Observing Spain's toro bravo on the ranches where this proud breed is raised.
In the foothills of the Sierra Morena, Jaen's vast sea of olives gives way to the landscape of the Dehesa, prairies dotted with holm oak trees. This is the realm of his majesty the Toro Bravo.
The Comarca del Condado region in north-eastern Jaen has a score of ranches where the herds of brave bulls roam. Most people only get to see these fearless animals when they meet their fate in the bullring, but here in the Dehesa they are in their element, peacefully grazing in the shade of oaks and olive trees.
Now a unique tour allows visitors to observe these magnificent animals at close range. The two-day Tren del Condado program starts with a train journey from Madrid to Vilches, in Jaen. Travelers are then taken in four wheel drive vehicles to one of the bull ranches, such as Puertolaca, home of the prestigious Sancho Davila breed, 2,500 acres of rolling farmland where some 500 heads graze at any given time. After joining the mayoral, the estate's chief herdsman, to view the herds, which are separated according to age and include the four-year-old fighting bulls, visitors head for the ranch’s small bullring to watch a tienta, a solemn ritual in which young cows are tested for bravery. The ranch owner makes note of every last movement of the cow as she confronts the bullfighter's cape for the first time, for here it is decided whether the cow is of noble enough bearing to mother a Spanish fighting bull. The program also includes a night at a small rural hotel, and visits to the Comarca del Condado’s sights of interest.
The program has allowed travelers to become acquainted with the attractions of one of the least-known regions of southern Spain. The town of Santisteban del Puerto, for instance, has sights which range from an original museum devoted to sculptures made from cork, to footprints left by dinosaurs some 230 million years ago. Neighboring Castellar, a town of medieval streets and old stone buildings, has an archaeological museum with unique examples of Iberian carving, housed in part of what was in the 14th century a castle, later expanded and converted into a palace, and now housing the town hall.
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Copyright © 2000 An Andalusian Experience. Text by Mark Little. Photography by J. D. Dallet - A Freelance Spain production
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Copyright © 2000-2006 Mark and David Little & J.D. Dallet