Take Me Out to the Bullfights

It’s not easy being a bullfight fan in California.  Sure, bloodless corridas are legal, but the Portuguese societies that sponsor them wisely choose to fly under the PETA radar, making them both hard to reach and hard to hear about unless you’re part of the community. Most of the venues are out in the dustiest corners of the Valley, in little farming towns that are hours from the cities. Most of the fights are on weeknights, conducted in Portuguese, and only written up in Portuguese newspapers. There’s a fan website in English, but it’s no longer being maintained, and the URL is up for sale. In other words, you’ve really got to love this sport if you want to see it.

And make no mistake, this is definitely sport. When a team of forcados leaps into the ring, eight brave men versus one angry bull, it’s like being catapulted back into the Stone Age, when bull-jumping and bull-baiting were some of the world’s earliest athletic spectacles.

The cavaleiros – mounted bullfighters – are superb equestrians, and the highly-trained fighting horses they ride are nothing short of amazing.

Some of the matadors are great athletes as well,  and since this is a long way from the big leagues, you see a lot of older toreros with years of experience, not just a pretty face and a tight set of sparkle-pants. The fact that they use velcro rather than steel in these fights only makes it better – the bulls aren’t bled out, and their neck muscles aren’t cut, so they fight harder and longer. In fact they often  refuse to leave the ring after a fight, and have to be patiently coaxed out by a herd of fetching cows and a team of men with goads. They are bred in California from old-world fighting-bull stock, and bear little resemblance to your typical hamburger-on-hooves. They are faster, meaner, and more dangerous than just about anything left in the wild. And they get to trot out of the ring like champions, surrounded by a bevy of bovine beauties, instead of being dragged out on a meat-sled by mules. What’s not to like?

Because I’m an aficionado, I’ve dug through some Portuguese society websites and put together a partial schedule for this summer. I’ve only included the bullrings that are within an hour or two of the Bay Area, because that’s about as far as I’m willing to roll. Thornton and Tracy are the closest, but I’ve also seen some great fights in Gustine and Stevinson. Phone numbers are included so you can call to confirm that a fight is still on. Enjoy!



  • Mon. June 1, 2009
  • Mon. June 8, 2009
  • Mon. June 15, 2009
  • 8:00 p.m.
  • Festa do Espírito Santo – Stevinson, CA
  • 2962 Lander Avenue
  • Hall: 209-634-5910


  • Fri. June 12, 2009 6:30 p.m.
  • Mon. October 19, 2009 8:00 p.m.
  • Our Lady of Fátima – Thornton, CA
  • 9650 Thornton Road – Hall: 209-464-3924


  • Fri. June 19, 2009
  • 8:00 p.m.
  • I.P.F.E.S. – Tracy, CA
  • 430 W. 9th Street – Hall: 209-835-9909


  • Sat. June 20, 2009
  • 8:00 p.m.
  • Soçiedade Flor Açoriana – Chowchilla, CA
  • Hall: 800 S. 3rd Street – Hall: 559-665-4961


  • Mon. July 20, 2009 8:00 p.m.
  • & Sept. 14, 2009 7:30 p.m.
  • Vella Vista Arena
  • G.P.S. Hall – Gustine, CA
  • 500 – 3rd Avenue, Gustine
  • Hall: 209-854-1830
  • Church (Our Lady of Miracles): 209-854-6692

Thanks to Mayalibre for the forcado video. Cavaleiro photo and video by Stuart Mangrum.

4 Responses to Take Me Out to the Bullfights

  1. Colin says:

    Also out in Escalon, on the Bellota-Escalon road. They get busy around mid-August.

  2. Erik Salmonson says:

    I will never forget our visit to the ring. One point to mention. Although the bulls never bleed, the men in the ring just might. Still a very dangerous game.

