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Bulls lock horns at Nepal winter festival

TARUKA, NEPAL: The bulls pawed the ground, sending a dusty cloud into the air before locking horns to a huge cheer from the crowd in a makeshift arena in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal.

The bullfight in the village of Taruka, about 76km from Nepal's capital Kathmandu, takes place each year to mark the end of winter, according to the Hindu calendar.

Thousands gathered to watch 14 pairs of bulls butt heads on Saturday, with the winner of each bout taking home 3,000 rupees (S$39) in prize money.

Unlike its Spanish counterpart, bullfighting in Nepal requires no matadors as the bulls - usually buffalo - fight each other.

They are fed a special diet of eggs and lentils to prepare them for the fight, which comes when there is little growing in the fields.

"We feed them rice, flour, wheat, eggs and black lentils from five months ahead to make them strong," said bull owner Madan Shrestha, 42, who has fielded a bull every year for the last 12 years.

"My bull has fought against two to three others. He charges hard, so I am hopeful that he will win," he added.

The festival has been held every year in Taruka for over a century, bringing thousands who watch the bouts from the steep terraced banks that overlook a flat plateau.

"We celebrate the Maghe Sankranti fair here, and it is fun to watch the bulls fight," said one local resident who comes each year.

Unlike European bullfighting, bloodshed is a rare sight as the rules dictate that the bout ends once the animal tires of fighting.

Nevertheless, animal rights activists have attacked the festival, arguing that it causes injuries to the bulls and have campaigned to have it banned. - AFP

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