Bathing the Goats in Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife: Harmless Tradition, Silly & Pointless or Act of Cruelty?

Posted: June 27, 2010 in Life, Spain, Tenerife, Travel
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We all have different views, likes and opinions. Life would be very boring otherwise. However, sometimes I struggle to understand what makes people tick.

Take el baño de las cabras in Puerto de la Cruz this week. This midsummer tradition dates back to the times of the original inhabitants and involves giving the livestock a dunk in the magical midsummer waters to ensure fertility and good health – something that the humans do the previous night. It fascinates me and I love witnessing it, but not everyone feels the same.

Not Interested
When I first heard of the ‘bathing of the goats’ it went straight on to my list of things on Tenerife that I had to experience. But a couple of people have commented to me recently that they wouldn’t get up early to watch a load of goats. I can relate to that view up to a point. After a night celebrating San Jan at a beach party, it isn’t easy to drag yourself out of bed and the crowd that gathers at the harbour in Puerto de la Cruz tends to be quite mature, the younger people having partied till dawn. Still pushing out the Zs no doubt.

But you ain’t going to find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow if you don’t make the effort to look for it. Many times, on the basis of an intriguing sentence on a Spanish web page or something similar, we’ve headed off to events with no idea of what to expect. Nine times out of ten we are rewarded with something special. Like this week at La Caleta de Interian when they lit up the beach with small torches.

It’s Cruel
Then there are the people who don’t like it because they think that it’s cruel to the animals. Our footage of the bathing of the goats probably doesn’t help. These goats bitch when they’re dragged and carried to the sea. Boy do they bitch. Anyone who heard them would think that they were having their throats slit instead of being dunked in the water. But that’s animals for you. They don’t want to go in the water and they let anyone who cares to listen know this…loudly.

But thinking it’s cruel is a misinformed view. I’d make a guess and say probably from people who don’t have any knowledge of what farming involves. Farmers can be firm handed with their livestock, but to think for a second that they’d deliberately hurt, or damage them is way off base. The goats are their livelihood and healthy, happy animals are vital to them. Sometimes we Brits can have too soppy a view of how we treat animals – Andy will tell you I’m the biggest culprit, the cat runs rings around me. But I did spend my summers on a farm when I was growing up and know the difference between being cruel and handling animals firmly.

And Finally ‘It’s a Silly and Pointless Tradition’
This was a comment on a forum and it wound me up no end. What a ridiculous thing to say. Presumably the person who said this doesn’t give Easter eggs, presents at Christmas, light fireworks on Bonfire Night, dress up for Halloween, or possibly even go to church on a Sunday. All might be viewed as silly and pointless traditions.

Let’s look at it another way. Are farmer’s in Britain who dip their sheep every year to rid their animals of parasites and pests indulging in a silly and pointless tradition? Because that is what it’s really all about. The Guanche might have believed the midsummer waters had magical healing powers and local goatherds are happy to go along with that, but clearly salt water is a cleanser. El  baño de las cabras might be a tradition and a fascinating spectacle, but it also serves a purpose.

And anyway even if it was a silly and pointless tradition, so chuffing what? I love silly and pointless traditions – Tenerife has loads of them. They add colour and imagination to the world and life in general.

What a terribly dull and dreary existence it would be without them.

  1. Meryl says:

    Hear hear………totally agree and that is one of the reasons we love living here, all the silly traditions suit us fruitcakes perfectly.

  2. islandmomma says:

    OMG I totally agree with you. Is there, actually, any tradition which really serves a practical purpose, other than to provide contact with history and a bit of fun in the present? I’ve only seen this on tv, but I’ve marked my calendar to see it live next year!

    • dragojac says:

      It’s definitely worth a visit – well I think so anyway, some friends would probably disagree. Maybe because I’m a Capricorn I have a particular liking for goats.

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