  3. Paul says:

    I want to add that we will be having two corridas in Artesia in 2010:

    Saturday, May 29, 2010 at 6:00
    6 Brave Bulls
    Cavaleiro: Joao Serra Coelho of Portugal
    Matador: Pephillo Rodriguez of Mexico
    Matador: Cesar Castaneda of Mexico
    Price is $20. Children under 5 are free

    Monday, July 26, 2010 time is tbd
    6 Brave Bulls
    Cavaleiro: Alberto Conde of Portugal
    Matador: Jose Luis Goncalves of Portugal
    Grupo Forcados de Artesia
    Prices tbd

    Both events will take Place at the Praca de Toiros at Artesia D.E.S. Located at 11903 Asworth Street, Artesia, CA 90701

  4. Bullfighting: It’s not ART; it’s not CULTURE; it’s not SPORT; it’s TORTURE (ask the MAJORITY of the people in the bullfighting countries of Spain; Portugal; France; Mexico; Colombia; Ecuador; Guatemala; Peru and Venezuela that are working on, and passing BANS and ABOLITION of bullfights).

    Bullfighting: The most indefensible and abhorrent type of animal abuse.

    Bullfighting is not a fight at all, but a systematic torture-killing that pits a gang of armed thugs wielding razor-sharp barbed spikes, spears, swords and daggers (these weapons are designed to inflict intense pain and cause massive blood loss to weaken the animal) against a lone, terrified; confused; fatally disabled and wounded animal.

    It’s a SICKENING economic industry based on HORRIFYING victimization; sadistic abuse; extreme cruelty and mutilation and torture of bulls (and horses) during the cruel exhibitions of bullfights (which are BARBARIC “blood” fiestas).

    So-called “bloodless” bullfights are practiced in the U.S., where (prior to the abuse in the ring) the bulls are “mutilated” (their horns are (up to 4”) painfully “sawed-off” to “interfere” with the bull’s “ability to navigate”; they are locked-up in darkness; terrified; confused; teased, harassed; tormented (and injured) only to be killed once outside the arena, in a Mexican bullfight; a slaughterhouse or elsewhere: United States: “The Truth Behind Bloodless Bullfighting [HQ]“: https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=228336273849299&comments
    only to be killed once outside the arena, in a Mexican bullfight; a slaughterhouse or elsewhere.

    In these events bullfighters perform who torture and kill many bulls during regular bullfights: Close-up Horror of Bullfighting (Graphic) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvwQ4Dmlur8
    Although the bullfights in America are supposedly bloodless, bulls and horses are still subjected to large amounts of abuse and stress and the risk of getting wounded.

    The bullfighting industry is losing ground in the bullfighting countries and that is why they are trying to export their bloody business to other countries. Since it is prohibited to torture and kill bulls in the United States, they have invented bloodless bullfights, to promote their sadistic industry in an innocent form.

    However, the same industry does not have a problem with killing defenseless animals. The money they generate from the bullfights in America is used to promote their blood sport. Furthermore, people who visit the bullfights may mistakenly think that bullfighting is not that cruel, while it is one of the most cruel forms of animal abuse.

    We must not allow the bullfighting industry to continue promoting their bloody business in America.
    America has many great events to offer, without sadistic animal abuse and cruelty.

    Bloodless bullfighting in our country of America is DISGRACEFUL and should be, and remain BANNED because it is, and always will be (in any “form”); a “Tradition of Cruelty.”

    We must call for a PERMANENT BAN on all future bullfighting events planned in America and let the bullfighting industry know that America is not interested in bullfighting.

    The bullfights that have already been organized in Las Vegas, Nevada were a big failure: only a few people attended the events and the bullfighting industry lost money.

    This is reason enough to PERMANENTLY BAN all bullfights in the USA: people want this abuse and cruelty to STOP.

    Please Help these “suffering” animals – STAY AWAY FROM BULLFIGHTS; speak out against them and DEMAND that they be ABOLISHED.

    Michel Michaeljohn (An American of Spanish descent).

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