Barbaric Ritual of Animal Cruelty in Yucatán, México

No one really knows exactly what is the origin of a local tradition in the little town of Citilcum, Muncipality of Izamal in the state of Yucatan,  called “Kots Kaal Pato”, a ritual of blood and death featuring sacrifices of animals that is difficult to understand nowadays.

During the celebration, families of Citilcum (pronounced Kitilcum in Mayan language) meet in the center of town, where days before a pavillion has been set up.

Once gathered at the site, residents of Citilcum hang piñatas that are filled with animals instead of fruit or candy, as it is a costum. The animals were caught the night before by the local children.

Amongst these unfortunate animals there are iguanas, birds, kittens and possums.

Piñatas filled with live animals (Photo:
Piñatas filled with live animals (Photo: Hugo Borges /

Like any other celebration involving a piñata, people beat the piñata with a wooden stick until it breaks making the candy fall to the ground.

Waiting in line to hit the piñata (Photo:
Waiting in line to hit the piñata (Photo: Hugo Borges /

Unfortunately what falls in this “ritual” are live animals and if they are not killed by the beating, townspeople will just grab the animals and throw them to the air, kick or trample them to death.

Man killing a possum (Photo:
Man killing a possum (Photo: Hugo Borges /

At the end of the celebration, after all the animals are dead, a goose is sacrificed in an equally barbaric way.

Barbaric Ritual in Citilcum, Yucatán (Photo:
Barbaric Ritual in Citilcum, Yucatán (Photo: Hugo Borges /

The bird is tied up by the legs, with its head hanging down, and the contestants have to jump in order to grab the poor animal’s head and rip it off, while the crowd applauds and laughs. That’s where the name of the ritual comes from: “Kots Kaal Pato”.

This is what gives the people their identity, but no one, not even the elders can explain the origins or the reasons for the celebrations to take place.

Ruthless Animal Cruelty (Photo:
Ruthless Animal Cruelty (Photo: Hugo Borges /

We do not know the origin of this tradition. I learned it from my parents and my parents from their parents. Some time ago it was done in a large kapok tree nearby, but in 2002, when Hurricane “Isidoro” hit Yucatan, the tree fell down, so now it is done in the town central square “ recounts Mr. Idelfonso Tec, born and raised in Citilcum.

Headless goose (Photo:  Hugo Borges /
Headless goose (Photo: Hugo Borges /

Freddy Poot Sosa, renown researcher of the Mayan culture, who has made several documentaries on the life and culture of indigenous communities of the Yucatan Peninsula, was equally puzzled. “I did not know there was a celebration like that, I guess it’s a very local and exclusive celebration of the town of Citilcum” he said.

Winner's Trophey (Photo:  Hugo Borges /
Winner’s Trophey (Photo: Hugo Borges /

Although no one knows the origin of the celebration, what is certain is that the barbaric ritual of Kots Kaal Pato still takes place every year in Citilcum.


12 days later, on May 20th, Mexican environmental authorities filed an animal cruelty complaint over this ceremony practiced by a Mayan community in Yucatán state that includes ripping the head off a live duck.

The ceremony is known in the Mayan language as “Kots Kaal Pato,” which roughly translates as “Strangle the Duck,” or “dance of the strangled duck”.

During this cruel ritual ducks are tied to a high wooden crossbeam by their feet, and young men from the village of Citilcum compete to see who can grab the duck’s head and tear it off.


And finally, on Tuesday June 30th, the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) has issued an official “recommendation” to the Mayor of Izamal, Yucatan, to instrument, operate and evaluate the public policy of immediate attention to the practices of cruelty and slaughter of domestic animals on the occasion of traditional festivities in the community of Citilcum, Yucatan.

The action is intended to ensure decent treatment for wildlife, eradicating any traditions or celebrations that involve acts that injure, torture and mistreat ducks or any other domestic or wild animal species.

PROFEPA Issues Official “Recommendation” on Animal Cruelty in Yucatan (Photo: Hugo Borges /
PROFEPA Issues Official “Recommendation” on Animal Cruelty in Yucatan (Photo: Hugo Borges /

PROFEPA is also proposing to conduct forums, workshops or meetings to promote preservation, care and humane treatment of wildlife among communities integrated to this municipality.

In addition, PROFEPA instructed the mayor of Izamal to implement and enforce the laws related to the dignified and respectful treatment of animals.

PROFEPA previously reported to the Attorney General and the Ministry of Urban Development and Environment of the State of Yucatan, the criminal acts of animal cruelty performed during the ritual in Citilcum.

This action derived from citizen complaints filed in the Federal Delegation of PROFEPA (through social networks and email) in which civilians were denouncing the abuse of domestic animals on the occasion of a ritual called “Kots Kaal Pato”.

This recommendation is carried out according to what is stated on Article 5 of the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection (Ley General del Equilibrio Ecológico y la Protección al Ambiente), and 45 fractions on the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources Internal Regulations Reglamento Interior de la Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales).


The Attorney General’s Office for Environmental Protection said  that it had filed the cruelty complaint with prosecutors, even though domestic animals are not under the office’s purview.

Animal rights groups have called for the ceremony to be banned.


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