Mbale bududa bull fighting tradition – On a vast mountainous landscape in the Eastern part of Uganda lays the district of Bududa the only place in Uganda where bull fighting happens. The densely-populated district is mainly occupied by farmers. In addition to the large quantities of bananas, cabbages, and maize grown, the farmers also keep a number of livestock ranging from cows, goats, pigs and poultry.
Mabale bududa bull fighting tradition – Sitting on the slopes of Mount Elgon, Bududa is not a tourist attraction, its history of landslides does not help it yet it is the only place in Uganda where communities have bull fighting activities and Uganda know little about it. Every other Saturday evening, men and boys bring their bulls to a nearby field at 5:00pm.More bulls are brought in and their owners lead them across the field to find their opponents. The younger and smaller bulls are made to fight with bulls their size, while the bigger ones are paired with their more muscular counterparts.
The battlefield is filled with more than 50 bulls. Owners beat their bulls, forcing them into the direction they ought to go. It is the owner’s mission to find the perfect fighting partner for his bull. The situation on the field gets tense when two big bulls are set on the ground facing each other from the opposite sides of the field. The lowing of the bulls fills the field as each one lets out as loud a moo as he can, to intimidate the opponent.
Farmers have a very strong attachment to their animals and regard a bull’s win as the owner’s win. Once the bull is led to its competitor, it approaches slowly, provoking the other into locking horns and pushing each other around. After a few minutes of locked horns, the bulls apply more strength, fighting vigorously, pushing each other away; the losing bull starts withdrawing from the battle as it runs backwards, but its owner beats it back into the fight. Bull owners have a tactic of sharpening the bulls’ horns with a broken bottle; once the horns are too sharp, it is guaranteed advantage that this bull will tear the skin of his opponent, forcing him out of the game with pain. The stronger bull keeps going for the fleeing opponent and resumes the fight until the defeated bull is finally run off the fighting ground.
One may call this animal cruelty in this era, and one would be justified; the bulls are not treated after the games if they get torn skins. They are strong, African bulls; they heal on their own. The local vet is only called in if after three days the wounds look infected. As the losing farmer’s bull nurses its wounds, the winner’s family is rejoicing as the farmer throws a party with village brew for the community to celebrate. The Bullfighting Association, bullfights are set up for entertaining and enriching the animals.
The fights improve the bulls’ appetite, build their necks and chests, and help them work off excess energy, thus stopping them from being destructive and hostile. The sport started as a result of fights between communities over a salty water source in Namasho. People used to fight and kill each other but after some years, they resolved to share the little available water, but left the animals to fight for entertainment.
The fights are legal and well-organized with a committee for the event. This is a group of people responsible for any issues that may arise during or after the fights. In cases where some bull owners fight each other, situations are resolved by the committee, and not the Local Council leaders. Some people are too connected to their animals and take the fights too personally, if their bulls lose when they didn’t expect it, they may threaten the winning bull’s owner into a fight.