Setting bulls to fight

Mr. N. Sibiya said that each boy will bring a bull from his herd and two bulls will be placed facing each other. Bulls are bovine males not yet castrated. These were kept so that the cows will reproduce and the herd will grow in number. Setting bulls to fight was a very big deal. Boys started by moulding clay cattle and setting these to fight. In this way they were preparing themselves for setting real bulls to fight. A young boy was expected to protect his household with all his might as he would do as an adult. That is why no boy wanted his bull to be defeated because this was degrading his reputation. Boys would watch the bulls closely as they fight and observe every move they do because boys regarded themselves as future bulls. Even girls did not approve of a coward male because he will not be able to protect his household from enemies.


1 People consulted
2 Who plays this game?
3 What equipment is used to play the game?
4 When is the game played?
5 Where is the game played?
6 How is the game played?
7 Custom associated with this game
8 Source

People consulted
The researcher consulted Mr. N. Sibiya about the details of this game. As boys set the bulls to fight, each boy will call out and whistle to his bull so as to infuriate it and prompt it to fight the other one set against it. As the boy whistled, he would be urging his bull to fight. In this way bulls were set to fight each other.

Who plays this game?
This game is played by boys from the age of six years upwards who herd cattle.

What equipment is used to play the game?
Boys used bulls from their kraals to play this game.

When is the game played?
This game is played during the day, on a sunny day at any time of the year.

Where is the game played?
This game takes place in the pastures where cattle are herded as well near the dip tank on the days for dipping cattle.

How is the game played?
Out in the pastures, herds of cattle from different homesteads meet. Usually each herd had one bull. Boys with bulls in their herds will boast to the others that their bull is the strongest of them all. All of them will boast to each other. Bulls will be set aside on an open space, praise them and urge them in an infuriating way by saying:

UJamludi obomvu onjengentolwane!

Uklevuklevu wezihlabathi;

Umali wendima kanti uyazalela:

Unomalevulevu kaNomalekethe
Umpondo zicije zinjengenalithi,

Umahlaba zihlangana onjengemfologo.

Usihhonahhona sephalishi,

Awudli nezingane uyaziphangela.
Extracted from Molefe (1996: 158)

Each boy praises his bull with its own praises. As they praise them, the bulls will start to bellow and then start fighting. When they fight, they attack head to head with their horns and even stab each other. This is a dangerous game because bulls really hurt each other. This results in people ending up quarrelling because of the damage done. The defeated bull runs away, and the boys will shout, “It has been defeated!”. The winning bull gives a short chase to the defeated one.

Custom associated with this game
It is customary to set bulls to fight and it has been a common practice for a long time. People who have been herd boys can testify that this was an amusing game to watch during cattle herding. Patrick (1968: 6) maintains that playing and being involved in games is amusing and refreshes the mind.

From a Masters dissertation by Victoria Mkhize for the School of IsiZulu, University of KwaZulu-Natal. Supervised by Professors P.J. Zungu and V. Prabhakaran.

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