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WHAT's IS A CAVALEIRO or a CAVALEIRA?

Bloodless Bullfighting Portuguese Style

Cavaleiros & Cavaleiras
~ What are they and what do they do?

Cavaleiro Vasco Taborda, Jr. with a black Lusitano named Indio during an opening ceremony of a bloodless bullfight
photo credit: Aaron of FotoNuova.com
Cavaleiro Vasco Taborda, Jr. with a black Lusitano named Indio during an opening ceremony of a bloodless bullfight
  • The Cavaleiros (rejoneadores in Spanish style), are the horsemen who enters the ring mounted on magnificently trained horses. They are dressed in a Portuguese-style costume that are the traditional 18th century attire, while the Rejoneadors (Spanish-style) costume consist of a bolero and leather chaps.
  • They are the main performers of a Portuguese style bullfight, exhibiting on horseback the technical movements and the extraordinary ability of the horses, along with their skill and bravery.
  • Fighting on horseback is a central feature of Portuguese bullfighting.
    • Horseback bullfighters are frequently members of old aristocratic families
  • Terminology used for a male bullfighter on horseback
    • Cavaleiro (Portuguese)
    • Rejoneador (Spanish)
  • Terminology used for a female bullfighter on horseback
    • Cavaleira (Portuguese)
    • Rejoneadora (Spanish)
Rejoneadora Patricia Pellen
Cavaleira/Rejoneadora Patricia Pellen
riding a beautfiul Andalusian horse

1) Scene 1, Act 1: CAVALEIRO

Cavaleiro going toe-to-toe with a fighting bull
Cavaleiro riding Quiver, a buckskin Lusitano horse, going toe-to-toe with a fighting bull

The Cavaleiro is always the first act of a Portuguese style bullfight. He enters the gates and waits for his opponent to hand him his first banderilla that he will fight with. This is a respectable gesture wishing him good luck. If there are no opponents (other Cavaleiros), then the bandarilheiros will hand it to him. He then rides around the arena, showing off the horse while exercising at the same time (like stretching out before running). He will then dedicate his bull to either the bull owner, horse owner, the director, or someone whom he will give honoring to. He hands them his hat and then gives the signal to the director that he is now ready to fight.

The fight starts when the bugle gives the signal to open the gates of the pen, and thus the first bull is released.

Without going into too much of the details, this is where man and horse both exhibit their skills and artistic movements, while the bull shows his bravery and gives a good fight. The bandarilheiros are also in or partially inside the arena waiting and watching, in case the Cavaleiro needs him. Sometimes, the bull is not as cooperative where the expertise of a bandarilheiros is needed. Most often, the Cavaleiro prefers to do the work themself.

The Cavaleiros objective is to place several banderillas (short and long VTS/lances) on the bull where the Velcro has been placed (starting around the shoulder and extending towards half way of the back). It's almost like target, except everything has to be done just right. The first horse used is skilled for a Saida. The first part is where the Cavaleiro observes the bravery and movements of the bull. The cavaleiro will place around 3-6 lances and will then change horses. At this point, the Cavaleiro should already have an idea how the bull works and charges and can then determine which horse he will use next.

An exceptional Cavaleiro gives the bull the advantage by allowing it to initiate the charge first. A head-to-head action occurs until the very last second, while the horse dodges the impact of the bull by sidestepping and wrapping itself around the bull.

2) Vuelta

The Vuelta of the Cavaleiro and Forcado with the bandarilheiros
The Vuelta of the Cavaleiro and Forcado with the bandarilheiros

At this point, if both the Cavaleiro and the Forcado (who made the grab) felt like they did a good job, they then walk around the arena (called a Vuelta) where the audience show their appreciation by tossing to them roses, candies, clothing, hats, and sometimes alcohol (which they all or one must drink). Once completed, they go into the center of the arena thanking and taking their final bow to the audience.

If reading this is a bit hard to follow, no worries, we have videos of bloodless bullfights to show you the reall thing. Click >here< to watch Vasco Taborda, Jr. in action during a bloodless bullfight event in Artesia, California. Click >here< if you want to see another Cavaleiro or a Cavaleira.

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