Taming and Racing Elephants in Jun Hamlet
Like other hamlets in the Central Highlands, Jun has for years had the tradition of taming elephants and organsing its traditional elephant race.
The hamlet of the M’Nong ethnic people is located near the romantic Lak lake in the township of Lien Son in Lak district, Dak Lak province, 50km south from the city of Buon Ma Thuot. It has now become a favourite destination of tourists who like to discover cultural features of ethnic groups and learn about the local work of taming elephants.
Previously, the hamlet had a team who often went into the forests to hunt elephants which were then tamed to serve the locals. However, due to laws for the protection of the forests and wild beasts, the villagers no longer can hunt the elephants for taming. They now only raise and tame elephants to serve tourists. For the locals, elephants are considered their pets and are carefully taken care of. They have practiced many customs and rituals such as giving names to elephants, praying for elephants’ health when elephants start carrying goods and holding wedding ceremonies for elephants. Elephants are given names like others in the family. The female elephants have the surname of Ho while the male elephants have the surname of Y.
Jun hamlet has a herd of 20 elephants, including five male elephants to serve tourists. Visiting the hamlet in spring, tourists will have a chance to take an elephant ride to tour around the hamlet and participate in the elephant race festival which is held every two years in March to honour the martial spirit and skills of mahouts and raise the local’s awareness of protecting the animal.
Dang Nang Long (riding the elephant, left) who owns five tamed elephants in Lak district
participate in a ceremony to pray for elephant’s health before a race. Photo: Cong Dat/VNP
Elephants in Jun hamlet after a ceremony of praying for elephants’ health.
A mahout in Jun hamlet takes care of his elephant.
There are 13 elephants participating in this year festival.
At 8am, mahouts ride their elephants to the race field near Lak lake.
13 elephants at the festival.
Elephants are ready for the race.
Presenting souvenir flags to mahouts.
The track for the elephant race is about 100m long near Lak lake..
Elephants compete in a race near Lak lake.
13 elephants and 26 mahouts participate in the swimming race.
Elephants compete in swimming in Lak lake.
Mahouts in the traditional costume of the Ede ethnic group ride on the elephants.
The winners at the festival.
By Cong Dat & Khanh Long