Bull pushing in the United Arab Emirates

Bull pushing in the United Arab Emirates

A little over 100kms from Dubai, on the Gulf of Oman, lies another world. Here, the glitz, glamour and showiness, which most people associate with the United Arab Emirates, has been traded for fame and fortune of another kind.

Once a week, on a Friday afternoon, the typically quiet corniche in the modest seaside town of Fujairah is transformed. Large crowds of kandora-clad Emirati and Omani men and their families gather to watch, or participate, in the traditional sport of bull pushing.

Bull pushing, or bull butting as it’s also commonly known, has become an increasingly popular sport among the younger generation of Emirati and Omani men. And, while gambling is illegal in the Emirates, the winning title is much coveted as it can significantly increase the value of the bull, and elevate the status of both the bull and its owner within the sporting community.

Each Friday, as the afternoon shadows begin to lengthen, eager onlookers begin trickling inside the arena to choose their prime spots. While they position their chairs and begin to mingle, farm trucks reverse up to mounds of dirt moulded into ramps. Alighting from the trucks, men dressed in shalwar khamizs proceed to offload the prized cargo – bulls worth tens of thousands of Emirati Dirhams. Down the street, other bulls are led towards the arena from nearby farms. Some bulls look intimidating with their large Brahman humps and their faces painted orange, while beautiful decorative flowers hang around the necks of others. Each bull is tethered to one of the many posts at the entrance to the arena where they await their chance to take home the title.

The occasional deep, resounding bellow of an impatient bull interrupts the proceedings and penetrates the growing crowd. Occasionally they paw at the ground creating clouds of dust which hangs in the air. Others pull at their lead, sizing up their opponents.

A mixture of tension and excitement builds as the sun begins to dip. The loud speakers spring to life in Arabic. And, after the formalities, the first contestants are called to the challenge and the commentary begins. Two bulls are led into the ring by their respective owners and helpers, and a moment is taken to position them head to head. A silence descends before the official calls the start of the match and the bulls are nudged toward each other. Typically, this is the only invitation needed and the bulls lock horns. They begin manoeuvering backwards and forwards in a battle to overpower their opponent. The owners dance around their bulls, repeatedly freeing the rope so that neither animal becomes entangled or injured. The fight lasts only a few short minutes and the siren signals a winner – the bull that has pushed his opponent the furthest is deemed the stronger of the two. The bulls are led from the ring and two new opponents are brought in.

While most bulls are eager to engage in the contest of strength, the occasional bull can be seen turning tail and making a beeline out of the arena. While this may be amusing to watch for the crowd, this is usually devastating for the bull’s career and the owner’s investment in the sport. An unaggressive or losing bull has been reported in the past to have dropped in value, sometimes by tens of thousands of dirhams. This not only makes the bull difficult to resell, it also affects the owner’s standing within the sporting community. Consequently, bulls are chosen carefully at birth and great attention is given to the bull’s lineage. To increase a bull’s chance of success in the ring, training starts from an early age. Bull pushing in the Emirates and Oman is serious business, and buying and selling winners is a profitable investment.

Despite losses for some and gains for others, at the end of the day, while it’s serious business, it’s more about fun. Competitors, investors and spectators alike, having been entertained, are happy to part ways until next week, when bulls will again lock horns for the title.






Quirky Aussie Outback Pubs

Quirky Aussie Outback Pubs

The Outback, is a term used to describe pretty much most of inland Australia. It’s characterised by vast distances, corrugated dirt roads, and harsh dry landscapes dotted sparingly with tiny towns – the kind that if you blinked you’d miss them. At best, these towns might have a petrol pump or even a pub, and if you’re really lucky, both! It’s no wonder that for most Aussies, The Outback conjures up images of isolation, dust, cattle stations and…flies. And often, very little else.

However, there are some amazing things to see in The Outback but they’re usually spread far and wide. The things to “see and do” are usually hundreds of kilometres apart. So, travelling through The Outback can be, well, kind of tedious with its long drives, relatively straight stretches of road, heat, dust and yes…flies.

It’s no wonder that over the years, many of our Aussie Outback pubs have turned a bit quirky. Maybe it was isolation, the heat, or maybe the flies. Maybe it was all of these. In all honesty, though, I’m not sure anyone really knows how or even where this trend towards quirkiness started. But it’s alive and kicking in the great Aussie Outback, putting pubs and the towns they’re in, on the map.

I visited my first quirky Aussie Outback pub sometime around 2004. I was travelling in remote Far North Queensland when I stumbled across the Lions Den Hotel. I was immediately taken in by the writing all over the wall, the pictures, coasters, and business cards – the legacy of many a traveller before me. It was a pub like no other, or at least like I’d ever seen. And, I loved it! I loved the ambience, and the crowd it drew of both travellers and locals alike. Like those before me, I couldn’t help but add MY name to the wall.

I’ve come to learn, however, that the Lions Den is not as unique as what I first thought. As I’ve travelled further afield, I’ve discovered that there are many more like it spread across this vast land. And, each are equally worth calling into on your travels to enjoy a cold Aussie beer or an “Outback” meal. If you have time, there’s usually a nice verandah or beer garden to relax in and soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the live music. Or, you can just spend some time musing at all that decorates the walls around you – from underwear, shirts, badges, money, business cards, poetry to murals and much more – anything goes really! And it seems, these pubs welcome contributions from all who pass by so if you’ve been looking for a chance to make history….

Some of the other quirky Outback pubs that I’ve had the chance to visit and which you might want to call into if you get the chance, are:

Hebel Pub – William Street, Hebel, Western Queensland

Glengarry Hilton – Glengarry Opal Fields near Lightening Ridge, New South Wales

Sheepyard Inn – near Lightening Ridge, New South Wales

The Club In the Scrub – Grawin Opal Fields near Lightening Ridge, New South Wales

William Creek Hotel – William Creek on the Oodnadatta Track, South Australia

Renner Springs Hotel – Renner Springs, Northern Territory

Barrow Creek Hotel – Barrow Creek, Northern Territory

Daly Waters Pub – Daly Waters, Northern Territory

Silverton Hotel – Silverton, New South Wales

The Palace Hotel – Broken Hill, New South Wales

Mt Dare Hotel – Remote South Australia

No trip to The Outback is complete without a visit to one of the many quirky pubs you will find. It’s one of those things that you really need to do at least once. Like the saying goes, you’ve got to see it to believe it!

If you’ve discovered a great Aussie Outback pub that we haven’t mentioned here – don’t forget to share it with us!