Buffalo kills owner during fighting festival in northern Vietnam

Huong is thrown into the air by his buffalo. Photo courtesy of Phong Pink.
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The culture ministry is considering canceling the controversial festival, which some people view as barbaric.

A man was killed by his own buffalo on Saturday as he was leading the beast out to fight at a festival in the northern port city of Hai Phong.

Dinh Xuan Huong, 47, was expecting to see his animal compete in the qualifiers at the Do Son Buffalo-Fighting Festival, but instead he was gored in the thigh, chest and neck, and then knocked unconscious when the animal threw him into the air.

The festival’s organizers immediately stopped the event and rushed Huong to hospital. However, he died after six hours of emergency care due to multiple serious injuries and blood loss.

The buffalo was bought in late 2016 from the Mekong Delta for over VND100 million ($4,400), and was known for its aggressiveness.

The culture ministry has issued an emergency directive instructing Hai Phong’s culture department to inspect the security and safety at the festival. If the preparations for the festival fail to meet safety regulations, the festival should be canceled, according to the directive.

Hai Phong has also instructed Do Son District authorities to cancel all remaining matches of the festival’s qualification phase and review the festival’s proceedings and rules, according to Nguyen Van Tung, the city’s chairman.

Hoang Xuan Minh, chairman of Do Son District, said Huong’s death was the first time in the festival’s history that a buffalo had killed its owner during a match.

However, owners continue to sharpen their animals’ horns to increase their chance of winning, so authorities need to find a way of banning the practice, Minh said.

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Buffalo owners often sharpen their buffalo’s horns before a match to increase their lethality. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Chinh.

This year’s festival kicked off on Saturday with 32 buffalo from around Do Son District competing.The Do Son Buffalo-Fighting Festival is considered a national intangible cultural heritage by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Traditionally, the qualifiers participate in the tournament phase on the 9th day of the 8th lunar month, which falls on September 28 this year, to determine the strongest buffalo, which is then killed for its meat that locals pay top money for.

Buffalo fighting festivals in Vietnam originate from the country’s agricultural traditions. In recent years they have encountered strong public opposition due to what many perceive as their barbaric nature. – VNExpress

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