Buffalo race or makepung is a racing attraction of a pair of buffalos remaining to be preserved by a number of Jembrana agrarian communities. If Madura community has bull race, Bali has buffalo race that grows and develops in Jembrana.
The racing is not just to win a prize, but more intended to attain a pride of the buffalo owner. Besides, it is also to show off the superiority of the two groups involved, namely the Ijo Gading Barat (west of the river) or Ijo Gading Timur (east of the river). The Ijo Gading Barat covers the western subdistricts such as Melaya and Negara. Meanwhile, Ijo Gading Timur is the group located in the east of the river consisting of Jembrana, Mendoyo and Pekutatan subdistrict.
In terms of the cash prize received by the winner, it is not comparable to the price of two racing buffaloes along with the raising cost. The activity tends to be emphasized on the preservation of the agrarian tradition and prestige among the buffalo owners.
A pair of buffalos cost around IDR 30 million - IDR 60 million. Even, the price can rise up when the buffalos have outstanding achievement in the racing arena held regularly every year. Although the race is only organized two times a year, the process of preparation and training of the buffalos is very tiring and spending adequately much money.
Even, the owners train their buffalos almost every week in some training circuits nearby as at Delod Berawah (Mendoyo), Mertasari (Jembrana) and Sang Hyang Cerik (Melaya). Each has its own distinctive trick to make their buffalo go faster on the track. Moreover, they are also given special treatment, much different from the one given to ordinary buffalos. Besides, they are routinely given special herbal drink mixed with Balinese palm sugar, eggs and coconut water. Additionally, the racing buffaloes should be frequently seasoned.
It is noted there are hundreds of active buffalo racing groups both at Ijo Gading Barat and Timur. This buffalo race also has its own fans. It’s no wonder that every implementation of the Regent Cup and Jembrana Cup is always thronged by myriad spectators. They are willing to stand on the edge of the track under the heat of the sun to see the buffalo race and attractions performed by its jockey in controlling their buffalos to finish line.
Buffalo race is one of 12 arts categorized into rare cultural attraction of Jembrana. From various sources, such attraction is estimated to have been organized since 1920s, almost simultaneously with the development of the Jegog art.
Buffalo race has been growing through generations in the agrarian community of Jembrana at that time. In the past, there were approximately 90 subak organizations spreading from Melaya to Pekutatan. Buffalo was a common carrier used to transport rice and easy to find among the farmers at that time. When transporting their rice from rice field to their barn, farmers always moved hand in hand. Some of them raced one another in order they could arrive home quickly and transport the entire harvest yield faster. Such an activity then inspired the tradition of makepung or buffalo race.
Now, the buffalo race is more practical, where participants use very simple cart with two wheels and is only ridden by a jockey. Coordinator of the Jembrana Buffalo Race, I Made Mara, said the buffalo race could be categorized into a relatively expensive art. It happened because a pair of buffalos could cost around IDR 30 million - IDR 60 million and could rise again. If totaled, the price of buffalos of all the participants involved in the race could reach billions of rupiahs. It excluded their racing preparation made a few months before the date of the race.
The Regent of Jembrana, I Putu Artha, said that buffalo race was a valuable asset that should be preserved all the time. “This is a tradition born by the community of Jembrana and can only be found in this region. Therefore, we must continue to preserve it both to attract tourists and to be made the icon of the regency,” he said. Additionally, his party also hoped the buffalo race tradition could give contribution to other sector such as the agriculture and livestock, especially buffalo livestock. (BTN/kmb)