The Garut sheep are one of the important indigenous livestock resources of Indonesia. Although they have a critical role in the food production chain, being raised for their meat, they are also of notable cultural significance. This is because the Garut sheep are primarily raised for ram fighting, a popular activity in Indonesia. The competitions are held regularly in Bandung, a province in West Java, and at other smaller local centres.
The matches are held in an open grass field with the animals enclosed by a circle of spectators. Each match involves a pair of rams squaring off and competitors are placed facing each other a few metres a part in the centre of the ring. They back away from each other up to a distance of 5 to 10 metres and then charge with their heads down to collide head-on. The base of the horns takes the major impact. The rams then back away and charge again. This may be repeated up to 50 times depending on the size of the rams, which are paired according to weight. After each 10 to 12 encounters, there is a pause during which the animals are patted and groomed. If one ram is a clear winner by knocking the other down or forcing him backwards or if one is a clear loser by walking away or losing interest, the fight is stopped. Usually, however, the two adversaries are very closely matched and the winner is decided by a group of six judges who award points on the basis of aggressiveness, style, dexterity, alertness and stamina. Although the sport can sound violent, animals are rarely hurt and typically show no clear evidence of the battle.
The actual bouts are only a part of the festivities, as the event is always accompanied by music from a local band and the rams are encouraged by the dancing and singing of their attendants. If there is any gambling on the result, it is not conducted openly.
Rams are typically allowed to start fighting at about 2 years of age and continue for 4 to 5 years. Fighting rams are given a special diet which, in addition to commonly fed grass and concentrates, may contain eggs, honey, liver or iron tonic and black beer. They are given intensive training that includes exercise, practice fighting, swimming and massages. The resulting animal is large, muscular, well grown without being fat, and remarkably docile except during the actual combat. The rams are selected for size, horn size and for fighting ability. The champion rams are highly prized and are bought and sold for large sums of money. However, they are not used for breeding during their fighting career as it is feared that mating would deprive them of their taste for fighting.
Source: It was written by Mr. Asep Gunawan, Bogor Agricultural University, Laboratory of Animal Breeding and Genetics Bogor, Indonesia. email@example.com