Togyu - The Okinawan Tradition of Bull Sumo

Togyu - The Okinawan Tradition of Bull Sumo

Bulls butting heads for the prestigious title of yokozuna

Little known to most of the world, the country of Japan has its own bull fighting tradition going on.  It’s not at all the same as the West, naturally, and in fact the bulls fight each other as opposed to matadors.  The name of it is togyu, but it’s commonly referred to as bull sumo.  The main region where this unique activity takes place is in the Ryukyu Islands, with Okinawa being at its center.

Togyu has a long tradition in Okinawa, dating back hundreds of years.  It started, if the tales are to be believed, due to boredom.  Farmers without entertainment decided that they would pit their bulls against each other to pass the time.  Over time, it evolved into a fully fledged sport, with weight classes and everything.

How the sport works is that you get two bulls together and have them lock horns.  They then push each other around an arena, each trying to get the other to either back off or get so tired that they can’t continue.  It can take some time for one or the other of the bulls to give up, so it’s generally a slow moving sport punctuated with small bursts of energy.

And contrary to other forms of bull fighting, togyu is bull-friendly.  Owners of the bulls are very protective of their prize animals and if it looks at all like one or the other of the combatants might get hurt, people step in to break it up (how they manage to do that is beyond me).  In fact, most of the blood spilled due to togyu comes from the trainers due to accident during training.

Once one bull has conquered all his enemies, he is crowned with the traditional sumo title of the greatest - yokozuna.  The owner even receives a small prize, though I’m guessing pride is the main reward.  Though unique and interesting, togyu may not be the most entertaining thing to watch (kinda like baseball).  Check out the video below and see what you think:

牛の角突き3 2011/9/11 小千谷 Japanese Bullfight in Ojiya