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Carnival Oxen

The auto of bumba-meu-boi, present in the Christmas cycle, becomes carnival, and comes to the streets of Recife in a colorful and choreographed way for the days of revelry.

Carnival Oxen

Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 01/06/2022

By: Claudia M. de Assis Rocha Lima - Researcher at the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation - PhD in Sciences of Religion



HISTORY - One of the most beautiful manifestations of Pernambuco’s carnival is in the parade of the tribes of caboclinhos that pass, almost rushing through the streets of downtown and suburban parts of the city, with its fluttering banners and beautiful costumes, to the sound of a small band following the beat of the preacas, which produce a characteristic click on the percussion of the arrow against the arch. If maracatu carries the African heritage, in caboclinho we will find the presence of the Indigenous who, as primitive owners of the land, maintains during the carnival their dances and legends with tales of ancestral glory.


FORMATION - Caboclinhos, or as in the popular speech “cabocolinhos”, is a group of men and women wearing flashy headdresses, skirts, and accessories in their arm, ankles, and neck, all of ostrich and peacock feathers, who parade in two rows dancing forwards to the richest of the sound from the dry snaps of the preacas, lowering and rising with agility, as if they had springs in their legs, all the while spinning and leaning on the tips of their feet and heels.


COSTUMING - Caboclinho is certainly one of the most original presences in the Carnival of Recife, the group is formed by: chief, mother-of-the-tribe, pajé, matruá, captain, lieutenant, banner-bearer, perós (boys and girls), caboclos-de-baque, cord of caboclos, cord of caboclas, and the musicians – which are usually in numbers of four. The band is formed by inúbia (a small flute of taquara bambu), caracaxás or mineiros, snare drum, and surdo drums. The plastic beauty of the young Indigenous women, the strong choreography of the caboclos and the variety of colors of the ensemble, give a prominent touch to the group.


Caboclinhos Canindés - founded in 1897
Carijós - founded in 1897
Taperaguases - founded in 1916
Caboclo Tupy - founded in 1933
Caboclinhos Tabajaras - founded in 1956
Tapirapés - founded in 1957
These are some of the Tribes of Caboclinhos that make the Carnival of Pernambuco beautiful.




HISTORY - It is a folk dance original to the State of Paraíba that today reaches a large number of participants in the carnival of Recife. In the Tribes of Indigenous peoples, the organizers are called masters and are almost always followers of Indigenous cults, such as Pajelança, of the Catimbó line, they give a mystical touch to the dance in which, according to them, they sometimes parade “actuated” (incorporated) by the spirits of the caboclos.


FORMATION - Arranged in two rows, with women on one side and men on the other, the former carrying small hatchets and the latter, small spears. Indigenous Tribes are often confused with the Tribes of Caboclinhos. One of the most striking differences is the lack of preacas in Indigenous Tribes, wich is common to the Caboclinhos. They paint their faces red, wear headdress of heron, emu or chicken feather, and use small shields. The ensemble has a varied choreography, with four to nine dances for each tribe, always accompanied by a set of musicians formed by two harmonicas, two ganzás, and three surdo drums.


Paranaguases - founded in 1953
Tupy-Guarany - founded in 1956
Tupy Papo Amarelo - founded in 1962
Tapajós - founded in 1985

These are some Indigenous Tribes that are a part of the Carnival of Pernambuco.


HISTORY - One of the most esteemed and constantly evolving games in the Carnival of Recife is La Ursa; the carnival bear – whose origins are found in the European Gypsies who roamed the cities with their animals, shackled by chains, dancing from door to door in exchange for some coins, to the sound of the order: “dança la ursa!”.


FORMATION - The central figure is the bear, usually a man wearing a papier-mâché mask painted in various colors and an old jumpsuit covered in burlap, velvet, plush or agave, fastened by a rope at the waist, the tamer holding the other end. The figure dances to the sound of the group’s own calls or to musical hits of the carnival parades, varying from baião, forró, xote to even polka, bringing joy to everyone around. The Carnival Bear orchestra is usually formed by accordion, triangle, bass drum, reco-reco, ganzá, and tambourine; the more elaborate ones may include guitars, ukulele, clarinets, and even trombones. The group sometimes brings – in addition to the tamer, the bear, and the orchestra – the treasurer (with his briefcase to raise money), poster- or banner-bearer, beacons, and other elements that are there just to enjoy the carnival.




Polar de Areias - founded in 1950
Preto da Pitangueira - founded in 1957
Texaco - founded in 1958
Branco da Mustardinha - founded in 1962
Popular da Boa Vista - founded in 1964
Minerva - founded in 1969

These are some Bears that have been or still are part of the joy of Pernambuco carnival.




HISTORY - The act of the bumba-meu-boi, present during Christmas time, shows up again during Carnival, and takes to the streets of Recife its own colors and choreography for the days of revelry. Bois, Burras, Calus, Mateus, Catirina, Sebastião, Mané Pequenino, Babau take the streets of the suburbs during carnival; and, under the command of their captain on his seahorse, they bring joy and merriment to children and everyone, from even the most humble of places.


COSTUMING - Carnival oxen sometimes go out with more than fifty characters, with an orchestra formed by bass drums, harmonica, gonguê, surdo drums, snare drums, banner, directory, singer, among other components.




Boi Misterioso - founded in 1927
Boi da Cara Preta - founded in 1950
Boi Teimoso - founded in 1956
Boi Estrela - founded in 1985
Boi Manhoso - founded in 1986

These are some Oxen that have been or still are a part of the joy of Pernambuco carnival.


Claudia M. de Assis Rocha Lima


 Recife, July 22, 2003.


how to quote this text

ASSIS, Claudia M. Carnival Oxen. In: PESQUISA Escolar. Recife: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, 2003. Available from: Access on: Month. day, year. (Ex.: Aug. 6, 2020.)