The last 10 days or so have been packed with different kinds of events on the estate, some of which are singular and some of which are ongoing. Today I want to focus on an event in the singular category: El Herradero, which is an festive day in the bull-breeding calendar when the youngstock get hot-branded. I appreciate that not everybody out there is going to be a fan of hot-branding, but I trust the reader will understand that I’m not in a position to either question or condone the practice. Though it should be noted that such events are closely regulated and there is always a police presence. I’ll no doubt have to write about it all in a lot more detail come my thesis, but for now you’ll have to be satisfied with a brief glimpse into what was a very intense day for livestock and people alike.
The males and females are done separately, most of them being of just about a year of age. Aside from the breeding estate brand (hierro) on the side of the hindquarters, the yearlings of Partido de Resina also get a brand higher up the just below the tail, indicating which collective the estate belongs to. In this case, the first rank Unión de Criadores de Toros de Lidia (~Union of Breeders of Fighting Bulls). All on the same side, the branding also includes the last digit of the year on the lower shoulder and an individual number across the midsection. To cap this off, the ears are snipped in a ranch specific pattern.
The boys are branded in the branding crush, which is a brutally efficient arrangement of restraints and doors. The girls are done in the open and I suppose this is where the festivity in the day is most evident. Young and not-so-young fans of the pabloromero bulls get an opportunity to face down a smaller version of the animals they love in the ‘arena’ (a corral). The bolder fans stand in the centre and receive the inevitable charge of the youngster, catching the horns so others can rush in and help restrain it. To the credit of their breeding, not one yearling came out of the holding pen and attempted to flee.
I was able to take very few notes and photos on the day of the herradero as the foreman is very keen for me to get stuck in and learn by doing. In the morning I was encouraged to do the dirty work at the tail end of the crush, while later on I was gently pressured into showing some Scottish courage with the fighting cows.
The technique for an ideal reception and turning over of a yearling isn’t something easily mastered in a morning, but it is something one can have a go at. Unlike the much more dangerous events with more mature stock.
I had spent the morning being the butt of Robin Hood jokes, only instead of Robin del bosque (of the woods), I was Robin del rabo (of the tail), which is is used to hold the bullocks over in the crush. By the end of the day however, I was ‘blooded’, having successfully managed to receive three yearlings and assisted with numerous others. The lunch in the courtyard that followed was well earnt. I don’t think the nickname Robin del rabo is going to be forgotten anytime soon though – perhaps a necessary corrective to anthropologist’s arrogance?!
The day was yet another example of the close links between the bull-breeding estate and the surrounding communities, bringing together people of different ages and different backgrounds to celebrate a shared appreciation of the pabloromero line of fighting bulls.