Rapa das Bestas of Sabucedo

Rapa das Bestas of Sabucedo
Photo: rapadasbestas.gal
A rapa das bestas (capture of the beasts) is an operation that involves cutting the manes of wild horses, tagging them and then setting free. The tradition is typical for the Spanish autonomous community of Galicia. Rapas are held every summer in various villages throughout Galicia but the best known is the Rapa das Bestas of Sabucedo.

According to records, the tradition of the catching, taming and marking of wild horses dates back to the early 18th century. However, many scholars believe that it is actually much older and could even be pre-Roman. Be that as it may, over the years the Rapa das Bestas of Sabucedo has become a major tourist attraction. It was even declared a Fiesta of National Tourist Interest of Spain in 1963.

Over 600 horses roam freely across the hillside surrounding Sabucedo. They are nominally owned by the village but most of the time they live free in a semi-feral state. Every year the foal are marked and the adults deloused and shaved and then freed again until the next Rapas das Bestas.

The Rapas das Bestas of Sabucedo is usually held on the first Saturday, Sunday and Monday of July. It begins early in the morning on Saturday with a church service. Villagers pray to St Lawrence, the patron saint of Sabucedo, asking him to protect the participants from injuries and failure.

People who restrain and tag the horses are called the aloitadores. The aloitadores from Sabucedo never use ropes, sticks or other tools to subdue the horses. They rely on their body strength and raw skill to complete the job. For young men (and sometimes women too) who participate in the rapa for the first time, it is like a rite of passage from childhood to adolescence. Of course, they are guided and assisted by experienced aloitadores.

First, the horses are rounded up and brought down from the hillside. This part of celebration is a festive occasion joined by hundreds of local residents and tourists. Then the horses are gathered in an enclosure, and that’s when the real fun begins. The aloitadores restrain the horses, cut their tales and manes, and tag them. Originally, the horses were branded, but now microchips are used. Then the horses are set free. They return to the hillside where they roam freely until the next summer.

Rapa das Bestas of Sabucedo

Photo: Juan Carlos Bustos Morán




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