The loudspeaker echoed throughout the village, announcing that no one should record what was about to take place in front of them. At that moment, a dog latched its teeth onto a boar’s snout.
“Be careful not to upload video recordings to Facebook or YouTube or spread them in WhatsApp groups to be safe. If you share them, animal rights activists will come after us,” a voice warned spectators over the loudspeaker. Hundreds of spectators applauded the display of violence unfolding before them.
Welcome to dugong, a local custom and weekend activity native to the village of Cicaringgang, Bandung, about 125 kilometers southeast of Jakarta. Here, dogs and boars fight in a 20x30-meter arena surrounded by a bamboo fence.
Before the fight begins, the dogs are lined up to wait their turn to enter the arena. A single wild boar is released into the arena, while the dogs are let in one by one to attack the boar. VICE discreetly documented the spectacle.
Dugong began as a way to train dogs to hunt wild boar without fear. The fight ends when one of the animals can no longer fight due to its injuries. The tradition is also a response to wild boars destroying crops in the hilly area, and has been practiced for centuries. It only became a form of entertainment in the 1970s.
The dogs that fight are mostly village mutts. Pitbulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Terriers, and Dogo Argentinos are crowd favorites. The longer a dog can withstand a boar, the higher the price the dog can be sold for.
28-year-old Yadi, who like most Indonesians go by only one name, brought four Pitbulls with him. They were raised to be fight dogs. Every week, at least one of his dogs steps into the arena. “I’m trying to train their instincts,” he tells VICE.
Before the fight begins, Yadi registers his dog with the dugong organizers. One fight costs him Rp50,000 (US$3.58). “This isn’t gambling, because the registration fee pays for the boar. We hunt and sell boars around here,” Yadi explains.
Badly injured boars are slaughtered and their meat sold. If it only sustains minor injuries, it’s left to recover and forced to fight again. Dogs, on the other hand, have it easier. At every match, people are on standby to treat injured dogs, even stitching up their wounds mid-fight.
“We immediately treat injured dogs on the spot, but injured boars will return to the arena once they’ve recovered. If the boar dies, we slaughter it and distribute its meat,” Gocep, a dugong enthusiast tells VICE.
Nadya Andriani, an animal rights activist, believes this tradition is unethical and should end.
“Even though these boars are wild, the way humans treat them is not in accordance with animal welfare, which states that animals should be free from fear and pain. This is not a good tradition or a good form of entertainment,” she says.
But since this tradition has been a routine spectacle for decades, putting it to a stop is easier said than done.
The West Javanese government issued a regulation in October 2017 outlawing dugong, but the regulation became recognized only as a formality on paper. The fights continue to entertain the people of Bandung, Majalengka, Garut, Sumedang, and Pangandaran.
Still, locals knew they had to change their ways to avoid getting into real trouble, so they changed the weekly event’s name from dugong to adu ketangkasan or "agility fight."
Scroll down to see more photos from the dugong:
Bukbisj Chandra Ismeth Bey is a Bandung-based photographer. Find his other work here .
This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.