How To See Bull Fighting In Tanzania

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Bullfighting on Pemba Island

  09 April 2019       Oluwakemi Ojo       5 min read

Bullfighting has been synonymous with Spain for many years now and their bullfighting festivals have attracted tourists from around the world each year but it's not the only place in the world that you can find this sort of practice. Surprisingly to many, East Africa has had a long-standing culture of bullfighting that dates back many years.

“Bullfighting is a physical contest that involves humans and animals attempting to publicly subdue, immobilize, or kill a bull, usually according to a set of rules, guidelines, or cultural expectations - according to sources like Wikipedia.

Even though bullfighting has always been one of the popular sports across the world especially in Africa and Europe, most people do not know about its origin. Countries such as Spain, Portugal, France, and many other Spanish-speaking countries have practised it for decades. It is a national spectacle in which a bull is ceremoniously fought by a matador and often killed afterwards. In Africa, places such as the Comoros Islands, Western Kenya, and Pemba Island also practice this sports activity but in a different way.

Bullfighting on Pemba Island

A Brief History of Bullfighting

Bullfighting has long generated lots of commentary and controversy in equal measure over the years. Anthropologists and psychologists have argued that it illustrates a confrontation between culture and nature, as well as gender relations. Religious leaders have in the past accused bullfighting ceremonies as degrading the work ethic and diverting public attention away from the church and prayer.

Animal rights activists have assailed the practice as being cruel to bulls, calling it a barbaric activity. On the other side are the defenders, who have argued that unlike gambling, bullfighting employs hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and generates much-needed revenue for private charities and state welfare agencies. Other supporters and enthusiasts see bullfighting as an art, and a way to preserve culture as it is in Pemba Island.

Bullfighting is a popular traditional annual event in Pemba. While it is usually a frenzied event with lots of excitement as the crowds gather around to watch the bullfight, it is not as bloody as it is in Spain or as cruel as it is in Portugal. In Pemba Island, bullfighting is a test of skill and not a fight to the death and is viewed as part of a variety of cultural interactions on the island.

The East Coast of Africa was a hub for trade in the earlier years. It was also a region of interest for colonial countries looking to conquer, rule and expand their territories. The Portuguese ended up in the region in the 16th and 17th century and it is believed this is the period around which bullfighting emerged in the East Coast. Due to the default intermingling of cultures over the years, bullfighting gained traction in Pemba Island and has remained as such to date.

A Brief History of Bullfighting

When Does Bullfighting Happen on Pemba Island?

Typically, bullfighting in Pemba takes place between February and August. The locals organize this event during the hottest season – this has been the usual tradition.

Bullfighting: What to Expect

As the crowds join in, the bull and the matador are called to action by sounds of music, singing, and drums. The Zebu bull typically used in the bullfights has no horns and is usually held by a long rope which is a contrast to the Spanish or Portuguese one. In Pemba Island, the bull is not killed after the sport, it is rather praised and well cared for.

During this sports event, the bravest matador just demonstrates their skill on how well they avoid the animal while in the arena. It’s not as easy as it sounds as one could easily be trampled or injured by the bull.

Bullfighting in Pemba takes place in a number of villages such as Kojani, Chuale, Ole and Kangagani. It is often held during celebrations such as New Years, Zanzibar Revolution Day or to celebrate the harvest by farmers of clove. Tourists can visit Pemba Island and experience this interesting event during these celebrations.

The bulls are paraded with pride by their owners as drummers and singers bring on the festive atmosphere and the crowd cheers on. This is a real spectacle that tourists can enjoy while visiting Pemba. The bullfights begin with a traditional stick fight from the farmers which is usually the show before the show. At the end of the fight, the bulls, as well as the bullfighters, are admired and praised.

Bullfighting: What to Expect

Bullfighting a Must-See Activity in Pemba Island

Bullfighting is a must-see activity as it is wildly different from what Pemba is more popular for. The island is located north of Zanzibar, and it’s well-known for its beautiful sandy white beaches, as well as exciting water activities such as diving and snorkelling. The island also features with historical sites as well as lush forests and stunning landscapes. Thus, watching the bullfights in Pemba would be an interesting experience for everyone. You should probably add it to your Pemba bucket list.



Chasing the bull in East Africa

Do you enjoy a good bullfighting story? Do you think its an activity you would be brave enough to take on? Why do you think bullfighting has been so popular? Let us know!

We'd love to hear from you If you have anything to add to our list or would like to tell us about your experience give us a shout!

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