Cow Racing Festival of the Khmer in An Giang

If you are planning for a travel in the Mekong Delta, you should also spend time on exploring the ethnic culture of the place. And for that, witnessing the Cow Racing Festival of the Khmer in An Giang can be the perfect choice.

Every year, the Khmer people in southern Vietnam has many special cultural festivities, but the most three important events are Cholchnam Thmay taking place one week after the grave-visiting festival in the third month of the lunar calendar, Sene Dolta in late eighth lunar month and Ok Om Bok in the tenth lunar month. Therein, Sene Dolta is celebrated in all villages of the Khmer people, but the cow racing festival, part of the Sene Dolta, is the most striking event which takes place only in the Nui Bay region. Tours Indochina

Cow Racing Festival of the Khmer in An Giang
Cow Racing Festival of the Khmer in An Giang

Sene Dolta is a time for local people to pay tribute to their ancestors. This festival falls in the time when farmers are preparing for the autumn-winter paddy crop, and they usually take their cows to plow pagodas’ paddy fields free of charge. After work, the owners often hold competitions for fun among the cows to find the strongest ones.

Cow Racing Festival is organized on a flat rice field about 200 meter long and 100 meter wide. The rice filed used for cow racing festival must be muddy. The racing path for cow racing festival is 120 meter long. Before the cow racing festival, famers choose the best pairs of cows for racing. 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. Mekong river tours

Cow Racing Festival must be organized in a muddy flat rice field
Cow Racing Festival must be organized in a muddy flat rice field

 On the main day of cow racing, a lot of people living in the area will come to attend the cow racing festival. A lot of people also bring food so they can stay experience from beginning to the end of the cow racing festival.

Tourists will feel so surprised to witness such a strange competition because competitors have to go hand-in-hand and are tethered by a long bamboo stick. They have to drag the harrow and be driven by a man, who holds a rod to spur the pair of cows to run as fast as they can.

The festival attracts a lot of people coming to attend
The festival attracts a lot of people coming to attend

The rule of the game is simple. The racetrack, set in a muddy and slippery field, is some 120 meters long with both the start and finish lines marked with red and green flag poles; each pole stands five meters apart. Each race involves two pairs of cows and they will stand next to their pole. When the start command is raised, a pair will run first and the other will follow. If the latter treads on the harrow of the former, they will win immediately. Or, if they touch the finish line first, they will also win, and of course, the finish line of the former is farther than that of the latter.

After two rounds of rodeo to warm up the competition, the 120-meter-long sprint will decide the winners and the losers. The audience shouts for joy, while the sprint resembles a horse competition in a film of the Roman Empire period. The driver’s skill plays an important role for the tournament. The winning drivers are considered the bravest men of the region. According to the Khmer people, the winning pair of cows will bring good luck to villagers, so local residents will not sell but keep them as a precious property for the owners’ families as well as the villages.

Cow Racing is one of the cultural festivals of the Khmer in the Mekong Delta. It will make you understand more deeply about the culture of the Khmer in the Mekong Delta in particular and the Vietnamese in general.

I Love Vietnam.

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