Peruvian Fusion: Andean Good Luck Charm

If you walk through towns in the Andean region around Cusco one of the things you’ll see on many rooftops is a pair of ceramic bulls. It’s said that these bulls bring good luck, keep the house safe and ensure health and wealth for the family that lives there. We’ve seen the bulls all over Cusco and in towns like Pisac, Chinchero and Ollantaytambo.

The bulls come from Pucara, an area between Cusco and Puno, and are called toritos de Pucara. These figurines were originally made as ritual elements of a cattle-branding ceremony. The bull figure, which is also a flask, was used to hold the chicha (fermented corn beer) and mixed with the blood of cattle and drunk by the high priest conducting the ceremony. The bulls are always placed on the roof so that they have a view of the apus, the mountains gods revered by the Incas. Given that Spaniards brought over cattle to the New World, it’s safe to say this ceremony and the toritos are not Pre-Inca and yet another example of New World culture fusing with the Old World.

While two bulls on a roof are pretty consistent, what accompanies them varies quite a bit. Often there is a cross and occasionally a ladder, which will help the family members get to heaven. At various times I’ve seen Peruvian flags, doves, horseshoes, parrots, roosters and even shovels accompanying the bulls.

Towards the end of our stay in Cusco my wife hunted for a pair of these bulls to bring back home and put on the roof our house back home in California, but our search turned up empty. We now have a good reason to come back.


  1. I love these! The history behind them is really interesting too.

  2. What a fascinating story. Yet another reason to visit Cuzco.

  3. I absolutely love traditions like this that we find in other countries... Just the kind of detail that makes me want to visit, much more so than describing a sweeping vista or great place to stay ;)

  4. Nancie, Sophie & Margo,
    Thanks for commenting.

  5. Whoa.

    I was organizing the pictures that I took on my recent trip to Peru, and when I got to a picture of what we called the "good luck bulls", I decided to google for "Andean good luck bulls", and found the Lonely Planet re-publishing of this article.

    At that point I did a massive double take - here's my picture that prompted me to google for more info:

    Crazily, my picture is a picture of the exact same two bulls on the same roof in Chinchero - different framing and focus, as well as much growth of the greenery, but you can see the same light pole in the background, same cross, etc

    Thanks for providing more info, and good double take!