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Home     Goa Guide     Dhireo (Bull Fighting)

Dhireo (Bull Fighting)

There are fighting bulls in Goa, a small state on the west coast of India. They are the cause of enough noise, frantic sprinting, and even bloodshed to recall the bull runs of Pamplona earlier in the century.


But this is Goa at the end of the century. And the bullfight here is one in which the bulls fight one another. When there is bloodshed, it is not caused by an elegant matador, sequinned and rakish, but by a pair of horns filed and sharpened down to a lance point.

There are no fences or barricades here. Bullfights are usually held in an old rice field just outside a village, and the crowd # whose complex Sunday lunches quickly become a liability when it's time to get out of the way of an unreasonable animal # provides the enclosure. They do reluctantly put up the odd rickety bamboo fence to provide token protection for a visiting VIP, but everyone in the crowd knows that a few sticks of bamboo will do absolutely nothing to halt half a ton of charging bull.

Fighting bulls bear interesting names in Goa, and bout cards make slightly bizarre reading. Alibaba vs. Second Krishna. Brazil vs. Mad Max. Sea Harrier vs. Kingofsouth.

The animals are bred and trained to fight, and later retire as studs. Although trainers traditionally do not breathe a word about their ward's regimen and habits, the essence of bringing up a fighting bull is a carefully monitored diet, supplemented by enough vitamins and minerals to supply a small school. Late at night, in the tavernas around the village square, when feni # that clear and dangerous liquor distilled from the cashew apple # has loosened an incautious tongue or two, exotica like sardines and molasses are mentioned, as are puréed jackfruit and dried figs. But nothing's certain: what's said during these long and bibulous village nights, especially in deepest south Goa, vanishes like strange dreams, especially on the morning of a fight.

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