March 15, 2013

Oxen Racing

Dolta Ceremony and Ox Racing Festival

Time: From the 29th day of the eighth lunar month to the 1st day of the ninth lunar month (or to the 2nd day of the ninth lunar month in case of the eighth lunar month without the 30th day).

Place: In pagodas, or at each household of the Khmer people in Tri Ton or Tinh Bien District, An Giang Province.

Objects of worship: In remembrance of ancestral merits and wishing happiness and peace for the deceased’s souls.

Characteristic: Ox racing according to traditional ritual of the Khmer people.


The ox racing is held in a large ground 60m wide and 170m long which is surrounded by high earthen rampart where spectators can stand. The racing lane is 100m long and 4m wide. Its two ends are marked with departure and destination poles.

Each racing tournament involves 38 pairs of oxen competition in commune level. Most of the oxen have strong posture: big head, straight back, solid bone, long tail, small ear, round neck and gentle eye. The nearer the competition draws, the more boisterous the atmosphere becomes.

When the competition starts, each pair of oxen is yoked to a harrow which is made of a plank of wood 30cm wide and 90cm long with teeth underneath.

Each round of competition includes two pairs of oxen. The controller stands on the harrow waving his whip. He must stand firm otherwise he will lose due to violation of regulations.

The competition consists of two rounds: hu and tha. It can be considered that hu is the selection round, and tha the real contest, which displays the strength of the oxen and the skill of their controllers. In the hu round, each pair of oxen has to go around the competition ground two times for warming up and performance. If any pair steps on the harrow of another pair will lose.




However, in the 120m-long tha round, those stepping on the harrow of others will win. The departure and destination points are marked with two green and red poles 5m away from each other. The oxen in the lane of green poles must reach the destination marked by poles of the same colour. In the race the controllers hold a rattan whip or a round stick called xa lu. After the signal of the referee, the controller shoves the xa lu into the oxen’s buttock to make them rush forward amidst the resounding cry of the spectators.

The final round is always the most boisterous time. The oxen seem like horses and their controllers, experienced jockeys. The racing oxen become the pride of the whole village. As such the controllers, the owners of the oxen and the oxen themselves all try hard to show their skill and strength. The prize-winning oxen are much loved for their efforts to bring about the honor for their owners.














The ox racing in An Giang has an age old tradition. The men in the village take this community event as an opportunity to show their courage and dexterity.


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