In Melaka, a young ox-cart driver and manufacturer carries on his father’s legacy

The tradition of riding the kereta lembu, one of Melaka’s iconic identities, is enjoying a revival, and it’s the next generation leading the way.

Adam Hazrik Zulhilmi, 32, continues his late father’s legacy as an experienced ox-cart driver and maker, with two of his oxen, ‘Abang’ and ‘Adik’ being part of an eight-ox team, powering the kereta lembu ferrying tourists to popular tourist attractions here.

“My brothers and I keep alive the memory of our father, well known for his expertise as an ox tamer and creative bullock cart craftsman. Money cannot buy the skills and knowledge acquired from our father.

“I am committed to preserving our legacy passed down from past generations and I will continue my father’s legacy before the skills are lost over time,” he recently said in an interview with Melaka. .

Adam Hazrik, who is a sixth-generation trainer and ox-cart maker, shared his journey in training Abang and Adik for the task of welcoming tourists, in light of the reopening of the country’s borders. to international travelers on April 1.

Training oxen

The ability to stop his oxen with a voice command comes from the idea of ​​security, said Adam Hazrik, as he called ‘Hooo’ in an authoritative voice to ‘Abang’ and ‘Adik’, the pair of oxen white and gray, which immediately obeyed and stopped abruptly. “Hooo” means the oxen have learned to slow down and stop.

‘Abang’ and ‘Adik’, which are characterized by large humps on their necks and shoulders and hanging dewlaps, were bred to pull their master’s kereta lembu, a pointed brown-colored roof in the shape of a bull’s horn .

When training oxen, many factors, including the breed and the relationship between the oxen, must also be considered to ensure that the two-year-old animals obey his instructions while handling them during walks.

“Training an ox is not like taming a horse, a tiger or an elephant. Different training techniques are used for oxen,” said Adam Hazrik, who is also a horse trainer.

Selection of the best breed

Adam Hazrik said the best cattle to select for drafting, i.e. pulling carts, are Brahmin or Siamese because they have large humps.

“Both breeds are very docile, easy to handle and are thoroughly trained from an early age. For this task, only male cattle will be used as they are generally larger,” he said, noting that his family owns eight of these animals. for.

Born and raised in Kampung Tambak Bugis, Telok Mas, here he said there were certain characteristics to look for when selecting cattle for cart rides, which has been his family’s practice for generations.

“The good breed of cattle is recognizable by the large hump on the back and they are generally tame, trainable, obedient, calm and not easily agitated in public places,” he said.

Cloven-hoofed cattle are generally strong and hardy animals,” he said, adding that they come from several regions in Penang, Selangor, Johor, Kedah and Kelantan.

Good breeds of cattle are usually tall and well-muscled, with a deep, broad rump, a strong base, hard black hooves, and they have no loose skin at the navel or around the sheath.

Making the two oxen (young castrated male cows) compatible is not an easy task. So whenever Adam Hazrik buys cattle, he buys two male cows from the same barn.

“They are not necessarily siblings, but if possible they should come from the same stable. We will also look for the father (the father of the cows). If the father is good, the cattle will be fine too.

“But it all depends on luck. Sometimes you tend to have one that is good, the other one that is quite bad. It can be quite difficult if that happens, the good cow will also behave the same,” he added.

Adam Hazrik said that there is no specialized technique to tame cattle as the knowledge and skills are acquired from his father.

He said that after two or three training sessions, paired cows will be replaced if they prove to be incompatible and have shown hostility towards each other.

“It will only take about a month or two to tame a pair of good cattle before they are ready to transport tourists on the kereta lembu,” he said.

Thorny weapons for training

Adam Hazrik said that along with his brothers Samsudin Abdul, 44, and Tajudin Abdul, 53, he used several “weapons” to train and tame the cows.

They include the fitting of iron rims around the wooden wheels of the ox cart and the use of spiny beetles.

“Whenever the cows tend to lose their grip, the wooden platform attached to the oxen between the parallel wheels of the cart will be tilted, hence the fittings help to stabilize the wheels.

“The spiny beetles are placed around the neck of the ox, and when the cattle loosen, they will be pricked by the insect bites, causing them to return to their original position,” he said, noting that this is only used at the beginning. for naughty cows only.

Adam Hazrik admitted to being kicked, thrown off the cow’s back and hitting his head, noting that it was all part of the challenges of seasoning his hitch of oxen.

“For horses you only train one, but for kereta lembu we have to train two oxen at the same time for compatibility.

“It is difficult to explain the behavior of the cows. They seem calm at the beginning of their journey when they are attached to the cart. But the situation changes when they take to the road and get restless.

“Cattle stress is triggered by a myriad of causes such as vehicle horns being honked or tourists touching sensitive parts of their bodies. When they panic, the couple charges forward making it difficult to manage them,” a- he declared.

Besides “hooo”, cows learn to respond to cues such as “bah and haaiipp” to ensure they understand verbal commands given, especially when transporting tourists.

Despite the disappearance of the kereta lembu due to the change in location, including the previous ban on ox carts at tourist sites due to animal cleanliness and health factors, Adam Hazrik does not give up without a fight. .

Today, the ox cart ride, which is a pleasant sight due to its rarity, has become the latest popular attraction at the Hang Tuah center in Duyung, attracting large crowds to experience the traditional kereta lembu rides.

“Most of the visitors who show up for the oxcart rides are old people and adults who are there to rekindle their childhood memories,” said Adam Hazrik.

At weekends and in public places, he said, oxcart rides can extend up to 15 trips, but noted that the welfare of the oxen always comes first.

Every gesture and body language will be observed and if they show signs of fatigue, the oxen will be put to rest immediately.

“We have four pairs of cows that are rotated to transport tourists. Before the ride, the cows will be given enough feed and a bath to make them comfortable and cool.

At the same time, the cattle in our stable also receive periodic veterinary care to ensure they are in top health,” he added. – Bernama