering and encouraging. Enjoying the race, audiences only need to stand on a higher point in comparison with the mentioned muddy rice field.
- Time: 29th day of 8th lunar month to 2nd day of 9th lunar month
- Purpose: show people’s respects to dead family members (in Khmer community)
- Activities: cow preparation and cow racing among people’s loud cheers and applauses
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