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Bullfighting or tauromachy (from Greek ταυρομαχία - tauromachia, "bull-fight"), is a traditional spectacle of Spain, Portugal, some cities in southern France, and several Latin American countries, in which one or more live bulls are ritually killed as a public spectacle. A nonlethal variant stemming from Portuguese influence is practised on the Tanzanian island of Pemba.

The tradition, as it is practiced today, involves professional toreros (toureiros in Portuguese; also referred to as toreadors in English), who execute various formal moves with the intent, during various phases of the fight, of distracting, angering, or causing injury to the bull itself. Such maneuvers are performed at close range, and can result in injury or even death of the performer. The bullfight usually concludes with the death of the bull by a sword thrust. In Portugal the finale consists of a tradition called the pega, where men (forcados) try to grab and hold the bull by its horns when it runs at them. Forcados are dressed in a traditional costume of damask or velvet, with long knit hats as worn by the campinos (bull headers) from Ribatejo.

Bullfighting generates heated controversy in many areas of the world, including Mexico, Ecuador, Spain, and Portugal. Supporters of bullfighting argue that it is a culturally important tradition, while animal rights groups argue that it is a blood sport because of the suffering of the bull and horses during the bullfight.

There are many historic fighting venues in the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America. The largest venue of its kind is the Plaza de toros México located in the heart of Mexico City.


Most Portuguese bullfights are held in two phases: the spectacle of the cavaleiro, and the pega. In the cavaleiro, a horseman on a Portuguese Lusitano horse (specially trained for the fights) fights the bull from horseback. The purpose of this fight is to stab three or four bandeirilhas (small javelins) in the back of the bull.

In the second stage, called the pega ("holding"), the forcados, a group of eight men, challenge the bull directly without any protection or weapon of defense. The front man provokes the bull into a charge to perform a pega de cara or pega de caras (face grab). The front man secures the animal's head and is quickly aided by his fellows who surround and secure the animal until he is subdued.

The bull is not killed in the ring and, at the end of the corrida, leading oxen are let into the arena and two campinos on foot herd the bull along them back to its pen. The bull is usually killed, away from the audience's sight, by a professional butcher. It can happen that some bulls, after an exceptional performance, are healed, released to pasture until their end days and used for breeding.


A forcado is a member of the team that performs the pega de cara or pega de caras ("face catch"), the final event in a typical Portuguese bullfight. Forcados were usually people from lower classes who, to this day, practice their art through amateur associations.

In past times the bullring had a staircase to the royal cabin and forcados were employed to ensure that the bull did not enter the stairs. To assist them they used a pole (approx 1.7m long) with a half-moon of steel at the top. This pole is called a "forcado" and it is from there the name comes. Nowadays, they only use a more symbolic, less functional version of it in the cortesias (opening ceremony) or historical demonstrations.

The pega involves eight forcados who challenge the bull with their bare hands. They form a line facing the bull and the caras (front man) eggs the bull on by "playing" with it and taking steps forward if necessary to get it to charge. Once the bull runs forward the first forcado times his jump onto the bull's head. Once on the bull's head and holding onto it, usually around its neck, six forcados jump upon the bull in the same fashion as the first forcado, piling upon themselves and grabbing the bull while one forcado grabs the bull by its tail. The objective is to subdue the bull. The forcado who grabbed the bull by the tail is the last one to release the bull after it is subdued. Bull's horns are covered with a protection of leather to prevent it from injuring forcados. Although in popular street bullfights some bulls are released without any protection at all - "em pontas".

Forcados appear in traditional clothing of damask or velvet for this event, including a green, long, knit hat. The campinos, who also traditionally wear the knit hats, are also present at the arena to herd the bull back to its pen at the end of the corrida. The forcados don't wear the hat on their heads, they carry it on their shoulders in the cortesias. During the pega, only the cabo, who is also the leading forcado, wears it.

It's not uncommon that forcados get serious injuries - in 2008 at least one forcado was in a coma for three days - or even death.

Bullfighters on horses are not totally safe, and there are numerous situations of knigts falling off the horse and being smashed by it.