I recently discovered an amazing activity here in Costa Rica that is not recommended highly enough in any of the guide books – Costa Rican bullfighting, which is commonly called Toros a la Tica. To call it bullfighting is actually a misnomer because there is no fighting, just a lot of running around and looking like an idiot.
The rules are simple: you can’t hurt the bull, but the bull can hurt you.
Any man or woman is allowed to sign up to step into the ring with a fiesty champion bull who has been trained to knock them down. There can be anywhere from a handful to hundreds of people in the ring at one time running from the bull. And Red Cross has their own special window leading straight into the ring so injured people can be conveniently transported out and in to one of the ambulances waiting outside in a line, ready to go to the hospital.
The object of the game is to get the bull to chase you while you cleverly avoid his stalk and eventually his stomp.
The reason I am so utterly and helplessly in love with this newly discovered jewel of a sport is that the majority of the people who sign up to step in to the ring with the bull are completely clueless! It is one of the most hilarious things to watch a 1500 lb bull chase someone down, see the look of terror on their face as they narrowly escape, and then watch them jump right back in to the ring, running out to pat the bull on the butt so they can do it all over again. Add to this the hilarious commentary from the announcers poking fun at everyone and you have a recipe for hours of priceless entertainment.
This holiday season proved to be one of the most exciting in Tico history because the bulls were all particularly brave. I saw numerous bulls single out a specific person from the crowd and repeatedly aim for them until they were out of the game and on their way to the hospital.
The highlight was most definitely the bull that removed some poor guy’s pants – how scary!!!
At least with clothes on, you have some semblance of safety. The man escaped without major injury, as you can clearly see in this slow motion instant replay.
The best bulls in Costa Rica participate in the festival in Zapote which takes place during the Christmas holiday, but you can find bullfighting year round. Here is some video that I took last week at Fiestas Palmares – the biggest, most popular festival in Costa Rica.
These brave Ticos started out standing on top of three crates, now they are down to two.
Next, they went down to one crate, but since the bull didn’t knock anyone out, they decided to huddle together to make a bigger target!
This is always fun – running around the bull in a circle, the poor bull is confused and the intensity rises because no one knows which direction the bull will charge next!
If you are traveling through Costa Rica, make sure to ask the locals when and where you can find the next Toros a la Tica!