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The Rapa das Bestas (Shave of the beasts/horses) is a folkloristic Spanish tradition that takes place every summer in the region of Galicia, Spain.

It is not clear how and when exactly this tradition started; rumor has it that the horses were used as a sacrifice to fight the bubonic plague.

 

However, recently found ancient drawings show that this relation between horses and humans might be even older.  Although there are many Rapas in the regions, the most famous Rapa das Bestas is in Sabucedo, a small village approximately one hour south of Santiago de Compostela. In the past decades the tradition has become a popular festival that attracts people from all over Spain and some visitors from other European country. 

 

The tradition as we know it today is more than 150 years old and it lasts three days. It consists in collecting a group of wild horses from the mountains and dragging them into the curro (the arena of the village) where they have their manes and tails cut by local people called aloitadores (fighters). When perform- ing this operation, the aloitadores also injects a vaccine against ticks and other parasites into the horses.

 

The horses are let free after three days of celebrations. The festival starts on Friday morning when, right after the Holy Mass, a group of people climb up to the “O Monte” (mountains) to find wild horses. This group is then split in several smaller ones, each of them led by locals on trained hors- es whose job is to find the wild horses while the rest of the fellowship walks through the forest. Once they locate the wild horses, they push them toward the group of people who is blocking the path of the horses creating a human circle.

 

When each group collect a consistent number of horses—between 40 and 50— all the horses are dragged into a fenced area. Saturday is the most important day of the festival because in the afternoon the horses are moved from the fenced area to the curro and in the evening there is the first Rapa. In total there are three Rapas: on one Saturday evening, one Sunday morning and the last one on Monday morning.

 

Each Rapa lasts one hour and thirty minutes and during this time around twenty aloitadores immobilise the horses one by one and cut their tail and their manes. After three days, the horses are set free to roam the Galician countryside until the next Rapa. How much longer will this tradition last?