03:29 GMT19 January 2021
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    • In Spain, bulls have long been part of traditional physical contests, including the running of bulls (Festival of San Fermin) and bullfighting (Corrida de toros).  

Above: A bull jumps into the sea during the “Bous a la mar” or Bulls to the sea festival in the port of the eastern town of Denia, Spain, Sunday, 8 July 2012.
    • China’s Miao ethnic minority considers the bull a symbol of hard work and bravery. Holding bullfighting festivals is a way the Miao worship, asking the gods for a rich harvest.    

Above: In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, people of the Miao ethnic group watch a bullfight in Kaiyang County, southwest China's Guizhou Province, 2 March 2008.
    • The Festival of the Little Devils in Costa Rica re-enacts the bloody battles that the Borucas – the devils – fought more than five centuries ago against the Spanish conquerors – the bull – and which ended in the expulsion of the latter from their lands.   

Above: A Costa Rican Boruca boy plays with a “bull” costume during the Feast of the Devils celebration in Rey Curre, 300 km south of San Jose, Costa Rica on 4 February 2012.
    • The Hamar tribe lives in one of the districts of the Ethiopian Omo Valley. Here, when a young boy wants to become an adult and build his own family, he must go through an ancient ritual - running over the backs of 7 to 10 bulls without falling four times.  

Above: A man from the Hamar tribe takes part in a bull jumping ceremony in Ethiopia's southern Omo Valley region near Turmi on 19 September 2016.
    • The Festival of San Fermin is named after the patron saint of the city of Pamplona. Thoroughly described in Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”, the festival is internationally known because of the running of the bulls. 

Above: Revellers try to escape bulls as the threat gets closer.
    • Peru’s so-called “Blood festival” includes a ritual that involves tying a condor, representing the indigenous people, to the back of a wild bull, representing the colonists. For many Peruvians the festival symbolises the country’s liberation from Spanish rule.

Above: An enraged bull with an Andean condor tied to its back lurches across the bullring in Cotabambas, on 29 July 1999, as an amateur bullfighter tries to get the bull's attention with a cape.
    • Every February, the small Spanish city of Luzon hosts a carnival known as “La Fiesta de los Diablos y Mascaritas” (Festival of Devils and Masks). There are two types of participants. Some people paint their faces black, wear bull’s horns, and cow bells to portray devils, which they call los diablos. Others wear white masks and are called las mascaritas, and the devils can’t touch them. The carnival was first mentioned in official records in the 14th century, but the real origin of the festival could be much older.

Above: A costumed man covered in oil and soot, carrying bull’s horns on his head and a cowbell on his belt representing the devil, touches the face of a villager while taking part in carnival celebrations in the small village of Luzon, Spain, 9 February 2013.
    • In a rodeo sport, the main task is to stay mounted while a bull goes wild and tries to buck a rider off. As for the US, to receive a score the rider must stay on the bull’s back for eight seconds. One hand should hold on to a bull rope, while the other hand remains free. Touching the bull with the free hand is strictly prohibited and leads to a score of zero for the performance. 

Above: Mason Lowe rides Cochise during a Professional Bull Riders event at the Sprint Centre in Kansas City, Mo. Lowe died Tuesday, 15 January 2019, after a bull stomped on his chest during a PBR chute-out competition at the National Western Stock Show in Denver.
    • During the traditional Lamego carnival in Portugal, people usually wear hand-carved wooden masks with bull’s horns attached to some of those pretending to be caretos (devils). 

Above: Revellers from the Portuguese village of Lagoa, wearing bull masks and traditional carnival costumes, chase people to scare them during the carnival festivities in Lamego, northern Portugal, Saturday, 1 March 2014.
    • The Do Son Buffalo Fighting festival is one of the most unique Vietnamese events and has been held since the 18th century. Preparations for the festivities normally begin up to a year before the event. 

Above: A man leads his winning buffalo out of the fighting field in the Do Son beach town of Hai Phong, Vietnam, Thursday, 28 September 2017.
    • Bulls are also significant in Thai mythology. For example, a magical water bull or a ghost, Khwai Thanu, is believed to protect people from black magic and is still worshipped today.  

Above: Thai farmers controlling their buffaloes compete in a flooded field during the annual Wooden Plough Buffalo Race in Chonburi Province, southeast of Bangkok, Thailand, Saturday, 13 July 2019. The farmers are celebrating the start of the sowing season by racing the buffaloes, whose usual task is to plough fields.
    • The Carnival of Ustaritz, which is considered to be the essence of Basque culture, announces the awakening of a bear. People, celebrating the arrival of spring, wear costumes and masks including, some with bull’s horns.

Above: A reveller dressed in a bull costume representing the mythology of the Basque country, takes part in the Carnival of Ustaritz, south-western France.
    © AP Photo / Fernando Hernandez
    In Spain, bulls have long been part of traditional physical contests, including the running of bulls (Festival of San Fermin) and bullfighting (Corrida de toros).

    Above: A bull jumps into the sea during the “Bous a la mar” or "Bulls to the sea" festival in the port of the eastern town of Denia, Spain, Sunday, 8 July 2012.

    In many cultures, oxen represent a symbol of power and strength. Being an important totem in countries all around the world, the ox has been perceived as a king among animals, as well as worshiped since ancient times.

    The ox is one of the 12 horoscope animals in the Chinese zodiac, Sheng Xiao. According to an ancient legend, when the Jade Emperor – one of the mythological Gods of the Celestial Empire – held a great race across a river between animals, the ox was almost the first to reach the emperor, but was fooled by a cat and a rat, which rode on its back over the river and then left him behind.

    Ultimately, the rat pushed the cat down into the river and reached the emperor first and left the cat out of the zodiac. It seems like cats have held a grudge against rats ever since.

    And now, after the year of the rat, 2021 – the year of ox – has finally arrived, bringing new hope and great expectations.

    But what significance does the ox have in cultures around the world? Check out Sputnik's gallery to learn more.

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