By David McFadden
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LEOGANE, Haiti _ Gamblers who goad bulls to fight each other just outside this Haitian coastal town stand for hours by a riverbed scrutinizing a dozen muscular animals with horns sharpened by knives.
Drumming up bets, the bulls’ trainers stomp around a growing crowd in a mock rage one recent afternoon, veins on their necks bulging. The agitated bulls snort, some digging holes in the dirt as they wait to be let loose from their ropes.
When owners are satisfied with the bets, two bulls are released to charge into a bone-rattling collision. Lunging or digging their hooves into the soil, the 1,700-pound (770 kilogram) animals battle while about 400 men shout and wave money. It’s over in minutes when a speckled bull retreats in what bettors call a typical ending, although animals occasionally are gored.
The obscure Haitian practice of fighting bulls is brutal like a cock or dog fight. A casual pastime for some rural men, it’s a serious business for others looking to pay their children’s school fees or even buy a car.
Aficionado Jean Andre Martineau leaned against a black Jeep he says he bought partly with winnings from his four fighting bulls. “The happiness is in betting on an animal you know is strong and ready,” he said outside Leogane, an hour’s drive from Port-au-Prince.
The 72-year-old said his great-grandfather was a well-known bull trainer and the practice has existed in several rural hamlets for at least a century.
It fits into a gambling culture in Haiti that includes fighting cocks and “borlettes,” gaudily-painted outlets that play on New York State Lottery numbers.
For people living on less than $2 dollars a day, the chance of lucking into a big payday is appealing for some. In bull fights, pots can grow to 36,000 Haitian gourdes ($775). Bettors say choosing bulls often involves dreamlike visions.
On the field in Leogane, fighting bulls are just one game of chance. Those with less money gather around rough-hewn roulette tables, the winning numbers on wobbling wheels pinpointed by metal spokes. Winners get cans of condensed milk.
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