Opinion, by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazil’s second most popular sport in terms of spectators, according to an argument made to Brazil’s Supreme Court (STF) this week, is the “vaquejada”. Allegedly, some 4,000 vaquejadas occur annually throughout Brazil’s outback known as the “sertão”.

The Curmudgeon, aka Michael Royster.
The Curmudgeon, aka Michael Royster.

Brazil’s chief public prosecutor has taken time off from chasing Petrolão criminals to argue a case against vaquejadas, alleging that, even though they have been declared of national cultural value, they ought to be banned, just as cockfighting has been banned.

What happens in a vaquejada is that a “vaca” (usually a steer, not a cow) is penned in a small chute with a gate; two riders (“vaqueiros”) astride trained horses await along a fence in front of the chute, until the gate is lifted. Then, the steer is whacked and bolts out of the chute between the horses onto a long open field lined with fences and spectators. The vaqueiros chase the steer, one on either side, trying to bring it down as close to the gate as possible.

How do they bring it down? Not with lariats or lassos, but by grabbing the steer’s tail and yanking it upwards until the steer tumbles ass over teakettle. The steer is slightly stunned, but it’s rare for more serious damage to occur.

Lariats and lassos are useless in a landscape filled with cactus, scrub brush and stunted trees about the same height as a steer’s horns. Thus, vaquejadas reflect customs in the sertão, because that’s how stray and runaway cattle are brought down in real life.

One STF Justice pointed this out in his opinion, and voted to dismiss the suit. Another followed suit, but a third supported the Prosecutor’s claim. The case is now suspended.

The Curmudgeon, who rode in a vaquejada when living in the sertão, knows what a popular cultural event it is. He does not believe cows are sacred and supports dismissing the lawsuit.

The Curmudgeon will emit more sacred bovine smidgens opportunely.


  1. These judges would be better serving the community by stopping the MST rural terrorist groups from invading farms and destroying property and lives with no other intent other than to steal and destroy, all driven on miss placed ideology and communist political doctrine…as in almost every other civilized country rural terrorism is hell bent on destroying rural life and culture. The rural life and agriculture industry here in Brazil is about the only industry that is making money and supporting the economy (exports) as in most cases they are run by well organized and professional private company and farmers. is the judge really wants to go see what happening in the rural area he should go get hold of the MST tails and bring them down…

  2. You can take the Rooster out of Timbauba and he morphs into a Afogados da Ingazeira cowboy. They even used to have vaquejadas in Peixinhos behind the Matadouro Municipal in Recife. Saudades Miguel.

  3. I would have spelled the subject incorrectly, thinking along the lines of “vaqueiro.” Nice piece, Michael. Já consegui pegar no colo uma vez, más não derrubei o animal. Isso faz mais de 45 anos na Paraíba!


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