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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

cow-fighting - not bulls !! ... not here, in Valais, Switzerland .. !

Ever heard of ‘cow-fighting’- not what two of the bovines rubbing against the other; nor the ones at Triplicane that chase everyone with a basket, thinking of some edible item inside !!  – but a sport !!’

There are sports and there are some involving animals – some which men call sport – but end up torturing animals.  There are many misconceptions just as the belief that red colour angers the bull – remember Padayappa when bull charges at Ramya Krishnan and is stopped by the lance thrown on the ground by the superstar Rajnikant.   Matadors also use red colour.  
photo credit : Dinamalar daily

Down South in Tamil Nadu, there is one which finds its place in Sangam literature and considered a game of honour.  Jallikattu  (Aeru thazhuvuthal) is a bull taming sport played in Tamilnadu; unlike its western cousin, the bull is seldom killed and here the matadors do not use any weapons. Is it daredevilry ? a game ? or torturing bulls or losing men trying to prove their valour ? what happens to those who get killed ? and lose their limbs / senses ?  - answers depend on perception.  Now the Apex Court has banned the sport and there are reports of bull owners in confused state as to what to do with the decorated bulls.

In  Spanish bull fighting, conducted in an arena - the bull enters the ring, then an assistant waves a bright yellow and magenta cape infront to anger it,  the top fighter called Matador and fighters Picadores weaken the bull by piercing spears.  The matador has a sword called espada; the bull eventually drops dead.  There could be rules and variations, which we may not understand much.  One would be aghast to read “Toro Jubilo festival” –  and its gory details : of Spanish bull-burning festival where baying crowd straps flaming wooden horns to terrified animal. . . in the name of entertainment.  The terrified animal has no escape route, gets pinned to the floor, men strap wooden stakes doused in flammable chemicals to its horns, and set it on fire with few more showing their  bravery by tormenting the terrified animal. 

Cow fighting is a traditional Swiss event, mostly in Valais, in which a cow fights another cow ~fortunately, it is not cow against humans or one animal killing the other.  Each year, the Swiss canton of Valais hosts a series of cow fights known as combats de reines ("queen fights"), which began in the 1920s and has drawn as many as 50,000 spectators in a year. The winner is called La Reine des Reines ("the queen of queens") and increases dramatically in value. At the end of the year, a grand final is held in Aproz, where the six best from seven districts do battle in six weight categories.

Cows naturally fight to determine dominance in the herd, and this is the behaviour that is exploited in cow fighting, using cows from the local Herens breed. With their horns blunted, the fights are mainly a pushing contest. Any cow that backs down from a fight is eliminated until one cow is left standing in the ring. It sometimes happens that the cows in a fight refuse to engage in physical contact with each other at all. Each fight can last up to 40 minutes.

A recent report in MailOnline has these pictures of the cows clash stating that the Spanish fight bulls for sport, but in Switzerland the cows are more likely to duke it out between themselves.  The pictures are of the cows clashing at the grand final of Switzerland's 'Combats de Reines' ('Battle of the Queens') competition in Aproz, in the western Canton of Valais. The fighting cows are drawn from the feisty Eringer breed, common in Valais, which are robust and possess the singular characteristic of fighting among themselves for supremacy within the herd. Comparatively small-bodied, brown and black-coated and with curved white horns, the cows are these days bred specially for combat, rather than milk or meat. Their horns are blunted before competition, so the fights are mainly a contest of pushing and shoving, with losers determined by the first cow to back down.

The fighting cows, despite their competitive instinct,  can sometimes be difficult to be provoked to combat due to their placid nature. Once in the arena, they often need prodding, and even then they are sometimes more interested in chewing the cud or exploring the daisies. If a cow refuses to fight, she is eliminated. But other times all the cows will fight at once, in a cacophony of mooing, stamping and locking horns. However, unlike the notorious Spanish equivalent, blood is rarely spilt.

Winners are awarded special cowbells and are crowned 'Queen' and the winner of the grand final dubbed 'Queen of queens'.  It's a coveted prize; the pinnacle of a breeder's career. The achievement will not only earn them local fame, but also secure a bumper fee of up to ten times the going rate for any calf born to the winning cow. But despite the plaudits, and cash, up for grabs, breeders admit its not really possible to train the cows how to fight. All they can do is feed the animals and make sure they stay in good shape.

'The rest is up to the cows - fighting is in their blood. They love it,' says one.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

7th Apr 2015.

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