Friday, 25 October 2013

A Load of Bull(s)

There seems to be a very strange ambiguous attitude towards bulls here in Spain. People purport to have great respect for the animals and then promptly turn round to organise nonsensically cruel "traditions" such as bullfighting, or chasing the bulls through narrow streets, or making them jump off harbour walls, or running after them with spears on horseback, or tying flaming torches to their horns, or…

Well, you get the picture. For a supposedly civilised country still to allow such cruelty is just crazy. And the excuse that it is all done in the name of tradition is too pathetic to be taken seriously.

Anyway, there are bulls in Spain other than those poor creatures who have to undergo such senseless treatment. Sadly, few people, either in or out of Spain, seem to know about them, so here's a piece to whet your appetite.

We recently travelled to Belgium by car. SWMBO had decided that it would be a good idea to visit Toledo on the way, so we decided to make a trip of it and to also visit Avila and Segovia. Well, on the road between Toledo and Avila I noticed a small sign pointing to the Toros de Guisando. That rang a bell; somehow I knew something about these bulls, but I had no idea from where. Anyway, it was a quick left hand down a bit in order to turn onto the direction indicated. Within a couple of kilometres we arrived at the location of the bulls. In fact, we almost drove past the place, as it is so poorly indicated.

There is just a small parking area at the side of the road with a couple of very small signs, hidden by the branches of some large trees, to point out to the weary traveller that this is the place.

Behind a fairly substantial wall, hidden from view of passing traffic and with just a single small entrance gate, is an open area of ground in which stand four magnificent stone bulls.

The bulls are over two thousand years old and were once spread over the surrounding fields. Nobody knows their purpose: magical, religious, fertility symbols…? Perhaps there were more such bulls in the area, certainly the types of rocks that lie in the fields offer plenty of suitable raw material. In any case, these four were brought to their current location probably in Roman times, in about the third century.

Each sculpture is about two metres long and perhaps one metre-thirty high. The carving is naive, but very beautiful and the bulls present a very strong impression. They each seem to have its own character. They are, of course, well weathered, but remains of exceptional detail can still be seen, most notably in the skin folds on the neck of one of them.

Carving details still visible

Another bull carries a Latin inscription that dates from the time that the Romans moved them.

Latin inscription on side of bull

Although the site of the bulls seems to be little known nowadays, it must have been held in some esteem in times gone by, for it was here that Enrique IV proclaimed his sister, Isabella the Catholic, as his rightful heir to the Kingdom of Castilla in 1468.

A small information panel provides some history

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