Terceira - Bull Running

Ocean Gem
Geoff & Eileen Mander
Tue 6 Jun 2017 21:00
Date: Tuesday 6th June 2017
Position: 38:39.164N 27:13.058W

In Terceira there is a 300+ year old bull running festival which takes place most weekends.  A fully intact bull is let loose in the town's main square with a couple of very long ropes around its neck.  Attached to these each of these ropes are some strong men dressed in white shirts, grey trousers and black hats whose job it is to try to prevent it from doing any serious damage.  The panicked and angry bull is more or less free to charge through the streets and mostly young men dance around in front of it to demonstrate their bravery (or stupidity, cruelty) by jumping out of the way as the bull tries to kill them. 

The tips of the bulls horns are capped with small metal fittings to reduce the harm caused by goring events but 500lbs of angry bull can still do some horrific damage unless restrained by the guys attached to the ends of the ropes. Unfortunately these ropes are quite long and the slack that has to be allowed for the bull to run around means that at times it can get up front and personal with people in the street that are not as agile as they think they are.

Most sensible people place themselves behind barriers in the front gardens of the houses that face the streets and watch the proceedings close up but in relative safety. 

We watched as four bulls were prepared for combat, one at a time.  They were constrained in metal pens roughly the size of the bull itself, ropes were attached and the bulls then allowed to back out of the pens, whilst the crowd did its best to drive the bull crazy by shouting and waving flags and other material at it from the safety of their barricaded stalls.  The bull emerged blinking and confused, snorting mucous from its nostrils and its backside covered in congealed green dung. It was not long before it spotted a pirouetting youth before it and charged him at full speed. The youngster jinked out of the way and the process then repeated itself as the bull raced around the streets finding other targets. 

Unfortunately not everyone in the street was quite as agile.  One of the older participants was the skipper of Savarona, one of the ARC boats.  He was in the street taking pictures and was caught off guard as the bull turned and came at him at speed.  He tried to run away but tripped and fell trapping himself in a corner between the road surface and a high concrete wall.  I looked on appalled as the bull jumped and landed head first, horns down, with all of its weight on the fallen skipper.  It did this several times before the rope handlers were able to pull the bull away.  It looked very much as though he had been seriously injured.  

His family were also watching close by to where we were standing and as soon as it was safe to do so ran to his aid.  Initial assessment by the ambulance crew was that he had several broken ribs, possible head damage and maybe a broken hand.  But he was 'lucky' in that he was subsequently found to not have broken any bones, but just had severe bruising, concussion and a few broken teeth.

Whilst he was in hospital several other casualties of the event turned up.  One person had had an eye gouged out. One of the locals told the family that the bull that had attacked him had already killed four people in previous events. 

It seems to me that apart from the cruelty inflicted on the bull this is an event that is a tad too dangerous to allow to continue. Some traditions really don’t have a place in the modern world.