Bullfighting in Krabi and other parts of southern Thailand is never to the death, and for those liking the sport is very exciting. Known as “Chon Wua,” bulls are not seriously hurt in the matches. The bullfights take place between two water buffalos held at stadiums specifically designed for the purpose, or in open fields.
Bullfighting in Thailand Unlike Those in Latin America or Spain
The bullfighting in Thailand is not anything like those held in Latin America or Spain. There are no picadors, no matadors, no clowns, and certainly no fighting to the death. Instead, these bullfights are between two large water buffalos vying to see which one is the dominant male. The crowd cheers them both on, with the desire to see the weaker male realize his status, and turn tail and run.
Like Thai boxing or soccer, Thai bullfighting is a national sport and pastime. Bullfighting has been around for as long as the first water buffalos were domesticated in India, over 5,000 years ago. As such, it has become part of Thailand’s cultural tradition.
Fighting bulls are privately owned by individuals who pamper and train them. The bulls begin a one-year training program when they are three or four-years-old. They are exercised and bathed daily, and fed grass and dietary supplements.
Twenty days prior to any fight, the bulls are compared to minimize the possibility of either of them getting hurt. Fighting pairs chosen are close in shape, horn size and overall size. Before the competition, the bulls receive a blessing by monks.
When led into the fighting area, the bulls instinctively begin to stomp and paw the ground, sending up dust and earth into the air. These tactics are for intimidation purposes.
The bulls then begin to fight head-to-head with their horns, while the crowd roars and place their final bets. The cheering from the spectators makes the bulls more active, while they snort and shove each other. The bout finally ends when officials call time, or the weaker of the two concedes and simply walks away.
Water Buffalo Population Dwindling
Unfortunately, these magnificent beasts of burden have a decreasing population in Thailand, due to poaching, and the advent of tractors doing the farm work they once did.. You will no longer find water buffalo in rice paddies, where their large hooves, flexible foot joints, innate strength, and low center of gravity made them ideal for pulling a plough.
Thais have great respect for these animals, known as “Ai Tul,” which translated means “Honest Royal Worker”.
Most buffalos now inhabit grazing fields, mostly in northeast Thailand, and in the Huai Kha Kaeng Wildlife Sanctuary.
For those interesting in attending a bullfight, monthly bullfights are held at Nurn Khun Thong Arena on Highway No. 4 near the Krabi International airport.