Karapan Sapi, A Race That Won’t Be Forgotten

Karapan Sapi

Indonesia has so many cultures. One of it is traditional game, Karapan Sapi. It is a typical game event for the people of Madura, East Java, which is held annually in August or September, and will be contested again in the final at the end of September or October.  

In this race, a pair of cows pulling a kind of wooden cart, where the jockey stands and controls the pair of cows, is raced in a fast race against other pairs of cows. The racetrack is usually around 100 meters and the race can last anywhere from ten seconds to one minute.

History of Karapan Sapi

Cows have an important meaning for the Madurese. According to Sulaiman, Karapan Sapi in Madura, Madurese people believe that cows have a king. The female cow king is in Gadding Village, Manding District, Sumenep Regency. Meanwhile, the king of bulls is in Sapudi, an island east of Madura.

Since hundreds of years ago, female cows in Gadding have been well cared for and known for their quality. From this area the origin of the female cow contest known as sape display or sape sono.  Meanwhile, Sapudi is known to produce superior bulls that are used as frequent cows or cattle for bulls.

The ways of raising cattle in Sapudi were started by Penembahan Wlingi or Wirobroto around the 14th century and continued by his son, Adipoday.  At that time agriculture was progressing.  Riding pairs of cows mounted on salaga (harrows), the farmers plow the fields happily and race to the finish. 

It is also where the term garaban or karapan comes from, from the word “garab” which means “fast work”.

 “Thus is a fairy tale which states that the origin of the bull race from the word garaban, from agricultural work in the rice fields evolved into a bull race,” explained Sulaiman.

Karapan Sapi

Another version mentions the role of Kyai Pratanu, who spread Islam by means of a bull race at the end of the 16th century. Meanwhile, the story in Sumenep relates it to Sheikh Ahmad Baidawi (Prince Katandur), a preacher from Kudus, in the 17th century. 

While spreading Islam, Kyai Pratanu taught how to grow crops so that the harvest was abundant.  As an expression of gratitude, friendship days or berkirabah are held by carrying out cow racing.  From Arabic, this Kirabah later became the chorus.

Types of Karapan Sapi

Karapan Sapi consists of several types: kerap keni (small karapan), kerap raja (large karapan), kerap onjangan (invitation karapan), kerap residency (residency level karapan), and kerap jar-jaran (practice karapan).

Keni is often followed by small, untrained cows from one sub-district or government. The winner can take part in the often king or often called the state which is held twice in the district capital and competes for the Regent’s Cup. The winners are often the king will participate and fight for the President’s Cup which is very prestigious.

Onjangan is often held to commemorate major holidays, thanksgiving commemorations, and others.  The residency is often held in Pamekasan City which is attended by champions from four districts in Madura as the closing of the season. Meanwhile, jar-jaran is often done to train the racing cows before being lowered into the race of Karapan Sapi.

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