Goat Throwing festival
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Goat Throwing
Manganeses de la Polvorosa
24 January
Zamora, Castille y Leon
An annual tradition in the town of Manganeses de la Polvorosa (a small village in north western Spain), in honour of its patron saint, St. Vincent.
It takes place every year, on the fourth Sunday in January. On that day, a group of teenagers from the village set out to round-up and hog-tie one of the local neighbourhood goats. That done, the goat is then carried in a crowded procession to the church at the centre of town, and then up in to the church's bell tower. At this point, the goat is then thrown from the belfry, falling upwards of 15 meters (50 feet), to be caught (hopefully) in a sheet of tarpaulin by the cheering crowd below.

According to Manganeses' 890 residents, this ancient ritual has apparently been going on for as long as any of them can remember.

Okay, now for those of you that are faint of heart, you'll be relieved to known that the tradition may soon be at an end. In recent years, as you might expect, Animal Rights groups have stepped up in protest of the ceremony. And let's face it: if you were to make a list of the things an animal rights activist is likely to oppose, "tossing bound goats from bell towers" would definitely be ranking right up there toward the top. After one unsuccessful ban in 1992, they redoubled their efforts, leading to the event being officially cancelled in the year 2000, after the town was threatened with a fine of 25,000 Pesetas (roughly $150 US).

Reportedly, many of the townspeople were furious at the injunction. And while the town council had no choice but to effect the official ban, the councillors were also quick to note that they "could not be held responsible for the behaviours of the participants in the spectacle..."

"But," you may be wondering, "why toss the goat in the first place?"

Well, according to local legend, there was once a priest in Manganeses de la Polvorosa, who owned a very special goat. It's said that the good padre would often travel throughout the countryside all around the village, miraculously feeding the poor and the destitute with his goat's milk. One day, however, the beloved goat wandered into the church's belfry... and when the bell rang out for Sunday mass, the frightened goat lept from the tower and went hurtling toward the street below! Luckily, the goat was caught with a blanket and saved. Every year since then, the famous event has been reenacted, in honor of the loving priest and his goat, and to mark the beginning of El Festival de Santo Vincente.

Sources also say that there is quite a lot of drinking involved.