The bulls have always been a key figure in the human culture. They appear in cave paintings estimated to be up to 17,000 years old. The mythic Bull of the Heavens plays a role in the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, dating as far back as 2150 b.C. The importance of the bull is reflected in its appearance in the zodiac — the Taurus —, and in its numerous mythological meanings where it is frequently associated to fertility.
Today, bullfighting shows take place in different countries around the world such as south of France, Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Costa Rica, China, Philippines, USA and Portugal. Not in all the countries mentioned the bull is killed at the end of the show and in recent years several nations forbidden the killing of the Bull or the entire show,; for instance, in 2015 the European Union legislated that agricultural funds won’t be used to finance lethal bullfighting activities.
The most famous bullfighting show is the “corrida”; however, the Portuguese tradition differs quite a lot by the Spanish one. 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 show) fights the bull from horseback. The purpose of this part is to stab three or four bandeiras (small javelins) into the back of the bull.
In the second stage, called the pega (“holding”), the forcados, a group of eight men, challenge the bull directly and without weapon of defence or protection. 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 helped by his fellows who surround and secure the animal until the animal is subdued.
The killing of the bull does not take place in front of the public; eventually, a professional butcher kills the animal after the show, but it can happen that, after an exceptional performance, the bulls are healed, released to pasture and used for breeding until they die.
Despite the “corrida” is the most popular show involving bullfight it is not the only one. The “largadas de touros” (running of the bulls) where people run in front of one or a small group of bulls or the “chega de touros” where two bulls fight each other are also very popular in Portugal
In Portugal the “corridas”, the “largadas de touros”, the “chega de touros” and all the shows involving bulls are part of the tauromachy, but the word is not a strictly definition of the show that involves also the horses, the bull breading and all the secondary activities more or less related with bullfighting. The breeding of wild bulls and of the Lusitano horses has also a function of preservation of the species and of the habitat. Extensive uncontaminated territories are in fact fundamental for both activities.
On one side, bullfighting can be a way to preserve nature, local culture and create jobs in a country struggling with a deep recession. On the other side, it remains a violent entertainment and, undeniably, a controversial tradition.