Lúcia Gaspar
Joaquim Nabuco Foundation Librarian
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 ‘Bumba-meu-boi’ is a popular spectacle that makes up part of the Christmas circuit and is sometimes performed at Carnival.

Its name varies from State to State. In Amazônia, ‘boi-bumbá’;  in Ceará, ‘boi surubi’ or ‘surubim’; in Rio Grande do Norte, ‘boi calemba’;  in Santa Catarina, ‘boi de mamão’; in Paraíba, ‘cavalo marinho’ (sea horse).

It is characteristic of the Northeast Brazil region, owing to its music, characters and its origins dating back to the end of the 18th century.

The show is presented with the public standing and forming a circle. The ‘boi’, or bull, the main character, is made of a wooden frame covered in coloured and decorative cloth. A person is inside the bull, jumping, dancing and charging at the audience.

The characters of the dance are human and animals. The females are represented by cross-dressing men. The Captain is the commander of the spectacle.

There are also Mateus and Catirina, well-known characters who present the animals, sing and dance in a funny way, which greatly amuses the audience.

Catirina is black, extremely uninhibited and in some groups is Mateu’s wife. Also making up the cast are: Bastião, the shepherdess, the bull’s owner, the priest, the doctor, the sexton, Mané Gostoso (Hot Guy), o Fanfarrão (The Braggart), the emu, the little donkey, the snake, the woodpecker and other fictitious characters: the ‘Caipora’ (a native spirit-of-the-wood), the Devil,  Babau, the dead carrying the living and the Jaraguá.

The plot never changes in all bumbas-meu-boi. The shepherdess’ bull gets lost and she goes to look for him in the surrounding area and meets various characters. At the end, the bull is always dead and resuscitated, and at its death the following lament is sung, which everyone knows:

O meu boi morreu (My bull has died)
Que será de mim? (What will become of me?)
Manda buscar outro (Go find another)
Ô maninha, lá no Piauí (Oh, little sis’, there in Piauí)

Recife, 1 July 2003.
(Updated on 21 August 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, January 2011.


BRANDÃO, Théo. Folguedos natalinos de Alagoas. Maceió: Departamento Estadual de Cultura, 1961. p. 72.
BUMBA-MEU-BOI. In: BRASIL Turismo e Você, p. 24-25, 1974.
BUMBA-MEU-BOI. Jornal do Commercio, Recife, 21 jan. 2002. Caderno C, p. 1.
CÂMARA CASCUDO, Luís da. Dicionário do folclore brasileiro. Rio de Janeiro: Tecnoprint, 1954. 
TELES, José. Manoel Salustiano, o mestre dos brinquedos. Jornal do Commercio, Recife, 21 jan. 2002. Caderno C, p. 1.


Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Bumba-meu-boi. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at:  <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.


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