In a country dominated by football-crazy fans, ram fighting has become a welcome deviation. Regulated by the Ram Lovers Association of Nigeria (RLAN) which holds several such competitions across the country at yuletide seasons, the irony is, both the winning and losing rams will end up in the belly of their audience before the yuletide is over!
The place stank of cow dung and perspiration as spectators milled around the two rams circling each other. Of course, the smell didn’t deter them from pushing and shoving each other to get a better glimpse of the action. The owners of the fighting rams were allowed front view in other to tend or urge their rams on during the fight. The gladiator rams shook their heads and retreated several steps before charging. A loud “clunk” echoes across the dusty arena as their heads smash into each other…
Welcome to ram fighting, an underground animal choice spectator sport gradually gaining recognition nationwide.
With the yuletide at its peak, several impromptu fights are organised every day and one of such was the one at the Ansar Ur Deen secondary school compound at Toll Gate along the Lagos /Abeokuta Expressway.
Saheed Ramon is the owner of ‘Small doctor’, the ram he has groomed for this competition. He says he expects to win some money before leaving. ‘Small doctor’ has won me a lot of money, and today will be no exception. It is the champion of my area and reached the semifinal of this competition last year,” he boasts.
Saheed is one of thousands of ram owners who fights in contests with their rams and act as their managers and physicians. However, not all rams are made for fighting; they have to have some specific traits.
Ahmed Tokotaya, an enthusiastic ram follower told Daily Times: “You can’t use just any ram, it’s just like other sports. You have to discover their potentials. Some rams like fighting, some don’t. When a ram that likes fighting is discovered, the next step is to find a trainer to mold the ram into a gladiator.”
Rams that earn their spurs through fighting in the arena are revered as legends just like gladiators in the Roman Empire. One of such rams was ‘Yahoo’ – of blessed memory. It is said that it was a fearsome fighter who had a physique unlike any other ram. Yahoo was very muscular in front but with a thin backside, like the cartoon character, Jonny Bravo. With very large horns, he was easily the ram to beat, winning fights all across the state. The major downside was that he was too top heavy and had a bad hind leg after a pan sheet slashed a vein .The injury wasn’t treated well, giving him a limp until its death. One thing everyone agreed on was that he was made for fighting.
Ram fighting in big competitions consists of a first round which permits 20 hits. The ram that refuses to go on and hit is declared the loser.
The second round allows 30 hits and the quarter final has 50. The semi-final and final allows a maximum of 100 hits in which a winner must definitely emerge. There are judges who score points according to the fitness and speed of the fighter ram.
Rams that have emerged winners have taken home prizes like cars, money – even houses. During fights, bets can be placed. Ganiu Solanke is an ardent spectator and staker.
“Bets up to N1 million has been placed on ram fights. People are crazy about the sport. I just placed 5,000 on Sangasa to win its fight.”
As Ganiu was speaking, one of his friends came and told him he had just won 10,000 on his bet. “You see what I am saying?” he grinned at our correspondent, “Sangasa is a sure ram.”
Ganiu’s stake is small compared to the huge sums used in betting in the sport. “Some people bet with millions, cars commercial buses, motor cycles. IPhone, etc,” Ahmed said.
He also explained that a fighting ram could cost up to N1.5 million from one trainer to another: “There was a time the owner of Yahoo was offered N1 million to sell the ram. Of course, the owner refused. He would have been foolish to sell the ram.”
For the individual who wants to get a ram without spending much, however, it’s about discovering potential and buying from local ram dealers.
Ram dealer at Meiran ram market on Lagos/Abeokuta Expressway explained: “We get people who come to buy rams. They particularly ask for rams that can fight. Such ram in my stall costs about N20,000 only.”
It’s no surprise that ram dealers are making lots of money with the Ramadan festival at its peak. Daily Times gathered that prices have soared since the fasting period ended. This is because lots of ram fighting tournaments are held when the holy month expires which means more money for everybody.
Our correspondent found that Ram fighting is not restricted to Nigeria, it takes place in places like Cote D’ Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal among other countries with exciting names like Sanchez, Gberikoku, Sangasa, Koro and Yahoo. It wouldn’t be any surprise if there is a global ram fighting competition soon in due course. (Daily Times)