portuguese_bullfights
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Our luxury private tours in Spain and Portugal are faithful to the essence of Iberian traditions. We, as culture seekers feel the urge to teach about the origins of all our traditions and, of course, bullfighting is one of them.  This tradition allows us to understand ancient times rituals from the Mediterranean world: the mythology of the sacred bull and the perception of life and death cycles since the limits of the Neolithic period. However, we deeply respect the opinions and the sensibility of our guests on this highly sensitive issue and never include in our private tours any element of bullfighting except on special requests.

 

If the most famous form of bullfights is the Spanish “Corrida de Toros” where there is the killing of the bull, there is also another tradition, only in Portugal, and with different sequences. This form of bullfight is considered less aggressive as the bull is killed by a professional local butcher after the show.

Portuguese-style bullfights are called touradas or corridas de touros, and they are distinguished by the fact that the main bullfighter ‘fights’ the bull on a horse.

In a typical tourada – where the bull’s horns have been filed down and covered with a leather cup to protect the horse – six bulls are used. The ‘show’ is composed by two main parts.

In the first part (the most important part) a cavaleiro – a rider dressed in a traditional 18th century costume – ‘fights’ the bull from a horse by making the bull run and chase the horse and by stabbing different types of weapons in the bull’s back. 

First, the bullfighter stabs a special bandarilha (stick with harpoon-like end) which breaks on impact leaving the metal end stabbed in the bull while the wooden end stays with the rider and now reveals a small flag which is used to tease the bull to chase the horse.

Then, several bandarilhas (often 6 or more), similar to the banderillas used in spanish-style bullfighting (but a bit longer so they are easier to handle from the horse) are also stabbed into the back of the bull, to produce pain and blood loss.

During the performance of the cavaleiro there are also some ‘assistants’ on foot, called banderilheiros, who are dressed very much like spanish-style bullfighters and who also use capotes (magenta capes).

They are there to intervene if problems arise and to attract the bull when the rider changes his/her horse for a ‘fresh one’ (which happens every few minutes).

Once the bull is totally exhausted because of the continuous chasing of the horse and the blood loss, the rider leaves the bullring and the second and last part starts: a group of eight men on foot called forcados challenge the bull, without protection or weapons.

The front man provokes the bull into a charge to perform a pega de touros (‘bull catch’), and when he does so he hangs on to the animal’s head. He is quickly aided by his companions, who surround and hold on to the animal from head to tail until it is subdued.

Finally, after the forcados leave, a group of castrated and tamed bulls is taken into the bullring to lure the exhausted fighting bull back out. Several groups of forcados compete with each other to see who controls the bull better, but the ‘hero’ of the bullfight is still the cavaleiro. An ancient tradition which shocks as well as amazes, a truly authentic experience for a bespoke private tour in Portugal.