Villavicencio, the gateway to the Llanos will once again host the “encuentro mundial de coleo” or Coleo World Cup from October 10 to October 12.
Coleo is a sport practiced in the vast flatlands or Llanos that cover much of eastern Colombia and southern Venezuela. It involves two riders that chase a cow –or a bull- down a narrow track of sand that is two to three hundred meters long. The main rider must take the beast down by pulling its tail and he or she must do it in such a way that the animal rolls over in the ground once or twice or thrice.
The sport is said to have its roots in cattle ranching, as in the old days cowboys taking a herd of cows from one place to another sometimes had to knock down animals that strayed from the herd, in order for the rest of the group not to disperse.
Coleo is a popular sport in the Venezuelan and Colombian Llanos, although each country has slightly different rules. In Colombia, riders get two attempts to knock down their cow as they chase it down the narrow track. Points are awarded for a campana -when the cow spins over once after its knocked down- a campanilla –two spins- and the ultimate -but very rare – remolino, which is when the cow rolls over three times after falling on the ground.
Coleo riders can make millions of pesos in prize money. But winning is difficult, as riders depend on factors they cannot control, like the quality of the horse, the speed the cow runs at and its propensity to roll over once it is knocked down.
One hundred and thirty-six Colombian riders have signed up for this year´s World Cup according to the organizing committee, which on its website thanks “God the almighty, the Virgin of Manare, the sportsmen, sponsors and the general public for believing in the world´s greatest Coleo celebration.”
Dozens of riders from Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, Spain and Central America will also participate in this year´s World Cup. Each nation has their own way of knocking down cows, with Mexican riders wrapping the cow´s tail around their foot and Spaniards using a wooden pole.