The Portuguese Bull Fight

With our trip well over half way over, so sad, it was our turn to get out and get some of the non-tourist tourist things out of the way. We hit the mall, Ikea, and McDonald’s for a little taste of the normal in a non-normal way – oh, and we did it without the comfort of our tour guides. So, as much as things we different – they really were the same. The highlight of today was seeing Ines, another of our Portuguese friends, who met up with us for dinner. We are looking at doing a night out again on Tuesday if we can.

So for today I wanted to share with you a little about the traditional past time of Portuguese-style Bullfighting. A sport that is more a niche tradition that a sport with popularity. And while Luis and Patricia don’t care for it much we did catch it on one of their national TV channels the other evening so they thought that a good time to introduce it.
Aspects are similar to what we know from the more spanish-style sport, they use “knights” that play with the bull while spearing the back with hooks. The common understanding is that the spear (which is not a true spear, more like a spear with fish hook) is to hit just above the shoulder blades where there is a lot of fat and not many nerves – thus it is not suppose to cause any pain. What it is designed to do is weaken the animal a little. While this part was interesting as for some of the horse maneuvers they used – it was obviously not a fair fight. Again, designed more to tire the bull than anything else.

First the taunt – yes this is how they do it.
Next is where the magic of the portuguese bull fight starts to show. And by magic I mean insanity. A group of guys, cavaleiros, lines up in single file and starts taunting the bull until the bull makes a charge. These guys wear only regular cloths with a basic comber bun, no real padding and no weapons – though, at least today, the bull has pads over the points of the horns. The idea … get the bull to charge into the first guy in the line striking the head to the man’s stomach. The guys needs to grab in around the neck and hang on while the bull charges over each guy in line – with each trying to grab and slow the bull down. If the first guys fails to get a good grab or gets thrown during the charge – they have to do it again. If they get the bull to stop, the men win.

Then the grab! Hey, where is the rest of my team?
In the “games” we saw, the first group managed to stop the bull in the first charge, while the second groups failed completely – bull won. In both cases the bull became someone’s lunch, but in the second the cavaleiros were pretty beat up.
There seemed to be a lot of history and tradition tied up in how the whole process worked – at times it seemed almost Roman in how things were done. And while I can say that I would not be a fan of the sport, it was not what I was expecting. A lot of that is due to how the Portuguese have put these cavaleiros (the guys who stare down the charge of a bull) as the main focus – as apposed to the spanish which star the matadores.
More of what is making this trip so interesting.

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