When Portuguese bullfighting came to Ontario

It wasn't your typical bullfight, and that was probably a good thing for the bulls.

No bulls would die in the version of the sport being staged for Canadian spectators in 1989

Portuguese bullfighting comes to Ontario

33 years ago
Duration 2:28
CBC reports on Portuguese-style bullfighting taking place in Ontario in 1989.

It wasn't your typical bullfight.

For one thing, it wasn't taking place in Spain, but in southwestern Ontario.

And in the version of the sport being staged on farmland near Listowel, Ont., no bulls were going to die.

That's because it was Portuguese-style bullfighting that was on display.

"Portuguese bullfighters don't kill the bulls," the CBC's Dan Bjarnason explained on The National on June 10, 1989.

'We don't hurt the animal'

Joe Borges is seen speaking to the media about the Portuguese bullfighting event he organized near Listowel, Ont., back in June of 1989. (The National/CBC Archives)

Bjarnason introduced viewers to Joe Borges, a local farmer who hailed from Portugal originally, who was staging the spectacle at a cost of $400,000, according to the report on The National.

"We don't hurt the animal," Borges told reporters. "We see a bull in the ring —  it's a star, it's a hockey player for us. So we [don't] want to hurt him."

As viewers saw footage of a bull pushing a matador into the sand, Bjarnason noted there was no corresponding expectation to look after the bullfighters.

As the Globe summed it up in a headline in its Monday paper, alongside a similar image of the bull going over the bullfighter: "Bull 1. Toreador 0."

More bullfights to come

Portuguese bullfighting was on display at at event held near Listowel, Ont., in June of 1989. (The National/CBC Archives)

Borges hoped to be regularly staging Portuguese bullfights if this one worked out. And he would continue to do so throughout much of the 1990s, according to later media reports.

The National's report on the Listowel event did not include direct comment from animal welfare groups on the Portuguese version of the sport. Though viewers were told that both the town council and local humane society had tried to prevent the event from occurring.

However, a similar spectacle held in Montreal a decade later saw hundreds of people sign a petition opposing the event. They believed the sport caused stress to the animals even if they were not slain.

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