PACU JAWI Bull Race – Tanah Datar Batusangkar – WEST Sumatra 2022

Pacu Jawi Bull race is a traditional festival of the Matrilineal Minangkabau culture in Batusangkar – Tanah Datar, West Sumatra Indonesia. It is one of the greatest ways to experience the authentic spectacle of the skilful sport on their home turf.

The PACU JAWI Bull (cow) RACING festival is a very popular tourist attractions from Sumatra Indonesia and certainly known worldwide. A must-see bucket list tour highlight that attracts domestic and foreign tourists to experience and explore the real authentic Sumatra. Even more for professional photographers, this is an event to perfectly witness the villager’s celebration of West Sumatra Minangkabau culture.

PACU JAWI – Bull (Cow) Race Tour Batusangkar – Tanah Datar

The AUTHENTIC tradition of Minangkabau people – West Sumatra.

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The authentic spectacle Pacu Jawi Bull Race | Minangkabau West Sumatra


Ostensibly, it is a kind of festival celebration with entertainment for the rice farmers and villagers in West Sumatra, following the rice harvest season. The event is filled with heart-pumping excitement as well as being a meeting point for the surrounding villagers, watched by men, woman, old and young alike in a very muddy affair.

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The skilful sport Pacu Jawi Tanah Datar | Minangkabau Bull Race West Sumatra

PACU means “RACE” and JAWI means “COW”. Although this can be slightly misleading as cows can also be bulls!  However the Minangkabau people always call them Jawi (cows), regardless of whether they are male or female.


The calendar event 2022 of PACU JAWI Festival Tanah Datar – Padang – West Sumatra (Sumatera Barat) or Batusangkar BULL / COW RACE is


  • Saturday, 07 JANUARY 2023
  • Saturday, 14 JANUARY 2023
  • Saturday, 21 JANUARY 2023
  • Saturday, 28 JANUARY 2023


The tradition of Pacu Jawi has been alive for hundreds of years mainly around Batusangkar (Tanah Datar Region), which takes approximately 3 to 4 hours drive from Minangkabau International Padang Airport and 2 hours from Bukittinggi, West Sumatra – Indonesia.

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The heart-pumping excitemen Pacu Jawi Batusangkar | Minangkabau Bull Race

However, there are four villages where they hold the races, but due to the conditions of the rice paddy fields. The village venues are sometimes not chosen until one or two months in advance. Certainly, the events are run on a Saturday ONLY (once per week) and every host village will be rotated around those four venues all year round. The race itself only starts around midday (usually 12h30 – 15h30).


Pacu Jawi  races are held in a flooded and muddy rice paddy field after the rice harvest season. And unlike traditional horse racing which can be dusty, this is a muddy affair with a lot of water and mud splashing over both spectators and the jockeys.

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Many of the village farmers in this region still use cows or buffalos to plough and cultivate their lands. Historically, the idea for the racing came about when the farmers were waiting for the next cultivation of the rice paddy, they decided to have some fun with the wet rice fields.  They devised the racing after removing the sharp metal blade beneath the plough (to avoid injury). The jockeys stand on the edge of the plough made from bamboo (instead of the normal heavy wooden plough.) The bamboo version is extremely light, flexible and durable to cope with the stresses, as the jockeys battle to stay upright whilst maneuvering across the wet muddy ground.


At the start, each jockey rides a pair of cows, balancing on the bamboo yokes, holding only the cows’ tails to steer them at full speed in a straight line. The jockey starts yelling at their bulls to increase the speed whilst becoming immersed in giant mud plumes that rise 7 m into the air.

If the cows slow down, the jockey will pinch and bend their tails to speed up. Sometimes during the muddy battle, the jockey will even bite their tails if the cow is not responding fast enough. Apart from the obvious difficulty of hanging on, the cows can also turn abruptly at any time and career off the field, sometimes in the direction of the screaming crowd. The two cows can also split in opposite directions, leaving the rider splayed and ultimately face down in the mud.  It truly is a spectacle to watch!

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PACU JAWI - BULL RACE Tanah Datar surrounding WEST SUMATRA interesting places holiday destinations tours travel highlights


There are no winners in this race. However, the jockey that demonstrates control and power to the end of the field can potentially gain more value in the market price for the cows. This show of response by the cows to the jockey, and their strength, health and obedience, can command better values when they are sold. The cows’ price value increases if they perform well. After the festivities are over the owners of the cows will start negotiations on the business cattle market.


Prepare to get a little muddy if you want to get close to the action!  We recommend:

  • Change of clothes, just in case
  • Sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sun block cream, etc)
  • Fully charged camera batteries & empty memory cards
  • Sandals to replace your muddy boots
  • Plastic covers for the camera to protect it from the mud


By the way, for those photographers who are unable to make the listed calendar schedules, we will be pleased to help find a suitable schedule to suit you based on your itinerary.

To find out more about this festival, please feel free to contact us for further details.

Please feel free and do NOT hesitate to contact us for any further info and inquiries.

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