‘Mekepung Lampit’: Water Buffalo Races in Jembrana Bali

In the purest sense, the traditional sports in Bali are reflections of the island’s culture, providing a window into the way of life of the Balinese people. These traditional games don’t only promote sportsmanship, but also provide recreational opportunities for the Balinese. From a bull race to mud wrestling and the island-wide kite competitions, these are three of Bali’s most popular traditional sport.

Makepung is the name of a major grand prix event in Jembrana, West Bali, which features racing buffalo races for farmers to celebrate a bumper harvest in Bali.  Once it was popular entertainment in the 1940s but was recently revived after decades of hiatus. Hundreds of pairs of buffaloes are teamed up together with their jockeys. They ride the traditional wooden ploughs that are slightly modified for the competition.  The racer buffaloes, or ‘kerbau pepadu’, compete in various open race circuits in assorted heats

Makepung is derived from the base word of kepung, meaning ‘chase’, similar to the expression ‘steeplechase’.  This unique race brings to life the agrarian way of life and effortlessly blends with the island’s traditional cultures to create a modern-day tourist attraction. It also promotes tourism to this far-flung western location. The competitions also provide positive impact on other local sectors such as agriculture and farming.  The tradition has partly prevented the shift of land for farming use. It has also encouraged the people to improve the quality of animal husbandry, raising winning buffaloes for the yearly events. 

In addition to the racing, visitors also get treated to a unique show known as the ‘buffalo fashion show’. During this show, these beautiful animals are dressed in animal clothing embellished with ornaments before been allowed to compete in the best-dressed section.

Makepung Bullock Races run each year and kick off early, usually by 7.30am, so if you would like to attend, make your way to the circuit in good time. The dates for each year’s event vary; however generally the heats take place each month on a Sunday morning from July to November.

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