It’s rumoured that these barbarous shows began about 50 years ago. In the beginning, they say, savage fights that pitted dogs against wild boars were carried out for pragmatic reasons: to train village dogs that belonged to farmers not to be afraid when confronted by a boar looking to pillage the farmers’ gardens. In Bandung, West Java province, this is no longer the case.
As the blood of dogs and boars is spilled on the muddy ground, the spectators laugh
Known locally as adu bagong, the bouts have morphed into a perverse form of entertainment in which the owner of a fighting dog is afforded a certain local prestige, particularly when their animal displays the necessary might to take down a wild boar. And over the years, the dog breeds being used have become bigger and stronger. Pitbull terriers now take their place in the battleground, as do dogo Argentinos, a muscular dog that was bred in Argentina specifically for the purpose of big-game hunting – including wild boar. As the blood of dogs and boars is spilled on the muddy ground, the spectators laugh.
The fights only end when one of the animals is severely injured or dead
The battles take place in a small pit measuring about 15 metres by 30 metres and surrounded by a bamboo fence – for the safety of the spectators, of course. Dog owners pay anything from IDR200,000 to IDR2 million ($15 to $150) for their beasts to enter a fight, in the hope that their dog becomes a champion and that its offpsring can be sold at a handsome price. One owner of a champion dog valued the beast at IDR50 million ($4,000), while its offspring could be sold for about IDR10 million ($700) each. The fights only end when one of the animals is severely injured or dead.
Digo is a pitbull, just two years old. His strong, white body is covered in wounds, but his owner still makes him fight. It is a matter of pride; this dog has already been through hundreds of fights. Digo has had no choice in his violent fate so far, and it appears the same will apply when it comes to his death.
Nonetheless, even Digo’s life appears charmed compared to most of his opponents. The boars do not have names, and relatively few survive the fights in which they might take on up to a dozen dogs, one by one. In the rare instance that a boar survives, once healed it will be returned to the arena to fight another day. If not, it will be butchered and sold for meat. When the wild boar is dead, people laugh again.
This article was published in the April edition of Southeast Asia Globe magazine. For full access, subscribe here.