Photos | Holding on for dear life: Mud bull racing in Indonesia

On Indonesia's Sumatra Island, a centuries-old traditional bull race known as Pacu Jawi, held traditionally after the rice harvest season is a pretty serious. Once the emerald paddies have been cleared, fans and spectators gather along a muddy track to cheer on fearless jockeys who hang on to a pair of bulls by their tails and attempt a quarter kilometre run through the mud. The winner can net a bull worth as much as $1,050 if they win a month-end tournament -- a princely prize in a country where many live on a few dollars a day.

UPDATED ON DEC 03, 2018 12:39 PM IST 8 Photos
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Waves of muddy water slosh over a jockey as he hangs on to the tails of a pair of bulls galloping across a rice paddy during a traditional bull race locally called Pacu Jawi in Pariangan, Sumatra. (Adek Berry / AFP)

Waves of muddy water slosh over a jockey as he hangs on to the tails of a pair of bulls galloping across a rice paddy during a traditional bull race locally called Pacu Jawi in Pariangan, Sumatra. (Adek Berry / AFP)

UPDATED ON DEC 03, 2018 12:39 PM IST
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It’s a wet-and-wild ride in this remote pocket of Indonesia’s Sumatra island, where this traditional bull racing is serious business. (Adek Berry / AFP)

It’s a wet-and-wild ride in this remote pocket of Indonesia’s Sumatra island, where this traditional bull racing is serious business. (Adek Berry / AFP)

UPDATED ON DEC 03, 2018 12:39 PM IST
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The centuries-old races once heralded the end of rice harvesting season when the emerald paddies had been cleared. Nowadays, hundreds turn up to cheer on fearless jockeys who can net a bull worth as much as $1,050 if they win a month-end tournament -- a princely prize in a country where many live on a few dollars a day. (Adek Berry / AFP)

The centuries-old races once heralded the end of rice harvesting season when the emerald paddies had been cleared. Nowadays, hundreds turn up to cheer on fearless jockeys who can net a bull worth as much as $1,050 if they win a month-end tournament -- a princely prize in a country where many live on a few dollars a day. (Adek Berry / AFP)

UPDATED ON DEC 03, 2018 12:39 PM IST
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The rules of the race are simple. Jockeys grab on to the bulls’ tails and race one at a time down the paddy as fast as they can. Sometimes a pre-race bite to the tail gets the animals in a galloping mood. (Adek Berry / AFP)

The rules of the race are simple. Jockeys grab on to the bulls’ tails and race one at a time down the paddy as fast as they can. Sometimes a pre-race bite to the tail gets the animals in a galloping mood. (Adek Berry / AFP)

UPDATED ON DEC 03, 2018 12:39 PM IST
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A jockey hits the mud during the race. Andri Majoni, a 42-year-old jockey, would be a senior citizen in most professional sports but has no plan to give up racing, despite plenty of bruising tumbles over the decades. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years. And I love this sport -- there are so many ups and downs,” the mud-soaked jockey told AFP. (Adek Berry / AFP)

A jockey hits the mud during the race. Andri Majoni, a 42-year-old jockey, would be a senior citizen in most professional sports but has no plan to give up racing, despite plenty of bruising tumbles over the decades. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years. And I love this sport -- there are so many ups and downs,” the mud-soaked jockey told AFP. (Adek Berry / AFP)

UPDATED ON DEC 03, 2018 12:39 PM IST
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A mud drenched jockey after a fall. Another rule says that the riders have to stay upright for the 250 metre race or it’s all over. Injuries are part of the job. “I broke my hand once, but that didn’t scare me off -- I kept racing,” said Zainal, a 37-year-old jockey. (Adek Berry / AFP)

A mud drenched jockey after a fall. Another rule says that the riders have to stay upright for the 250 metre race or it’s all over. Injuries are part of the job. “I broke my hand once, but that didn’t scare me off -- I kept racing,” said Zainal, a 37-year-old jockey. (Adek Berry / AFP)

UPDATED ON DEC 03, 2018 12:39 PM IST
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For Patria, a 15-year-veteran of the races, it’s important to pass the sport on to the next generation. “This is a tradition handed down from our parents,” he said from a water-logged rice paddy. (Adek Berry / AFP)

For Patria, a 15-year-veteran of the races, it’s important to pass the sport on to the next generation. “This is a tradition handed down from our parents,” he said from a water-logged rice paddy. (Adek Berry / AFP)

UPDATED ON DEC 03, 2018 12:39 PM IST
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While animal racing can be seen in other parts of the vast Indonesian archipelago -- including buffalo racing in Bali -- locals in West Sumatra insist their version is one-of-a-kind. “I like watching the Pacu Jawi races because they only happen here,” said spectator Anis Marsela. “You’re not going to see this anywhere else.” (Adek Berry / AFP)

While animal racing can be seen in other parts of the vast Indonesian archipelago -- including buffalo racing in Bali -- locals in West Sumatra insist their version is one-of-a-kind. “I like watching the Pacu Jawi races because they only happen here,” said spectator Anis Marsela. “You’re not going to see this anywhere else.” (Adek Berry / AFP)

UPDATED ON DEC 03, 2018 12:39 PM IST

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