As the sun sets behind the hills, an orange-brown cloud of dust appears on the horizon, growing bigger and bigger. The sound of hooves swells like the beat of an oncoming train.
A herd of colossal black bulls come in full gallop over the hill. Something is pushing them forward, but just what is I can’t yet see. Then two horsemen appear, silhouetted against the fading sun with wide-brimmed hats and long poles in hand.
A bull breaks free, half turns and stands to face them. His black eyes follow the riders, one of whom spurs his horse toward him. “Hey, toro!” he yells, banging his pole on the ground. The bull stamps, raising dust, and then drops his horns. For a moment it looks like the horse will receive the full thrust of the attack but, at the very last moment, it makes a quick sidestep. The bull charges through to rejoin the herd. I am standing in awe.
The horsemen are vaqueros, the cowboys of Andalusia, Spain. The European cowboy is almost extinct, because cowboys need free-roaming cattle. In Europe, horses live in stalls and cows are penned into fields – or worse, a factory. But in this most southerly point of Europe thousands of cattle run wild just as they did centuries ago, and men live on horseback. They go to “the city” just twice a year – Easter and Christmas – and speak the language of cows better than that of their fellow human beings.