In the island country of Madagascar, there exists an incredible and little-known form of traditional bullfighting called ‘Savika’.
The sport consists of bullfighters locally known as “mpisavika” and a very angry bull called a “zebu”.
To determine the winner of the traditional sport, the mpisavika must climb and hold on to the bull’s hump the longest without getting stomped on or stabbed with its long and hard horns.
The Savika is similar to the Spanish-style bullfighting that is practiced in Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, as well as in parts of southern France and Portugal but Unlike the Spanish-style bullfighting, Savika does not involve harming the bull in any physical way, it is simply holding on to the bull for the longest amount of time without getting stomped on or stabbed by its horns.
No one remembers exactly when Savika was invented, not even the elders in the society, but everyone agrees it has been practiced by Betsileo men for centuries.
The traditional sport is described as a bond between man and beast and it is enjoyed by all members of the community.
The sport is typically played by Betsileo men after a ceremony such as a wedding or a baptism, but many young men will prove their courage to the community, and the local women. A man who is brave enough to wrestle with the Zebu and come out unscathed is found extremely appealing by young women in the Betsileo society.
A savika event begins with the zebu being tested for aggressiveness by the mpisavikas before the brave players start sneaking up behind it trying to grab its hump and hang on to it for as long as possible.
It’s a dangerous sport and life threatening injuries do occur, but savika has been around forever and the Betsileo love it so much that nothing can’t deter the young men from the sport.
The brave mpisavika who dance with the bulls don’t receive trophies for their courage, and they don’t need any – the respect of the community, the attention from the women and the status of hero are more than enough.