Culture: Castration - Rocky Mountain Oysters

Paula Lee said: I watched a documentary on television about a practice in either Mexico or Spain where the scrotum of a bull is bitten off by human males.  She asked for confirmnation. Christopher Jones comments;.
Was the bull alive or dead?  If he was alive, those doing the biting would wind up dead in short notice.  Never heard about this in Spain however, where the bull's testicles are indeed sold as a delicacy after slaughter. RH: Obviously the bull was dead. He had received the coup de grace, This was the coup de graisse,

Paula Lee said: I watched a documentary on television about a practice in either Mexico or Spain where the scrotum of a bull is bitten off by human males.  She asked for confimrnation. All I knew was that the bull's private parts are considered a delicacy by bullfight enthusiasts. From Scotland, George Sassoon describes a similar usage there: When I was a boy in Scotland it was common practice to castrate calves by biting the scrotum gently so as to sever the cords from the testes while not breaking the skin.  I once watched a man do this.  Later, we had a device called a Burdizzo for the job, which I still possess. With this, one can put a blade of grass between sheets of paper into its jaws and close them, and it severs the grass without cutting the paper. I believe that a similar technique may have been used for lambs, but by that time we had rubber rings which constrict the crotum and cause it to drop off.  Calves castrated with the Burdizzo retain the scrotum intact, though the testes are inactive, and frequently the scrotum fills with fat to give the impression that they are bulls. 

RH: Stanford University is called the Farm (its site originally was one), but I have never heard of these activities here. Miles Seeley is the WAIS cattle expert; I wonder if he has a comment.

Miles Seeley recalls his cowboy days: I lived above the Red Barn at Stanford, rent free in return for mucking out stalls in the morning, but there were no cattle around. When I was a cowboy, we just castrated calves by cutting off the testicles. Then the testicles were cooked over the branding iron fire and we ate them. They were called Rocky Mountain oysters.  Later, when I lived in Wyoming, I saw the bloodless constrictors used, especially with the purebred cattlemen. I never saw any biting or chewing off of the scrotum.

RH: I assume Miles means "by the purebred cattlemen". Is a purebred cattleman one whose ancestry includes only cattlemen? As for biting off the bull's testicles, that is a Hispanic habit, but quite un-American.

Carlos Lopez describes castrating lambs with the teeth:  I have seen it done. The man grabs the testicles with his hand and pulls them down and turns the hand so that the top of the sack rests in his index fingers. Then he bites the skin until he cuts it. Surprisingly there is very little blood. Of course the testicles at that stage are too small for humans to eat. Usually the dogs take them.

RH: Is there no legislation about this? That about the Society for the Protections of Animals?

Regarding the methods used to castrate lambs, Linda Nyquist says; Thankfully, you have raised the issue of cruelty. I have seen lambs castrated in this manner and it is terribly cruel. But many animal husbandry methods are cruel. It just seems to be that we could rise above these methods. I continue to be appalled at what humans will do to animals, and to each other, and only a minority will express outrage; at least usually. On the History Channel the last few days there have been some excellent programs on the rise of Nazism in Germany and the Third Reich. I watch in amazement. You, of course, witnessed this period in history. I was born in 1944, so I don't remember it. But as I watch, I think to myself, how can this be possible? How can so many people be guilty of such absolute evil? Could I do such a thing? I can barely watch it. It is absolutely morally repugnant and I am not, as you know, a religious person. It is all very discouraging indeed. Thank you for considering the feelings of these poor animals subjected to this torture. Unfortunately, the perpetrators can not be castrated in a similar manner. 

R H: I view life as one long struggle against evil. This is too big a subject for a WAIS posting.

Tim Brown writes: My maternal grandfather and some other members of the family ranched in Utah, California and Nevada, and I have been to several roundups at which  bull calves testicles were cut off.  But I have never heard of doing this by biting them off with your teeth (or anyone elses'!).  But, for those WAISers anxious to try some, they can be purchased through the internet these days - how times change - and they can find a recipe for Rocky Mountain Oysters at Of course,  bull calves testicles are not the only ones considered by some (not me!) as gourmet food.  For example, in addition to other quaint and curious annual events such as outhouse and camel races, there is a annual sheep's testicles roast in Virginia City, Nevada.

From Nevada, Tim Brown said he had never seen anyone bite off the testicles of an animal.

Carlos Lopez says: Tim Brown is talking about calves. Lambs are different.  Nevada ranchers, specially Basques, castrate with their teeth. I was appalled, coming from backwards Chile.

RH: Can anyone tell us if this is a good old Basque custom? Does this explain the mentality of ETA?

Regarding castration by biting, George Sassoon says: In Scotland we don't (or didn't) bite them off, just used gentle pressure from the teeth to crush the cords to the testicles without breaking the scrotal skin, as the Burdizzo does.  Do the Nevadan (or Basque-country) Basques really bite them off? 

RH: Apparently. It is not my cup of tea. I hereby cut off this discussion with my teeth.

Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: April 16, 2005