Kakamega County, on the West of Kenya is a small place that many may consider with not much to offer for the tourism industry. My colleagues and I also knew Kakamega as a sleepy town, graced only with the Kakamega Forest and the crying stone of Ilesi, the only well known attractions that could make us want to drive to the area. We got shocked one morning sometime in June last year when we visited Khayega village, 2 hours drive from Kakamega town. We were driving past Khayega when we encountered a group of youth racing with a bull that seemed so charged I honestly thought it could knock us down if we got off the vehicle. At first we thought ‘Mungiki in Kakamega!?’But they didn’t have any weapons much to our relief. It was a bullfighting event!
Bull fighting in Kakamega is a sport that awakens the village of Khayega that is south of Kakamega, every Friday and Saturday mornings from 7am with a lot of horn blowing, drumming, chanting and stick waving. Before the showdown, the bulls are fed on molasses-spiked grass to help them preserve their energy, isolated from the heifers, making them understandably tetchy. The bulls are then fed with secret concoctions guaranteed to make them even more aggressive.
When the bulls meet, they’ll lock horns and fight until one submits and turns tail. And besides a bruised ego or two, no bulls are injured during these shows of strength. As for the chanting spectators, fans are always advised to keep a good distance from the charged bulls and be prepared to run or climb a nearby tree should a bull break away from the fight and turn to the crowd!!!
The winning bull and the crowd, then race to the next venue, usually about 1 or 2 km away, where they meet up with a similar winner and the whole performance is repeated. Of course at this moment in time, the crowd and the bull has actually gone wild with a lot of chanting and noise. You just have to be there and experience this; early morning, dust, youth racing with the winning bull racing even faster, drumming and a lot of chanting. I can only quote the words of a prominent bull owner: “When I wake up every Friday and Saturday, it’s like a fever grips me, and I can’t rest until my bull has knocked down another bull”.
We definitely have to go back sometime this year and see this event from the preparations to the end!!