Fana Kuma

Fana Kuma - The Sport of Rat Shooting 1

Fana Kuma or Rat Shooting seems to have been a well understood sport of the Lords and Earls of Pre written history Tonga. The sport comprised two teams, one a team asssembled by the host (generally a lord of rank) and the other assembled by the guest. The two teams follow a pre-determined, prepared hunting trail where a ‘kuma’ or other animal may rush out of the brushes or plantations/crops for the shooting party to kill with their arrows.


**This sport is played between two teams. The two teams were traditionally selected by the hosting lord from his staff and by the host’s guest from his staff.

Servants are required for preparing the field, and assisting the participants.

Required materials:

  • Bow and two arrows for each participant.
  • Servants to prepare the game route.
  • Servants to collect arrows during the game.
  • Long Arrow. The arrows used on these occasions are nearly six feet long (shorter than the war-arrows of the time which were about three feet), made of reed, headed with iron-wood. They are not feathered, and their great length is requisite, that they may go straight enough to hit a small object; besides which, it is advantageous in taking an aim through a thick bush. Each individual in the party has only two arrows; after all, that’s why servants are around to pick up the shot arrows
  • Long Bow. The bows also are rather longer than those used in war, about six feet high, whereas the war-bows were about four feet and a half high. The bows are not as taught by design to minimise the strain in bending and making an accurate shot.
  • Coconuts.
  • Other materials are gathered during the game.


The host chooses the game route while servants prepare roasted coconuts for the game. The game trail was generally selected for a distance of about a quarter of a mile.

Servants to prepare the game trail proceed along the game route chewing the roasted coconuts very finely as they go. The servants blow chunks of roasted coconut beside the trail where the objective of the task is to distribute sufficient bait to attract animals (including the rat) while not piling too much bait for the animal to flee with the bait as an adequate meal. By spreading the bait evenly, animals are attracted from one bait pile to another bait pile providing participants with a target.

During the trail preparation, if the servants arrive at a cross road, a reed is pierced in the middle of the cross road as a marker, “tapu”, warning the game is in progress and the path is prohibited. The game participants, will remove the marker when they come across the crossroad during the game. When it was played, pedestrians passing through and seeing the tapu will stop at a distance, including those of higher rank than the participating parties. The pedestrian will sit, out of respect or politeness, and wait patiently until the shooting party has passed. Of coursed, if you happened to be a lower ranked individual (than those playing the game) whether a petty earl, or a much lower order, infringing the playing field was simply putting your life at risk.

At the end of the game route, the servants will be seated and prepare the traditional kava. The farmer of the nearest land plot will have been informed to supply refreshments which may include roasted pork, yams, fowls, and ripe fruit.

The rules:

  • Whichever party kills ten rats first, wins the game.
  • No one may shoot a rat that is in advance of him, except he who happens to be first in the row;
  • Anyone may shoot a rat that is either abreast of him or behind him
  • As soon as a participant has shot, whether a hit or not, he changes his position with the participant behind him.
  • The arrow is retrieved by servants.
  • If any one of either party sees a fair shot at a bird, he may take aim at it; if he kills it, it counts the same as a rat.

The Game Begins and Ends:

The teams having divided themselves into two shooting parties, set out about ten minutes after the puhi (servants ‘blowing’ bait). The participants follow each other closely in a row along the middle of the road, armed with bows and arrows.

The two parties are mixed; initially the highest ranked individual generally proceeds first, behind him one of the opposite party, then one of the same party with the first, and behind him again one of the other party, and so on alternately.

Every now and then the shooting-party stops and makes squeaking noises like a rat to attract the rats out of hiding and has them sit upright on their haunches, as if in the attitude of listening. If a rat is alarmed, and begins running away, one or more of the shooting-party cry out tu’u! (stop!) This generally has the effect of making the rat stop, sits up, and appears too much frightened to attempt his escape.

If it turns out there are rats aplenty, the game may extend to three or four rounds before the servants are reached.

When the shooting parties have arrived where servants have prepared the Kava, the teams sit down and share the kava and what food has been prepared.

Courtesies during the game:

  • As soon as the shooting party arrive at a cross road they pull up the reeds placed as taboo.

1 Mariner’s accounts named the game animal ‘rat’ although his accounts also go further to specify they weren’t actually ‘rats.’ “These are not so large as in European parts of the world, but rather between the size of a mouse and a rat and much of the same colour. They live chiefly upon vegetable substances as sugarcane, breadfruit, etc. They constitute an article food with the lower orders of people, but who are not allowed to make a sport of shooting them, this privilege being reserved for lords, matapule, and mu’as.”

[ref: Martin, John MD, Tonga Islands: William Mariner’s Account, fifth edition (Vava’u Press, 1991)]