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Toros a la Tica Upside Down Bullfights – Bloodless for Bulls, but Not for People

bullfights, festivals, holidays

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Although this Costa Rican tradition is similar to the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Costa Rican bullfights are different.  Instead of happening on the streets with hundreds of bulls at a time, it happens in the bullring with one bull.

The bull breeders bring more than 330 of their best bulls to challenge men and women’s ability to run away from the bulls’ horns. No bulls are harmed in this style of bullfighting, but we can not say the same for people.

Bulls, with their innate bravery, nobility, and distinct character, become celebrities by chasing and scaring people in the bullrings and sometimes even impaling.  The most popular ones are the infamous Malacrianza and Chinchirre.

Nearly 250 people take part and it is the first encounter with a bull at least for half of them. Many Costa Ricans are wounded and sent to local hospitals every year.  Some have even been killed.

You will find Costa Rican celebrities, clowns  and people wearing costumes waiting their turns to test their running skills against the bulls.

People can get on and ride the bull.   Of course, the goal is to stay on top of the bull rather than getting thrown off.  Security people and clowns aid the riders and the runners if necessary.  The runners also help each other.  When a rider ends the ride either intentionally or not other people distract the bull to protect him/her from harm.  The clowns and others waiting to run away from very large bulls release into the ring, which often creates many hilarious situations.

The crowds encourage the excitement of the ring by shouting "gate" Puerta to ask for the bull to be released into the ring.  People scream with fright when someone is likely to be hit and toss up in the air.  They holler "run" Corra to the ones who need to run away from an oncoming bull.  Some people dare to improvise stunts to attract the bull’s attention.  Others taunt the bull trying to pull his tail or touch his body.

The bullring is fenced, usually 6 to 7 feet high, to protect the audience from escaped bulls and offer a place of shelter to the men and women inside the ring. There are openings to get behind this fence in order to make a quick scape.

If you want to try Toros a la Tica, you will need to be in good physical condition, a government ID, health insurance and wait in line to get into the bullring. 

Not required but it is highly recommended that you:

  • Wear comfortable cloths that allows you to move, bring deodorant and some Band-Aids.
  • Tell a friend or family that you will be in the bullfights and make sure this person will have a power of attorney for you in case of an accident.
  • Cut your finger nails
  • Pay attention to the security people in the ring
  • Learn where the exit points are in the ring and the closest space points from where you are
  • If the bull hits you, fall down and don’t move until the bull is away and you have the chance to run or be helped by other people or the red cross in the ring.