Thousands of spectators have turned out in Pakistan’s Punjab province for the traditional oxen race, held as part of a three-day festival.
Bull racing is popular in the country’s rural areas due to its thrilling and aggressive nature.
This is one of the region’s longest standing sports that can be compared with Western horse racing.
Landlords and farmers from nearby villages and towns bring their strongest and fastest oxen to compete in the races.
“We are participating in most bull races that happen in Pakistan.” says Raja Amjad, a bull owner.” I have two bulls and both are well trained for today’s competition”
Held for over 50 years this sport demands amazing control, concentration, courage and jockey skills.
But compared to traditional western jockeys these riders are different.
They stand on a wooden platform and are dragged along a dusty road by a pair of bulls. The riders use sticks and shout continuously to try and keep the cattle running for the finishing line 350 meters away.
The bulls must be steered between the poles which are spaced ten meters apart.
If the bulls fail to finish between the poles or unseat the jockey then they are disqualified.
“Around 40 to 50 pairs take part in the races. Those that touch the finish line first win first prize. Second and third prizes are also given to the runners-up,” says Raja Shafat Ali Kayani, the judge of the competition.
The winner receives about $1000, but not enough to reimburse the money he spends on raising his cattle.
But it’s not just the money that brings cattle owners and spectators together.
“I’m extremely excited to be here” said Ali Waqar, a spectator of the event.” Such competitions are part of our culture and traditions. And we are proud of that .”