Since 1902

Bull keeper hires out his animals to woo crowds for political rallies

By Bernard Lusigi - Jul 4th 2022
The bull farmer Shem Misigo relies on hiring his bulls to entertain guests in political rallies. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

It is 10am and Shem Misigo from Shikutse village, Malava constituency is feeding his two bulls, Sudan and Okhanya.

He is preparing them for a sponsored political bullfight at noon.

This has become his trade, which has seen more aspiring politicians turn to bullfighting to woo crowds for their rallies.

And, according to Misigo, it is working magic.

“Rather than using posters, campaign vehicles or inviting local artists to win crowds, politicians have turned into bullfighting. Within a few minutes, people start gathering to catch a glimpse of the game. After the end of the fight, the politicians address them,” he said.    

Misigo, a renowned bull owner and bullfighting fanatic, says he charges politicians up to Sh20,000 to hire one bull.

However, for locals who want to engage in bullfighting for entertainment purposes, especially during weekends, he charges Sh8,000.  

 He notes that politicians prefer using this strategy outside their perceived strongholds to pull crowds and as a sport to unify supporters from different political affiliations.

“Supporters across the political divide love bullfights. It is an instant crowd-puller, especially among the Luhya community. Residents from all walks of life attend the event, where they mingle and also, discuss politics,” he said. Misigo, who started rearing bulls for fights in 1969, has so far hired out his bulls to political events in Malava, Ikolomani, Shinyalu, Lurambi and Lugari constituencies.

Due to his age, he has not invested in bull rings ( where the fights take place) but has an assistant, who takes the bulls to the ring, which a politician prefers.

Misigo’s assistant, Enock Amung’ana notes that they have gained popularity, especially during the campaign period.

“I am only 36 years and energetic. The old man cannot manage to manoeuvre through the crazy rallies and crowds, he only advises me on what to do,” says Amung’ana.

He adds that in a week, they hold at least four political rallies.

“Aspirants from the ward level to governorship place an order and inform us where they want to fight to be held. When the fight is coming to a close, they come to address the gathering. They have gained a lot of popularity,” he says.

To ensure the animals are fit and healthy, Misigo feeds them with molasses, and special grass.

He also trains them (bulls) to stay calm when not in the ring.

Due to his popularity, Misigo, who has been nicknamed “the bull master” says he can decode the bulls’ language. 

“I talk to them (bulls) and they understand what I want them to do to win the matches. Since I bought them 10 years ago, they have never lost a game. I don’t feed them marijuana because if you do so, they become agitated and lose focus in fights. It’s all about bonding,” he said.

He says that the business is good and has enabled him to buy land for his three sons. 

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