At 6 a.m. on Thursday Amelia Gómez glanced out her window in Playa Garza on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. Normally by this hour, the cattle gate would be crowded by a massive 700-kilo, long-horned brahman bull named Malacrianza — the most famous bull in all of Costa Rica.
But this morning the pasture was empty, and Amelia wondered aloud what was wrong.
“Malacrianza loves mangos, and every morning he is there waiting for someone to go out and feed him one,” Amelia told The Tico Times. “I looked over to [my husband] and I told him something must be wrong because Malacrianza wasn’t there. A few hours later he called me and told me that he was dead.”
Watch Malacrianza’s last performance at the San José Zapote festivals
At the time of his death, the 16-year-old bull was known throughout the country as the most fearsome toro ever ridden in Costa Rica’s popular bull festivals. Raised in Playa Garza on the Hacienda Nueva Esperanza, Malacrianza comes from a line of famous bulls.
He debuted in 2004 at the Los Angeles de Nicoya bull festival, where his bravado earned him the monicker, Malacrianza — a Spanish word which translates to “badly raised.”
But the bull’s true claim to fame came later, in 2005, when Malacrianza killed his rider in an accidental fall. A year later, the bull killed again — this time goring his rider with one of his long horns.
The deaths morphed Malacrianza into a Costa Rican legend and the bull’s story reinvigorated the dwindling popularity of Costa Rican rodeo. The famous bull is featured in music videos; his image is printed on t-shirts; there is even a butcher in downtown San José, called La Malacrianza, whose main awning is emblazoned with the bull’s photo.
Watch the Malacrianza music video
Malacrianza went on to perform in festivals for nine years, much longer than most other bulls, completing his final ride on his home turf, at the Playa Garza town festivals in 2013.
For the last two years Malacrianza has toured across Guanacaste for exhibitions, never featuring a rider.
According to Ubaldo Rodriguéz, Malacrianza’s owner, the bull had been experiencing stomach problems for more than a year and that likely led to the bull’s death.
“After years on the road he was spending his time resting,” Ubaldo said. “Yesterday he seemed fine.”
The bull’s handler found him dead Thursday morning and they buried the bull’s body on the farm. But Malacrianza’s head will be transported to a Nicoya taxidermist where it will be frozen and treated before being displayed in a museum in Filadelfia de Guanacaste alongside other famous bulls.
Malacrianza’s legend will live on.
“Even though he wasn’t in the festivals anymore, I still really liked having him around,” Ubaldo said. “We had some good times together.”