Move Over Spanish Bull Fights, India Has It’s Own List Of Cattle Sports

Spanish sports involving bulls is a phenomenon with worldwide attention. The ban of bull fights in Barcelona and the imminent ban on bull runs in Pamplona has once more raised questions on whether carnage should become casual and where would the limits of heroism exceed eccentricity.

But there is so much more to sports associated with bulls and buffaloes in India. Some are banned, some are out of popularity and some are facing legal restrictions.

These are the few sports events associated with cattle in India.


Where to find: Tamil Nadu (popular in areas around Madurai)

Season: Pongal the regional festival.

History: Jallikkattu is a centuries old tradition. It is mentioned in ancient Tamil Alvar poetry written in 3000 B.C.

Fun fact: There are myths of Lord Krishna battling a bull so that he could win Radha’s hand in marriage.

Preps: The Jallikkattu bulls are trained and bred well so that they become sturdy beasts. A strong bull is a pride of the farmer. Bulls are never killed or intentionally injured.

Issues: Supreme Court of India banned Jallikkattu in 2014 yet there are fans of Jallikkattu trying to preserve the tradition.


Bull fight in Alanganallore village in Madurai (Photo credits PTI)


Where to find: Kerala (in places where rice is cultivated)

Season: After the harvest season the land is prepared for the next crop by tilling. To raise the spirits, farmers organise a race among their best bulls.

History: Seems to have originated around the same time as Jallikkattu.

Fun fact: One who takes care of the bull also participates in the race and it is important that he finishes race with the bull. It is not just a show of strength but also about compassion and camaraderie between the steers and farmers.

Preps: The bulls are bred well that they can work better and faster but the bulls are not trained in combat. They are domesticated and treated like pets.

Issues: Since rice cultivation in Kerala has lost its popularity, there are not many Kalayottam events happening.

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Kalayottam in Palakkad (Credits: Sachin Polassery)


Where to find: Coastal Karnataka

Season: November to March.

History: Major tournaments are organised for the last twenty years under the patronage of few aristocrats and Kambala Samiti. The tradition is believed to be about three hundred years old.

Fun fact: Heavy bets are placed over buffaloes.

Preps: The buffaloes are domesticated and trained specially for the race. They are trained in swimming to develop stamina.

Issues: Animal lovers have campaigned against Kambala due to use of whips on the beasts. But the Kambala organisers declared the use of whips on buffaloes during the race as disqualifying.

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Kambala at Udupi (Image


Where to find: Punjab and Haryana

Season: April to June

History: It has been prevalent in some villages in Punjab. Large scale organised fete is in vogue for around a decade.

Fun fact: Popular in Punjab- both India and Pakistan

Preps: Extensive training is given for both the bullocks and drivers. Some bulls are castrated so that they can be controlled.

Issues: Banned in the rural Olympics of India Kila Raipur fest due to accused animal cruelty. The tradition is going downhill since then.


Bullock cart race in Kila Raipur fest

(Image credits-


Where to find: Goa and Maharashtra

Season: All the year round.

History: The sport has been a part of coastal life of Goa for about hundred years.

Fun fact: The bulls fights one another sans any direct control from humans unless in case of emergency. Bets are placed on bulls.

Preps: The bulls are trained and bred specially. The fight takes place in fenced area.

Issues: Banned in 1998. Yet there are small scale bull fights in villages like Caranzalem, Santa Cruz etc.

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Dhirio at Santa Cruz (Image Credits: PTI)


Cattle is an inimitable part of agriculture and transport in almost all civilizations. Cave painting from Indus Valley civilizations shows that bull fending and bull racing was popular in India since time immemorial. Yes, there are issues of animal cruelty when the sports beyond a village entertainment to a tourism promotion. But it is indeed amazing that there are so many varieties of cattle sports in our country.


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