The Portuguese now practice a type of bloodless bullfighting which is in many respects different from its original form. A Portuguese corrida de touros has three main events:
- Cavaleiro - A horseman (rider), dressed in traditional 18th century costumes fights the bull from horseback. The horses are Portuguese Lusitanians, specially trained for the fights. These horses are usually skilled in dressage and may exhibit their art in the arena. The purpose of this fight is to stab three or four bandarilhas (small javelins) in the back of the bull. Horseback bullfighters are usually members of old aristocratic families.
- Bandarilheiros - Akin to the Spanish matadores (see above), but without the sword. These men simply play the bull with a red coat.
- Forcados - The forcados are a group of eight men who challenge the bull directly, without any protection or weapon of defense. The front man provokes the bull into a charge to perform a pega de touros (bull catch). The front man secures the animal's head (usually it is a violent choke) and is quickly aided by his fellows who surround and secure the animal until he is subdued. Forcados were usually people from lower classes who practice their art through amateur associations.
The bull is not killed in the ring and the fight is accordingly referred to as a "bloodless bullfight". After these three sets, the bull is removed from the arena alive and is sometimes killed, away from the audience's sight, by a professional butcher. More often than not, many bulls are entered into other events, such as rodeos in California, or released to pasture until their end days. Nevertheless, tradition was so strong at the small town of Barrancos, where the bull was illegally put to death in the arena, that the government was forced to relent and permit the town to follow its ancient matador tradition and kill the bull in the arena. There are many forms of traditional, popular bullfighting in Portugal, differing from the "official" version, some of which involve groups of people doing a tug-of-war with young bulls, by holding large wooden structures into which the animals charge. In the Azores, bullfighting is often remniscent of the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, in which those most at risk are human beings, not the bulls themselves.
In Portugal, some bulls have their horns severed in a way that they do not present sharp points. This practice is believed to have been introduced by King Joseph I of Portugal after a tragic event in a bullfight he was presiding. The son and heir of the Marquis of Marialva was fighting a bull on horseback when the animal wounded his horse. The young man fell, was kicked by the bull and killed. The Marquis himself, then around 70 years of age, jumped from the royal cabin that he shared with the king, drew his sword and killed the animal.
Also in Portugal, the main stars of bullfighting are the cavaleiros, as opposed to Spain, where the matadores are the most prominent bullfighters.
Bullfights are not accepted in some parts of Portuguese society, as it is in some parts of Spanish society, and to that extent, has seen a decline in the number of spectators in those sectors. However, southern regions such as Ribatejo and Alentejo, and the Azores are traditionally more interested in the corrida de touros, than Portugal's central and northern regions, where it has little presence. Part of this decline is traceable, for good or bad, to the homogenization and uniform moral subjectivity of European culture and ethical standards.