Portuguese bull fighting takes place in relatively small rings, requiring that the horse posses a perfect and precise training to avoid the charge of the bull. Most towns of some size in
Portugal have their own bull ring.
Portuguese bull fighter is mounted on a pure
bred Lusitano stallion and called toureio equestre. On occasions, they will ride mares or cross-bred horses. In fact, the breeding selection process of the Lusitano horse is essentially based on its ability for the bullfight.
In Portugal, the objective of the bull fight
is not to kill the bull, in fact it is forbidden to, but rather to demonstrate the training and schooling of the horse. The bull fight consist of placing a series of long and short darts on the muscular part of the bull, just behind the neck. The darts irritate the bull and make it more aggressive.
The performance is relatively short, ten minutes or so, in which an average of six darts are placed, but it must be performed under strict "codes of
honour." The bull should be given the advantage when charging, that is, it must initiate the charge before the cavalier makes his move. In addition, the approach and encounter of bull and cavalier must be face to face to the last possible moment, in which the horse, to escape the impact of the bull must literally wrap itself around the bull in some fascinating displays of agility.
The placing of darts is usually done one by one, however, it is not uncommon for the cavalier to tie the reigns, hold a banderilla in each hand, and with the aids of his legs and seat, manoeuvre his horse for the placing of a pair of banderillas. During the intervals of placing darts, the cavaliers allows his horse to be closely chased by the bulls and then demonstrates in an elegant and relaxed
manner, a variety of movements of dressage.
The final event in a
Portuguese bull fight is the 'pega de caras' or
face catch. This is performed by a team of eight
Forcados (men on foot). The term Forcados
derives from the term given to the pole used in the past
by these men, to ensure bulls did not enter the
staircase from the ring to the royal box.
The team is lead by
the Forcados que vai a cara (lead man to face)
the remaining seven are called ajudas (helpers).
The last man though has a special name of Rabejador
(tail man). The forcados line up in front of the bull
and challenge it, bare handed. It is the job of the lead
forcado to jump on the bull's head when it charges. Once
he is secure, the six other men do the same while the
Rabejador holds onto the bull's tail in order to secure
it and ultimately subdue the bull.