Ram fighting (locally termed as Seni Ketangkasan Domba Garut) is an age old tradition that hails from West Java, Indonesia and has a strong threshold in Sundanese culture. During my 11 months in Indonesia, I did my fair share of unconventional stuff like – uncovering secret drinking holes, switching houses 6 times, helping a local bar host events (BBQ’s, beer pong, poker), exploring ghost caves at 2 am and well lots more. However, the ram fights stand out as an interesting event.
Before, I tell you more, I must remind my readers that I am a true blue animal lover. I can’t stand animal cruelty so I was a bit skeptical of how this event would turn out. To my surprise, the ram owners took great pride in their sheep. They would scrub their horns, groom their wool, decorate them with silver necklaces and proudly show them off to anyone who might be interested. They care about their sheep and if there was an eventually of a ram getting hurt, the referee would be quick to stop the fight. So, it is more like a tradition and game of pride among Sundanese people, rather than actually hurting the beautiful sheep.
All about Ram Fighting
Rams which partake in the fight are highly skilled and are trained for months by their owners prior to a fight. Be it running , swimming or head butting, they are trained & fed like professional wrestlers. Just like a wrestler in a ring, they are poised, agile, fearless and bold.
Ram fighting in Bandung has gained popularity over the decades. The fight takes place is remote villages on the outskirt of town – the location changes every week so you should ask locals. There is no entry fee to the event and everyone is welcome.
Hundreds of people gather early morning with their rams in pick-up trucks. Next, the sheep are ushered (usually by 2 to 4 people) in lines next to the arena. They are groomed again in preparation for the fight.
The sheep are divided into 3 categories – A. B and C. Class A sheep are the heaviest which also means they are allowed up to 20 head collisions, B & C stick to 10 each as they are lighter in weight and can be harmed with too much head butting. The rules are very strict in order to safe guard all sheep from any injuries.
Each round lasts 3 minutes unless a sheep is injured , in which case, the referee would stop the match immediately. There is a jury in place to determine the winner. Prizes range from refrigerators to television sets, washing machines and other household appliances.
There are various criteria on which the jury’s decision is based. These include, but are not limited to –
- Boldness while attacking and force of collision
- Poise and style before attacking the opposing sheep
- Overall beauty, color or wool and attractiveness of horns
- Physical health and agility & more.
The event usually takes place every Sunday in Bandung and other parts of West Java. Traditional music, loud drums and constant announcements are made to enthrall the audience and keep them hooked. It is no wonder that ram fighting is rising in popularity as a source of entertainment for locals and tourists (We were the only “tourists” there though).
Here is one of the many ram fighting videos we took during the event and it gives you an idea of how a typical fight goes –
Special thanks to James, Michael and Tami for taking me to this event and helping me put this piece together.