Cruelty to Goats? The Traditional Goat Throwing Festival in Spain

In Spain there are many strange festivals throughout the year, from the burning of bonfires to the throwing of tomatoes and much more. However, one of the strangest of the Spanish “Saint’s Days” takes place in the village of Manganeses de la Polvorosa in honour of Saint Vincent, the patron saint of the town.

The tradition on this day on the fourth Sunday in January is to carry live goat up to the top of a 50 foot church tower, so that it can be thrown into the crowd below. The participants on the ground will catch the falling animal with a canvas sheet. Then, the goat would be paraded through the streets, held aloft by the revellers. Hundreds of people would take place in the goat throwing festival, many of them clad in the traditional dress of the region.

Goat Throwing Festival in Spain

Goat Cruelty No Longer Accepted

No one really knows how the tradition of goat throwing began. The local legend says that there was a priest in Manganeses de la Polvorosa, who owned a very special goat that could feed all of the poor with its milk. One day the goat climbed up into the belfry of the church and was so frightened by the bells for Sunday mass that it fell onto the street below. Miraculously, the goat was caught in a blanket and survived. This goat throwing festival is said to re-enact this famous event.

However, in recent years this traditional celebration has garnered a lot of criticism from animal rights activists. Some of the goats survive the fall, while others do not – but all of them are no doubt traumatized and hurt by being thrown from a tower. Animal rights activists have deemed this to be cruel and inhumane and they have rallied to terminate this Spanish tradition.

Goat Throwing Festival in Spain

The protests have made a difference. There have been a number of modifications over the years, including slowly “lowering” the goat down with ropes. The villagers did not appreciate their old traditions being changed, they claimed that the goats were not hurt by the experience and were merely “shaken up”. The Mayor of the town said that having the fiesta without throwing the goat was like having Christmas without a Christmas tree.”

But in the end the animal activists won out – the festivities were put on hiatus for many years and the 2014 goat throwing festival was celebrated by throwing a toy plush goat out of the tower instead of a real one. The goats of Manganeses de la Polvorosa can rest easy, no longer in fear of being hog tied and thrown out of the church belfry tower.

Attending the Goat Throwing Festival

The goat being thrown from the tower might be no longer a live one, but the festivities are still as lively as ever. The celebrations include drinking, dancing, music, performances and much more. Staying in Manganeses de la Polvorosa during this exciting goat throwing festival will give you a fascinating look into traditional Spanish culture  and will be a travel memory that you will never forget.

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About Kelly Dunning

Website: http://global-goose.com/

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word. She and her English boyfriend Lee run Global-Goose.com, packed full with travel guides, stories and inspiration for those who dream of travel. They have been location independent and travelling the world digital-nomad style for the last three years, with no address, no car and no fixed schedule.

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2 Responses

  1. 10 Bizarre Historical Attractions Involving Animals | dori angray

    […] the goat was caught in a blanket and survived. Thus, the tradition of goat throwing was meant to represent the miraculous survival. […]

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  2. Five Useful Travel Tips For: Spain « Weekly Gravy

    […] bullfighting (banned in Catalonia), plus all kinds of festivals that involve killing animals, like throwing goats from towers or pulling the heads off of geese (popular in San Antolín), if you truly want to dive […]

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